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10 ideas for school holiday fun under $10

Amanda Whitley

We’re into the last two weeks of the school holidays in Canberra, and I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to ideas…plus the wallet is looking a little empty after the Christmas/New Year break. If you’re in the same boat, never fear…we’ve rounded up 10 great ideas for school holiday fun – and they’re all under $10! UPDATE: HerCan readers have come to the rescue with some more great cheap fun – scroll to the bottom to see!

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Explore the Gold and the Incas Family Room

Discover the amazing cultures of Peru behind the massive jigsaw walls of Machu Picchu in the Gold and the Incas exhibition Family Activity Room (above). Travel the Inca Trail with a team of camelids, trading precious materials and food from the rugged terrain of the Andes, through deserts and river valleys to the ocean.

Children can immerse themselves in the ancient Peruvian way of life: spin and weave alpaca wool, learn about the importance of the sun, moon and stars, create a legendary gold and silver garden, wear feathered masks and ornate costumes to transform into god-like beings, decorate ceramics with fantastical creatures and even crawl through an interactive treasure-filled tunnel.

Entry is included in the exhibition ticket price ($6 for kids).

Become a young master…

Inspired by the National Museum of Australia’s Old Masters: Australia’s Great Bark Artists exhibition, kids can visit the Museum’s Discovery Space to become a young master these summer school holidays.

Kids can create their own collage masterpiece documenting your journeys, histories and family stories. These are free drop in activities, no bookings necessary, between 10am – 1pm Monday 20–Friday 24 January. Find out more at the NMA website.

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Explore our military history…

Get involved at one of the school holiday activity sessions running at the Australian War Memorial until 31 January. Free activities include performances about Women in War, Storytime sessions, Hands on History, Drop in Craft, and Art Tours and Talks.

Check the AWM website for more information. Entry is free.

Build your own capital

Budding designers can create their own capital using Lego and Duplo blocks at the National Capital Exhibition at Regatta Point. ‘Brick By Brick: Build Your Own Capital’ allows visitors to create a new National Capital or replicate iconic buildings in Canberra, designed for people of all ages and abilities.

Construction sheets are available for visitors to copy the design of some the national institutions and buildings.

For details on Brick By Brick session times, please visit the National Capital Authority website.

Make some little monsters

GRRRRRR…kids can make their own terrifying horror movie mask at the National Film and Sound Archive’s summer school holiday program. On from 10:30am-noon today 21, and tomorrow 22 January. $5 per child, bookings essential on 6248 2000.

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Play with portraits

Join the National Portrait Gallery’s specialist educators on a family tour of the galleries exploring the portraits through drawing and creative activities – they’re on every day during the school holidays between 11am and 12 noon.

Ideal for children from four to eight years of age to share with their family and friends. All children must be accompanied by a participating adult. Bookings are essential – call on 6102 7000. Cost is $5 per child.

You can also participate in a range of free creative activities to extend your Gallery experience of Elvis at 21and portraiture, in the family space.

Become a library detective!

During the school holidays, the National Library of Australia’s Find it! trails will lead children and families through the Library’s artworks and the reading rooms, and the exhibition Mapping Our World. Collect your free copy at reception. Use the Treasures Trail and Activity Book to find out about displays in the Treasures Gallery.

Plus, you can share your love of reading, and adventure where the wild things are! Listen to stories about faraway lands, maps and monsters. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Why not bring lunch and stay for a movie? $1 per child at 11:30am this Thursday 23 January.

Exercise your democratic rights… 

Visit the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House these summer holidays for some special children’s activities.

Participate in a Behind the Lines workshop with a professional cartoonist. Take home your cartoons to show family and friends – sessions held between 10am and 11:30am, 20-24 January. Bookings essential.

Whilst you’re there, create your own Tony, Julia and Kevin tales with the Heads and Tales puppet theatre, then make your way around the exhibition with the Heads and Tails board game. Plus, you can discover the gardens and surrounds of the museum with the Stanley Action Pack’d Adventure.

Check the website for session times. Entry cost is $2 for adults, $1 for children and concessions, $5 per family.

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Be swept away on the silver screen!

The kids can enjoy free travel-themed movies, like Around the World in 80 Days (1pm, Thursday 23 January) and Gulliver’s Travels (1pm, Friday 24 January) at the National Library of AustraliaBook here.

Play with toys!

Marvel at the exhibition Toyshop and enjoy a bonanza of games and engaging activities at the National Gallery of Australia at 11am this Saturday 25 January. Make a board game, try your luck at jiggle-joggle frogs and be amazed by the dazzling magic tricks.

Toyshop is an exhibition for the very young gallery visitor. But, equally, it has something for all of us. Toys hold a special place for children as objects of fun and imagination. For an adult, they present a nostalgic link to the past, which is often employed by artists to stir up childhood memories or to capture the innocence or fun we once had as children.This exhibition includes toys in a wide variety of artistic styles and mediums and from various cultures.

Dance, baby, dance!

These school holidays, Annmarie from the Canberra School of Dancing is running Learn to Dance classes outside Big W at Majura Park Shopping Centre for children aged 5-16 years.

Classes available: 11am and 1pm Thursday 23 January – Saturday 25 January. Call 6275 2252 now to book a one hour class for $8 per child or $10 for 2. Spaces are limited and parental supervision is recommended during classes.

Get crafty…

Kidtastic Crafts is an interactive program that enables children to develop their creative and social skills in a fun and exciting environment.  They offer a variety of art and craft projects which allow children to ‘learn through play’, by experimenting with different media.

This Thursday and Friday from 10am to 1pm, they’re running pot planting classes at Tulips in Pialligo. Cost is $5.

Snakes Alive!

Get up close and see live displays of snakes, lizards, frogs and more at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. From 10am to 4pm weekdays and 10am – 6pm weekends in the Crosbie Morrison Building. Cost: $5 adult; $4 concession, $2 child.

Photographs from Heather Wallace, Australia War Memorial, National Film and Sound Archive, and me.

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Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author