It’s amazing the difference between what we think our kids need and what they actually need. Parents are easy targets for businesses seeking to pedal the latest educational device, must have toy or ideal holiday for “quality family time”.
A few years ago, we tightened our belts so that I could take a year off work to retrain. It meant we had to get creative, not just that year but a year or two either side. Holidays out of town were out of the question.
The boys were small and didn’t care – happy parents, happy kids – turns out there was plenty of things to do locally. Most of the tips below are from around our neck of the woods but I’m sure your place has similar activities on offer – feel free to share!
- Art galleries – although my boys moan now, they do enjoy visiting art galleries and have done since they were wee. Most have spaces where kids can get creative. Pick an exhibition with quirky installations or really big exhibits. The Dunedin Public Art Gallery does tots and toddler tours for parents with preschoolers plus offers a free film archive.
- Otago Museum – most people have head of Dunedin’s famous Butterfly House, Science Discovery Word and Planetarium. All awesome. But if you’re on a budget, try the Great Southern Land free exhibit of check out Animal Attic. Plenty to ooh and aah about there too.
- Toitu Settlers Museum – always something new to see and do. The kids love going inside the pioneer ship and touching the pounamu while parents who grew up in the 70s and 80s will love the Slice of Life Exhibition featuring the Dunedin Study. (I’d forgotten how creepy the Wombles and Basil Brush were!)
- Wheels on the bus – library visits have become a bit of a rarity as the kids have grown older (sad but true) but there was a time when we could easily spend a few hours in there. During the Storylines Festival, my son got taught to draw dinosaurs by NZ author Kyle Mewburn while his younger brother still enjoys trips to the book bus in the holidays. Bike or scooter up to the door, grab a book and hoon home. The Dunedin Book Bus is a regular service that calls into most suburbs.
- Council events – most councils run free events, especially over summer. We’ve watched dragon boat racing and fireworks and boogied to reggae concerts at the Dunedin Public Gardens all for free. Visit your local council website.
- Midwinter Carnival – private organisations also run events. Rug the kids up and be amazed at the stunning lantern display as gigantic whales, mushrooms and flimsy flowers weave and wend their way around Dunedin’s Octagon in June. Then in December, see the lanterns up close in an eerily ethereal display as they rest up til next time. There are lantern making workshops leading up this event too. A must see.
- Sporting events – there’s always bound to be some sporting events on the kids will enjoy watching. We’ve spent hours sitting on the St Clair Esplanade watching national surfing champs with an ice-cream.
- Water fun – speaking of which, don’t forget the beach. It really is nature’s theme park – a free adrenaline rush! Visit patrolled beaches such as Brighton, St Kilda, or St Clair if you’re down our way.
- St Clair Saltwater Pool– there’s nowhere nicer to spend an afternoon in Dunedin than lounging alongside the saltwater pool with views up the coast and out over the Pacific while the kids splash about. A real sea change.
- Local walks – again, council websites are great for inspiration and information. We’ve spent weekends hiking around our area discovering Tunnel Beach, the Pineapple Track, Woodhaugh Gardens, Mt Cargill and the Organ Pipes. Some were not ideal for short legs but worth the effort.
- Hands on stuff – retailers such as Mitre 10, Bunnings and Nichol’s often run workshops for kids wanting to learn how to make and plant stuff. Sometimes there’s a small charge but the kids get to take something home while learning some practical skills.
So there’s your next simple staycation planned – did I miss any?!