Around the country, the plaintive call perfected by generations of children to hit just the right harmony between whinge and whine is reaching its cacophonous height. That's right, it's school holidays. Save your ears – and sanity – and take kids to one of the fantastic free (and almost free) events, exhibitions, shows and workshops happening around the country.
Spring into Nature
Flower crown weaving, plant-based potion plotting or simply relaxing in the serene surrounds of the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden are all part and parcel of the school holiday fun at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Entry is free and planned activities are recommended for tots up to eight.
2 October; Melbourne Gardens, Birdwood Avenue
Polyglot Theatre and Melbourne Zoo Present: Cat City
The construction of the cardboard Cat City at Melbourne Zoo is entirely dependent on your little engineer, who’s given a pair of cardboard ears and free reign over mountains of cardboard. The typical result is a self-assembled world populated by cosy forts, tight tunnels and hidden, secret lairs, all in the name of community conservation and awareness (and fun, of course). Attendance is free with purchase of zoo entry.
27-29 September; Melbourne Zoo, Elliott Avenue, Parkville
If you’re the parent of a comic-book buff or film fanatic that edges towards combustible excitement at the thought of meeting their favourite superheroes and villains, tire them out at Oz Comic-Con. The one-day event collates all the colourful, clever and theatrical characters into one (enormous) room, along with activities such as comic book art workshops and free-play video game areas. Kids under five are free.
28-29 September; Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park
Spring Sounds on the Platform
For those who haven’t made it to Sydney’s largest rooftop garden yet, Spring Sounds on the Platform makes for the perfect excuse. This free, three-hour picnic-friendly event gathers the key ingredients for an afternoon of all-age family fun: while the adults laze about with cheese plates and wine in hand, kids can be distracted by on-site activities and the acoustic tunes soundtracking a sunset over the harbour. In short, a blissful way to farewell the school holidays.
12 October; 2 Balls Head, Waverton
Art is for Everyone Weekend
An explosion of events ignite over this special weekend at the harbourside MCA, including everything from gallery viewings designed for children with autism to the eponymous workshop which spans collaborative drawing and experimentation with filmmaking and green-screen trickery.
28-29 September; Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George Street, The Rocks
The Brisbane Festival
Immersive experiences, luminescent theatre performances and family-centric revivals of mid-90s rock bands (yes, that Regurgitator has a children’s album) – there’s little ground that The Brisbane Festival doesn’t cover for fidgety families. Some events are ticketed and some are free.
5-28 September, various locations.
Ben Quilty: Family Portrait
Archibald-winning artist Ben Quilty teamed up with his kids Joe (13) and Olivia (10) to create this masterpiece of a pastime. Quilty recreates his studio inside the Children’s Art Centre with a view to inviting budding artists into his process, with activities and instructional videos on drawing and portraiture designed to give kids a headstart on putting brush to canvas, free of charge.
Until 20 October; Gallery of Modern Art, Stanley Place, South Brisbane
Big Market Adventures for Little Foodies
If the holidays are sending you broke, send the tribe to the Adelaide Central Market, where most activities are free or less than a tenner. The popular Market Trail ($9) leads your little ones around, teaching them about the origins of the varied produce; other options include free Aboriginal art or eco crayon art workshops.
Until 26 April; 44-60 Gouger Street
Kings Park’s Festival
Those first few days of freedom happen to coincide with the King’s Park Festival, a multi-week reason to step outside in the sunshine. Meet local artists, practice tai chi and watch live music, all in the setting of the peaceful surrounds of King’s Park.
1-30 September; Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Fraser Avenue
Dinosaur rEvolution: Secrets of Survival
Animatronics, fossil and interactive displays bring the world circa 100 million years ago to life at TMAG. Kids can find out how dinosaurs lived – and whether they’re still around today. Entry is $7 or free for under-threes.
Until 20 October; Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery
An enduring family favourite, the outdoor, starlit theatre of Deckchair Cinema continues its run until mid-November. Although older family members are required to purchase tickets, kids under five are free. The season’s clear highlight? A showing of the 1979 classic The Muppet Movie on 4 October – with popcorn on the side, of course.
Various showings until 17 November; Deckchair Cinema
Australian Capital Territory
A lurid celebration of spring, Floriade is fun, free territory for outdoorsy tikes. More than a million bright bursts of blooms are distraction enough but the event also attracts interest for its lively, interactive workshops such as seeding planting and potato-head-grass-sprouting, as well as bilingual story time.
14 September – 13 October; Commonwealth Park