As a mother of five sons, I have a deep (and never-ending) understanding of how life is often expensive. Very expensive, when everything (school shoes, sports fees, McDonalds orders) is multiplied by five. So my husband and I have created some fun school holiday (vacation, for those of you in the good ol’ US of A) activities that won’t break the bank.

1. Picnics

They are awesome, and super underrated. People definitely don’t go on picnics often enough. You can pack the food you’d already be eating at your dining room table; however, it’s way better as you’ll be eating it outside! A picnic can be held in a beautiful location that’s just a walk, bike ride or car ride away. Our family loves having picnics under the Sydney Harbour Bridge at sunset. Pack up some grub, bring along a large mat or blanket to sit on and be sure to include a ball to throw around. I also recommend inviting friends to join you, because the more the merrier!

2. Be a tourist in your own city

Why is it that people only act like tourists if they’re on vacation? There is so much to explore in your very own city. Our family basically picks an area no more than an hour away, does some online research and makes a rough plan for the day. (The most important information is usually all of the places we want to stop and eat!) We love being tourists in our own city because it’s fun. Have exciting adventures (discover a new park, hidden caves or even a museum), make new memories and capture it all on camera (or your phone).

3. Watch the sunrise

Granted, not everyone is a morning person, but it’s honestly a glorious way to start the day! Watching the majesty of the sun coming up over the horizon never gets old. We are lucky enough to live along the northern beaches of Sydney, so we watch the sun come up at the beach. Make it fun for your little ones by drinking hot chocolate and having silly conversations while you wait in the dark.

4. Give service

Life isn’t always about you. There are countless opportunities to help people in your own community. Look around your own neighbourhood – a lawn to mow, a hedge to trim, some weeds to pull. We love to visit elderly folks in our area as a family. Your children can also volunteer to help out at the local animal shelter, feed the homeless or even run a lemonade stand and donate the profits to a worthy cause. It’s never too early to teach children the joy of serving others.

5. Master Chef competition

We like a bit of competition in our home (as you can imagine with five boys) and love to get the kids cooking. Plan a ‘Bake Off’ or a ‘Mystery Box Cook Off’ and then head to the grocery store with your crew. Not only is it totally entertaining to see the concoctions kids come up with (tuna soup, anyone?), but the process of meal planning, buying and preparing food is a great teaching experience. (They learn to budget and gain domestic skills!) At the end of the competition, you’ll have treats or a meal to eat, take on a picnic or drop off to a neighbour.

6. Get moving

Go outside and take a family walk, find a local basketball court and shoot some hoops, go for a swim in the ocean or a lake, go for a bike ride, play some table tennis. (Our boys love table tennis; however, we don’t have a proper table tennis table. We do have a couple of paddles and a little net, so on any given day our dining table doubles as a table tennis table.) There are endless opportunities to do something physical, regardless of the weather where you live. The bottom line is…get moving!

These activities are tried and true winners in our home, and we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of school holiday hours to fill! Pick one or two and give something new a go! And please take some photos, as I’d love to see how my suggestions work for your family. I’d also like to hear about some of the (free) activities you do with your crew, as I’m always on the lookout for new ideas.