Christmas can put a sizeable dent in our savings, with a lot of money going towards presents, entertaining and travelling. In fact, the ARA and Roy Morgan estimate that Aussies will spend $48.1 billion during the Christmas trading period in retail stores alone! The holidays are only becoming more expensive.
“Christmas is perfect for catching up with family and friends, however due to this, the outlay of money to purchase gifts, food and other activities is at a high compared to the rest of the year,” says Lee-Anne Kempers, a production coordinator and mother of three kids.
Lee-Anne and her husband Andrew have little time for vacations, due to their busy nature of their respective work. For the Christmas holidays, they choose to stay home and focus on family time: “Children’s activities are what we invest the most money in – for example, going to the movies or ten pin bowling.”
On the other side of Brisbane, music teacher Stephen Birt and his wife Alison have family Christmas covered as well, despite running on similarly tight schedules.
Armed with years of expertise, Lee-Anne, Stephen and their partners have helped us assemble the ultimate, cost-effective, Christmas entertainment list, which we’ve split into parts one, two, three and four.
“Local parks are a great cheap option. Most parks are well equipped for the younger kids, and the bonus is they get worn out easily.”
- Put up and decorate the Christmas tree. Let the kids know the festive season has well and truly arrived, and set aside some time to involve the entire family in this time-honoured activity.
- Find a river, estuary, lake or a quiet bay to swim in. Discovering calmer waters in your region will make a big difference to your beach trips if you have little kids who aren’t too keen on the waves. “We love taking the kids to the local beach,” Lee-Anne enthuses. “A great way to exercise, have fun and keep cool.”
- Play sports. Kids love playing sports with their parents. Football, cricket, ping pong, badminton – why not coach them and have fun doing it?
- Water gun shootouts. Not only great for collective amusement, but also a godsend on hot days!
- Set up a slippery slide in your backyard. Stitch together a pair of tarps, have the water hose at the ready and let physics and your offspring’s exhilaration do the rest.
- Hold a stone skipping competition. Stone skipping is a wonderful generation-bonding skill – pass it to your family members during the time spent by the river, lake or reservoir.
- Set aside an afternoon for a pool visit. If you don’t live near a body of water or have a swimming pool, why not take the kids to the local pool for a fiver?
- Explore the parks in your area. “Local parks are a great cheap option,” Stephen says. “Most parks are well equipped for the younger kids, and the bonus is they get worn out easily.” You can always head out to a larger park with water play, which the young ones adore.
- Look for activities that have educational value. “If there are holiday-only activities that are of interest, we invest in the cost of those – especially if they have an educational benefit,” Stephen mentions. It could be anything like a trip to a zoo, a wildlife sanctuary, botanical gardens or a planetarium. For example, this blog looks at how engineering, maths, science & tech can be incorporated into crafting – all reasonably cheap, and easy to get the kids into!
- Visit a museum, an art gallery or a photo exhibition together. If your children are inquisitive by nature or have a fondness for beautiful imagery, chances are they’ll spot something fascinating during an educational leisure activity.
- Go on cycle and scooter rides. Find a good cycling track in your area and set out on a family ride. This excellent activity also makes the children easier to manage at night time, according to Stephen: “Anything that wears out the younger ones makes it easier at bedtime, as during the holidays they are running on a more relaxed timetable, and as a parent, you need the downtime when they go to bed.”
- Get the board games out in the evenings. Monopoly, Cluedo, Trivial Pursuit, Risk – these games last through generations and fit the old saying of ‘screaming fun for the whole family at Christmas’.
- Go bushwalking. Your local nature reserve will do great for this – or you can take the whole family to one of the national parks within driving distance.
- Host a DIY puppet show. Socks and mittens can get plenty of good use during the Australian summer! You can stage your own puppet show, or pick one of the popular ones; you’ll just need to fashion a stage out of a cardboard box and some tea towels!
- Seek out family-friendly events in your local newspaper. “The local paper always has Christmas activities advertised, which is great for the community,” Lee-Anne points out. There are also plenty of free fireworks or carol events in most states.
- Get crafty. Few things reflect the holiday spirit like family Christmas crafts. There’s a wealth of ideas on Pinterest if you’re stuck for inspiration.
- Clean windows. The earlier your children learn the value of helping out with household chores, the better. You can always turn the clean into a fun activity for the kids by giving them a range of colourful sponges and water sprayers!
- Make a photo album comic book. This is easily one of the more amusing ways of getting creative with your kids at Christmas. All you’ve got to do is get a photo album, print out some family photos and cut out ‘speech bubbles’ from a notepad.
- Put up Christmas lights. Nothing says ‘Christmas in Australia’ like a home decorated in lights. Make a family activity out of unpacking and layering your lights. You can even get solar Christmas lights and save electricity!
- Go on a Christmas light display trip. Get in the car or hop on your bikes – your kids will love a Christmas light-spotting trip around your area.
- Do a ‘laundry day’ together. Turn the domestic chore into a fun activity by teaching the younger ones to separate colours and sort and fold different clothes.
- Go on a picnic trip. Heading to a previously unfamiliar picnic spot is a guaranteed way to prevent child boredom. You can let them choose a place on the area map, pack some lunch and make a day of it.
- Create a rainbow bubble wand. You may already know kids love to blow bubbles – the bigger, the better! Make your own giant bubble wand out of 2 sticks and a rope; Pinterest has a whole catalogue of ideas for when you need inspiration.
- Stage a fantasy play with the kids. Nothing’s impossible here. Assemble a pirate ship out of empty boxes or fashion old shirts and specs into Harry Potter outfits; anything goes!
- Let the bouncy times roll. A trampoline, a bouncy castle or an inflatable water slide are all superb long-term investments that will keep your kids entertained all the way through Christmas.
- Host family readings. Encourage your children to read a chapter from their favourite book out loud – this will benefit their reading ability.
- Visit a local op shop. They usually host a wealth of bargain finds, which can include rare toys and comic books.
- Make a DIY constellation jar. Star stickers for the ceiling are great, but so are glowing constellation jars the little ones can marvel at. You can even challenge them to recreate the Milky Way on the Alfoil and admire the results together!
- Do some gardening together. Teach the kids how they can get their hands dirty the right way. Gardening is also fantastic for introducing your kids to environmental awareness!
- Fly kites. An activity that your kids will relish – both invigorating and emblematic of a happy childhood.
- Host a tarp throwing contest. All you’ll need to do is cut some square holes in an old tarpaulin, hang it up and get some rubber/tennis balls for the kids to practice their aim!
- Visit a farm. From patting farm animals to sampling fresh produce, few things can teach the kids to love the land like a day on the acreage.
- Make a trip to your local animal shelter. Most kids love animals (and the other way around). Animal shelters are great educational value for the children, who’ll learn how to care for pets.
- Go fruitpicking. Kids love a big basket full of freshly picked fruits. Remember to show them how to sort the ripe from the unripe ones.
- Write a story with your kids. Out of the genuinely creative ways to kill family boredom, this one is right up there with the best of them, as you can have your own Christmas stories as keepsakes. Anything like a recent beach trip will do as a topic: start a paragraph and let your child finish. Let their imagination run wild!
- Do some nail art. This is hard to beat both as a bonding activity for parents and little daughters, as well as for creative design value. Seek out an affordable child-friendly nail polish to get started.
- Kids’ bedroom makeover. School holidays are ideal for this, as makeovers are practically impossible during the school term. Involve the little ones in redesigning their room to their liking!
- Do house hops with family friends. Pencil in a couple of days over Christmas where your children can play with their mates at different homes. Arrange these play dates with fellow parents at suitable times.
- Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Just because your neighbours/friends spend lavishly on their Christmas activities doesn’t mean you have to – envy is one of the seven deadly financial sins we wrote about earlier.
- Take the good vibes home! Well-spent Christmas holidays stay with your kids forever. Switch off from work and dedicate this time to your family.
Do you have your own Christmas tips that time poor parents could use? Share them on Facebook along with this article!