It’s Saturday afternoon, the kids are fighting, bored, complaining, and you just want to to get out of the house before you go stir crazy! But you are low on money until pay day, the grandparents have gone away for the weekend, and your friends are all busy doing awesome, fun things. It sounds like the lot of you have cabin fever! Which isn’t really a big deal during the warmer months, but in Ballarat during Winter, some days it just isn’t a good idea to go outside!
So we asked our readers to help put this list together! It’s NOT a list of “What’s On” this weekend. It’s a list of crazy ideas that our readers have shared when funds are tight and they just want to get out of the house.
Fun things you can go off and do around Ballarat, for FREE or very low cost, especially during Winter!
☐ Alphabet Game – Go for a walk around the shops and see if you can find all the letters of the alphabet from A to Z using all the signage. (This is also a great game to play on a road trip)
☐ Art Gallery of Ballarat – Another local gem, showcasing Ballarat’s history, some very famous Australian & International artists, and also regular exhibitions of all sorts of weird, wonderful & wacky things. School holiday programs, after school programs and the delectable Kittelty’s Cafe out front. Free entry to the main Gallery.
☐ Art Rubbing – You just need a piece of paper and a crayon or chalk. Place paper on textured surfaces and rub crayon or chalk on paper for a different piece of art (also a great way to add to your home made gift wrapping collection)
☐ Ballarat Botanical Gardens – the kids can run around the gardens, ride bikes and scooters, explore and head across to the adventure playground.
☐ Ballarat Toy Library – this isn’t really a free activity, but it’s a once off membership fee for the year, then you get to go back as often as you like to choose new toys to take home and play. Talk about saving money and storage worries! You just borrow it, then take it back once the kids get bored!
☐ Bike Ride – Remember those shiny new bikes that Santa bought? They’ve been collecting dust in the shed. Get them out on a nice day, pack a few snacks and drinks and head out on one of Ballarat’s many bike tracks!
☐ Boxes of Fun – While you’re down at Bunnings, grab a few spare boxes, or head to the local supermarket to find a few. Take them home and let the kids go wild with them! Build cubbies, shops, cars, boats..whatever their imagination comes up with.
☐ Bunnings (Creswick Rd, Ballarat) – The baby trolleys are a hit with younger kids. Look out for building and DIY workshops and kids activities on Saturdays and Sundays. There’s also the playground and the cafe for a sit down nibble. You can always grab a sausage in bread too.
☐ Bunninyong Gardens – Play hide & seek in the old baths. Cute little creek, playground, BBQ, rotunda, heaps of shade & walking distance to shops to get an ice-cream or coffee.
☐ Cloud pictures – On a lovely cloudy day lay down on a blanket and watch the clouds change shapes. Can you see any pictures in the clouds?
☐ Coles – Chances are you are going to need to buy some groceries over the weekend. So get one of the kids trolleys, and set them a shopping list. You wouldn’t be the first parent to let their kids fill a trolley with whatever they like, then leave it at the counter before you leave! For the bigger kids, get them to keep count of your spending as you go so you can stay in budget.
☐ Colour Hunt – Pick a colour and go for a walk, how many thing can you find in that colour. If its to wet outside you can search for the colour around your house. How many Red things are in your house?
☐ Dance Party – Put on a CD of your favourite music and dance like no one is watching. Make up some new moves (80s music is great for making up dances too). Teach your kids your old favourites,and have them teach you their favourites too.
☐ Day Tripping – If you’ve got fuel in the car, head out to one of the little towns in the area. Ballan, Daylesford, Creswick, Smythesdale, Learmonth, Clunes. You never know what you might find. Get the iPods out and take awesome photos of cool old things like tractors and derelict buildings. Make it a photographic adventure to impress their friends on Snapchat or Instagram. Or search for hidden treasures, places to picnic, playgrounds and parks.
☐ Dress up Movie Night – Dress up like one of the characters from the movie and stay in character through the whole movie.
☐ Eureka Centre (Formerly MADE) – It’s FREE for locals to get in to the museum. They also have a cafe on site and the park, cannons, lake and playground nearby all make for a fun day out too!
☐ Fishing – Borrow a fishing rod from a friend, or make one from a stick and piece of string. You could use bait such as sausage meat, chicken or even cheese blocks. Tie them on and head over to Lake Wendouree or Lake Esmond for a fish. If fishing isn’t your thing, that’s OK. Take a book and read while the kids try their hand at a catch. Perfect.
☐ Feeding the Ducks – Head up to Vic Park and feed the ducks in the pond. But please do NOT feed them bread, be sure to get some proper bird seed for the trip.
☐ Fly a Kite – If you don’t have one, don’t despair. You can whip one up in a few minutes. A shopping bag and a piece of wool will do! But if you want to go one better, a quick Google search will help you find hundreds of simple kite making ideas.
☐ Freeze Kids Toys – Great summer time activity. You’ll know what is safest for your child’s ability to break them open with but some suggestions are hammer, spoons, a spray bottle of warm water. Freeze in ice cube trays, cups, or cake pan.
☐ Garden Nursery – As kids we used to love running around the garden centres with our grandparents. Some of them have cafes and hay bales to sit on.
☐ Hiking – Grab some good walking shoes and set off on foot for a family adventure! You can go 1 kilometre or 20, but be sure to pack & dress accordingly. Take food & drink if you’ll be all day. One of my friends suggested to make a Treasure Hunt list. A rock, a feather, a leaf etc. The kids will love it. Make a walk into a game!
☐ Hula Hoop Contest – If you have a Hula Hoop around bring it out and see who can keep it up the longest, who has the best tricks, who can move from a hip hula to a trick hula
☐ Jumping in Muddy Puddles – Inspired by Peppa Pig, pop your gumboots on and head out in search of some big sploshy puddles!
☐ Lake Esmond – Much smaller than Lake Wendouree, this is a beautiful little lake to take a walk, have a picnic, play on the playground or go fishing. With public toilets and easy parking at the Lal Lal St entrance it’s a hidden local gem you will love.
☐ Karaoke – If you have internet access and can watch You Tube why not search songs with lyrics and have a sing along.
☐ Lal Lal Falls – Pack a picnic. There are little easy walks or a harder walk if you are keen. BBQ & toilets. Room to kick a footy or play cricket. Small playground, but not much shade. You can then take some back roads home through some cute little towns. Easy way to fill in a day.
☐ Library – Did you know it’s FREE to join the local library? And they have MORE than just books. These days you can order in DVDs to borrow, get eBooks and magazines. You can use the computers there too with free Internet, and use the free wi-fi. Watch out for free kids activities like story time, puppet shows and plays, and take some breathing time while they explore the shelves.
☐ Maccas – If you’ve got a few dollars for lunch head to your local maccas and let them loose on the playground. While they go off and play, take advantage of the Free Wi-Fi and catch up with the latest gossip or some quiet reading time. Grab a coffee and a soft serve, or a pack of apple slices. (NB: we are not in the business of promoting junk food, but we are also NOT in the business of judging other people, some days you just gotta do what you gotta do. So please, keep your comments nice folks).
☐ Make Christmas Paper – Use scrap paper or newspaper and paint or draw pictures on it to create your on personalised Christmas paper.
☐ Make a Family Video – Make a movie, interview each other, make your own cooking show. You are only limited by your imagination.
☐ Make Place mats – Make place mats for your next dinner party (or special ones for Christmas) personalise them for each person coming to Dinner.
☐ Markets – Sunday morning is the traditional Ballarat Sunday Market, but did you know there are markets at Talbot, Buninyong, the Bridge Mall, Creswick, Ballan and a tonne of local schools have fairs & fetes coming up. Stock up on handmade goodies and local produce, or head along and gather ideas for the kids to make at home. Some of the markets have jumping castles and other activities like animals and rides that only cost a couple of dollars. This can be HOURS of fun!
☐ Mini Golf – Now we know we said FREE. So you could head out to the closest Mini Golf (which is super fun!). But this idea is to get out in backyard and make your own course or inside on a bad weather day! Dig a few little holes in random places (or put some masking tape on the floor), put some obstacles in place, and make up some crazy rules like Hole 1 you have to walk backwards, Hole 2 you have to hop, Hole 3 is with your left hand (or right if you’re left handed). Do it blindfolded?
☐ Paint Leaves – Take a walk and search for different leaves (don’t forget to take you bag or basket to collect). Paint them in turn them into magical animal creations.
☐ Parent Place – We often drop into Parent Place for a free cuppa and a play with all the great toys & books they have their. The volunteers are really lovely and you can often meet new people or meet up with a friend. They have some great activities on during the week too. It’s especially good if the weather is yukky, or if you are in between lots of errands in town.
☐ Playgrounds – On a good weather day, pack a picnic and do a playground crawl. Head out to as many different playgrounds as you can manage in a day. Or go to one you’ve never been to before. Set a timer for 15 minutes and the kids will play HARD until it’s time to go to the next one! They will sleep soundly that night (we hope!).
☐ Shadow Puppet Theater – Find a darkened room (or create one) shine a light behind you and create shapes with your hands, what is their story?
☐ Sovereign Hill – Now obviously this is NOT free! BUT, if you have a Family Membership, it is almost like free. You pay once and then go to Sovereign Hill as often as you want for the whole year, including the Winter Wonderlights during Winter! Plus, you get to take your friends for a discounted entry price. So when you are feeling low on cash, you just take yourself over to Sovereign Hill and wonder around, take your picnic lunch and enjoy some fun on the goldfields for FREE (kind of).
☐ Talent Show – Get the family together and put your special skills to the test, sing a song, do a skit, tell a joke, its your time to shine your skills bright.
☐ Teddy Bear Picnic – It doesn’t have to be teddy bears it can be anything, dinosaurs, cars, dolls etc. Set up a picnic in the backyard or the lounge and have a snack or tea with your new friends.
☐ Treasure Hunt – Make a time capsule and don’t forget to make a treasure map. Forget about it for a few months to a year, then you are going on a treasure hunt. There is also an app you can get (geocaching) that is like a treasure hunt all over the world, there are many caches in Ballarat for you to find, you can even create your own. (At time of publishing this app is still active)
☐ Wacky Photo Shoot – There are a lot of free apps for your phone these days that you could download one and try all the different filters. Or dress up as a different member of the family and be them in the photo. Pulling the funniest faces you can and make a collage of the photos (there are lots of free collage apps available). Theme the photos. Uses dress ups. Take your photos together or separately, the choice is yours.
☐ Water Parks – In Ballarat North (Doveton St Nth, near the Golf House Hotel) and Sebastopol (Victory Park, Vickers St) during the Summer months you can visit the free outdoor water play facilities! Take a picnic, a towel and a book to read while the kids play in the water.
Over to you! What free activities for kids in Ballarat can you recommend? Drop a comment below.