I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published December 14th 2013
Some great reasons to get excited about the next school hols
If you're a mother or father you'll understand very well the anxiety experienced by parents everywhere as school holiday time steadily approaches. Finding entertainment for school-aged children that is fun, educational and affordable is an eternal challenge, but do not fear, as here in Newcastle we're fortunate to have access to several fabulous destinations, activities and special events that will be sure to keep your little darlings happy and you sane. If you want to banish forever the irritating chant 'I'm bored!' from your home, then read on for some top tips about what to do and where to go these next school holidays.
This image is from Wikimedia Commons (by Julian Colton)
Newcastle Art Gallery Do you have a young artist at home? I strongly believe that all children are natural artists, and with enough encouragement and the right tuition, amazing creations are possible even from the tiniest toddler.
This image is from Wikimedia Commons (by Keith Moreau)
Situated 1 Laman Street, Newcastle Art Gallery is a fabulous spot which provides some great workshops for children of all ages every school holidays. The classes are taught by professional local artists who work in a variety of different media and encourage children to develop their imagination and innate talent by experimenting with techniques and media that they may otherwise not have access to. School holiday workshops are usually related to the gallery's current exhibitions, and are suitable for children aged from five to twelve.
In addition to the special holiday workshops, the gallery's regular Art Cart program usually runs throughout most school holidays. However, always check beforehand as they are suspended at some times of the year.
For more information about upcoming school holiday programs at the Newcastle Art Gallery, go to this website, email email@example.com or phone 02 4974 5100
. Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery Located in Booragul, right on the shores of beautiful Lake Macquarie, the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery is another top destination to head to for all things relating to the arts. In addition to some first-class exhibitions by both local, national and international artists, the gallery is the hub of the Lake Macquarie arts community, holding an awesome range of courses and workshops for wannabe artists, young and old.
In addition to in-term adult classes, preschooler classes, and classes for school-aged children after school and on weekends, the gallery also provides a great holiday program for school-aged children from three to twelve. These classes span a wide variety of projects and techniques such as card-making, gift-making, painting, collage, tie-dying and much, much more.
Maitland Art Gallery is another fabulous artistic wonderland for people, large and small, and holds some great art classes over the school holidays for children three years of age and older. The gallery's school holiday program is structured around its current exhibitions, and the tutors take the children into the gallery before each workshop to gain inspiration before they start on their own masterpieces.
Maitland Regional Art Gallery
Classes at the Maitland Regional Gallery are held in a wide variety of creative media, and the specified ages for each depends upon the particular skills that are required to complete the tasks. Some of the classes that are offered include drawing, painting, nature art, diorama making, sculpture, kite-making, cartooning and print-making. These are just a few of the offerings, so take a look at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery website to find out more and for details about how to register your children. If information isn't available for the upcoming school holidays, email the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details, or give them a call on 02 4934 9859.
Newcastle Museum If you've never visited Newcastle Museum, then plan a trip this weekend. This awesome community education space serves as both a museum and a science centre and is chock-a-block full of cool stuff for visitors of all ages. For kids it's a paradise full of fun educational activities which will stimulate their desire to learn more about the fascinating world in which we live, and is living proof that learning really can be enjoyable.
This image is from the Newcastle Museum website
Newcastle Museum is open seven days a week during school holidays, and is totally free of charge, although its school holiday activities often involve a small charge. This makes it a perfect destination for families on a tight budget. In addition to lots of awesome things to look at and experiment with, the museum also presents amazing science shows and cool creative workshops with themes connected to current exhibitions. A visit here will keep the kids happy for hours. Combined with a family picnic on the nearby harbour foreshore, it's a great way to spend the entire day.
To learn more about Newcastle Museum's upcoming school holiday programs, go to their website.
Newcastle Library And Other Local Libraries
Every school holidays Newcastle Library and other libraries throughout the suburbs and Hunter region hold a range of fabulous activities specially designed to keep children entertained and happy. While activities are held daily at Newcastle Library, those in the suburbs are generally just a few times a week, and include a great range of fun stuff including story-telling, craft sessions, amateur archaeological treasure hunts, exciting science activities, zine workshops and lots more. The school holiday program offered by the Newcastle Region Library is suitable for children from 3 to 14 years old, although specific activities are focused on a much narrower age group. For more information, consult the Newcastle Region Library's online brochure or call 02 4974 5300. Take a look at this webpage as well to learn more about the library's special summer programs that are held a several local pools.
Other libraries in the region also hold great school holiday programs so check out your local library for more details. The Lake Macquarie City Library and Maitland City Library have some good stuff lined up every school holidays in their various branches, so be sure to also regularly check their websites towards the end of each term.
Only six kilometres from the heart of Newcastle, Blackbutt Reserve is a large hectare nature reserve and one of the city's favourite destinations for a family day out. Every school holidays its popular Junior Ranger, catering for children 6 - 10 years old, is a fabulous way for kids to learn about our natural environment and the animals and plants that can be found there. During the long hot summer holidays the program morphs into the Aquatic Junior Ranger program and is situated at various local aquatic centres so children can cool down with a refreshing dip if the heat gets too much. However, the animal shows, craft activities and fun games are just the same as the regular programs held at the reserves. Be sure to get in early with this informative and fun program, as places are quickly sold out.
For more information, take a look at this webpage, email email@example.com or call 02 4904 3344.
Hunter Wetlands Centre
For even more cool nature-based activities, another spot to head to is the Hunter Wetlands Centre. Located at Shortland, over many years this natural wetland had gradually become a dumping-place for all kinds of waste and was the site of a football field and clubhouse. These days, after years of environmental restoration, it's once again teeming with life and is the home-base of the Hunter Wetlands Centre.
This image is from the Hunter Wetlands Centre website
If you have some young nature-lovers at home why not enrol them in one of the centre's great school holiday activity programs? Held every holidays except for those in January, they provide a great opportunity for kids to get up close and personal with the natural world in an enjoyable, age-appropriate way. Previous programs have included Wacky Wetlander guided tours, bicycle maintenance workshops, the Great Bike Safari, bush skills adventure days, arts and crafts activities, basic photography, canoeing, workshops on how to build a bush shelter and camp cooking.
To learn more about the Hunter Wetlands Centre visit their website, and for more information about their school holiday program call their ecotourism manager Anna Ryan on 02 4951 6466 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newcastle Beach and Ocean Baths
Newcastle boasts some of the best beaches in Australia, so during the warmer months its natural for many local families to head for the beach during the holidays. While Newcastle Beach is great for older kids and teens, very young children may prefer to paddle and play in the nearby Canoe Pool, a lovely sheltered spot situated between the beach and the ocean baths. Close by, there are sheltered picnic tables as well as a kiosk, so if you want to spend an entire day here everything you need is provided.
Newcastle Harbour Foreshore
The beautiful Newcastle Harbour foreshore is a great place to spend a few hours or an entire day during the next school holidays. Bring the kids' bikes and scooters, and perhaps pack a picnic hamper to enjoy at one of the many picturesque spots along the way. If you can afford it, a cruise on the harbour or up the Hunter River to Morpeth is a great treat for the whole family, although if your budget won't stretch that far, children will also enjoy the short ferry trip over to Stockton. This historic harbour-side suburb is lots of fun to explore by foot or by bike (why not take your bikes over on the ferry?), and there are a quite a few nice parks which the children my want to try out as you make your way around.
Local Shopping Centres
Local shopping plazas are another terrific place to find children's entertainment over the holidays, and this is often very cheap or even free of charge. Be sure to regularly check the websites of your favourite centres around the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter regions for fun creative activities and free child-friendly entertainment.
Hunter Valley Gardens
There is always something happening at the lovely Hunter Valley Gardens, so be sure to check out their website as the school holidays draw nearer.
Kids' Holiday Camps
An old-fashioned school holiday favourite for children has always been to go away on camp. While different school and community groups hold regular holiday camps for kids, some that are open for all children aged seven to twelve years of age are those run by the Office for Communities, Sport and Recreation. Camp themes are varied and include Making a Splash, Cooking For Kids, Kreative Kids and Adventure Camp. There are also family camps if the whole family would like to go away together.
Camps are held at a few sites around New South Wales but those which are closest to Newcastle are Point Wolstoncroft on the eastern shore of Lake Macquarie, Myuna Bay (also on Lake Macquarie) and Milson Island, located on the beautiful Hawkesbury River.
To find out more, take a look at the Holiday Camps page of the Office for Communities, Sport and Recreation website.
Sports Due to a variety of lifestyle factors it's a well-known fact that children these days aren't nearly as active as those of previous generations. Since sport and exercise are such enjoyable aspects of life and are crucial elements of a healthy lifestyle, this is tragic and something that parents can avoid by enrolling their kids in special school holiday sports clinics and workshops.
This image is from the Sporty Kids website
Here in Newcastle a great way to encourage even the youngest kids to lead a healthy, active life is to enrol them in some of the wonderful Sporty Kids programs. Locally run, these programs focus on littlies in the 2 - 6 age bracket, with fun and games for the tiny tots and Sporty Kids soccer for those who are slightly older. Sporty Kids school holiday and in-term programs are a fun and affordable introduction for kids to the wonderful world of sport and are held throughout Newcastle, Maitland and the Lake Macquarie area. To find out more, take a look at the Sporty Kids website.
Australia's most widespread sport classes are, without a doubt, swimming lessons. Although swimming classes are part of the school curriculum for all Australian children, there is no reason why kids can't get extra classes during the holidays, if they really love the water. Contact out your local aquatic centre for more details.
Alternatively, with its beautiful beaches, surfing is a popular sport here in Newcastle, so if your kids are wannabe surfies or simply water-babies perhaps this is something else you may like to explore. Other sports the kids may enjoy in the Newcastle area are roller-skating, ice skating, sailing and kayaking. While your family may know someone who can teach them the ropes, lessons are also available in the local region.
Spend Some Family Time With Mother Nature
Newcastle is surrounded by many beautiful natural places and some great activities to do as a family are picnicking, bushwalking and camping. The Barrington Tops National Park, situated approximately an hour and a half from Newcastle, is a personal favourite of mine. Consisting of rugged mountain wilderness country and temperate rainforest, it's the perfect place to head if you're looking for adventure and want to leave civilisation far behind. There are numerous bushwalking tracks for every level of ability, picturesque picnic grounds and several very good camping sites. Situated next to a flowing river, the Gloucester River camping ground, as well as several spots on Thunderbolt Way between Gloucester and Nowendoc are especially nice, but there are plenty of others in the area. For more information about the beautiful Barrington Tops area, take a look at this website. Several nearby towns, including Dungog, Stroud and Gresford, are also lovely spots to stay if you don't want to rough it too much.
Barrington Tops. This image is from Wikimedia Commons (by DanF)
Other beautiful national parks to explore that are a just short driving distance from Newcastle include the Watagans National Park, the Myall Lakes National Park, Wollemi National Park and Mount Royal National. However, there are many others as well and to learn all about them, take a look at this website.