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 April 12th 2013
Solve your vacation woes with these beaut boredom busters
School holidays can pose an immense challenge for parents, especially as children reach the notoriously difficult teenage years. Too old and cool for most regular holiday activities, they're still not mature enough to be left alone to occupy themselves, and therefore what should be a wonderful family time can easily degenerate into a nightmare, with the incessant chorus, 'I'm bored!' resounding in the background. However, hope is at hand and with a little planning and budgeting, school holidays can become an enjoyable experience that everyone will anticipate throughout the year.
Your teenager might find a circus skills workshop interesting during the next school holidays. Image is from Wikimedia Commons (by Rick Dikeman).
Personally, I'm a big fan of nature-based activities. Once you choose your destination and get there, many of these cost next to nothing. Similarly, sports are often cheap (or free) and great for active youngsters. Holiday periods can provide a chance for them to try out activities which they've never done before. In contrast, arts and crafts may be more attractive for quieter, artsy types. Whether your teenager is outgoing or shy, and regardless of what sort of activities they enjoy, there are so many terrific options available in the wider community. While some will require the whole family to get involved, others are activities specifically designed for teens which are held at different locations around Perth.
Teenagers often enjoy sports which offer some adventure, such as diving. This image is from Wikimedia Commons (by Wyngarden).
Sit down with your teens and ask what they're special interests are, and if there's anything new that they'd like to learn or get involved in. The following paragraphs provide a few suggestions which you may find helpful. With your encouragement, they might plant the seeds for a hobby or career your teenager will enjoy throughout his or her life.
Writing and Art Competitions If your teenager is a quiet, self-motivated kind of person who is a talented writer or artist, perhaps they may be interested in entering some of the many competitions which are held around Australia each year. With a few weeks free, school holidays are the perfect time to work on a special creative project.
School holidays can be a great time to get creative.
Learn to cook With cooking shows such as Master Chef and My Kitchen Rules enjoying immense popularity, perhaps your teenager has been experiencing an unprecedented urge to contribute towards your family meals. If so, he or she should definitely be encouraged, and there is no better time for them to begin than during school holidays. If you haven't got a good supply of cooking books at home, take your teen down to the local library to select a few which are of interest and help them to purchase the necessary ingredients. While older teens will probably be alright working independently, younger ones may need some guidance. Before they begin, emphasise that cooking also involves cleaning up after themselves.
Cooking is a great hobby for teenagers to take up.
Learn a new sport Many teenagers have a tendency to loaf around during the holidays, often accompanied by complaints of being bored. A great way to combat this kind of adolescent indolence is to get them into classes for some kind of sport they find cool or interesting. While team sports are often attractive for younger children, teens may find sports such as diving, surfing, horse-riding, rock-climbing, yoga or sailing more appealing. For something a bit different, circus skills are also becoming increasingly popular, and the WA Circus School in Fremantle holds school holiday courses for kids of all ages. These activities are generally not cheap, but they will inspire your teen to move off their back-side and get active.
Surfing is a popular sport for teens. This image is from Wikimedia Commons (by Stan Shebs).
Calling All Science Enthusiasts Scitech has some extremely cool activities organised every school holiday. As well as catering to young children, they also have workshops aimed at 'seniors' ten to fourteen years old which feature topics such as robotics, electronics and growing microscopic crystals.To learn more, check out this website.
Photography is a wonderful hobby which is popular with people of all ages, even fussy teens. These days, with the great variety of good quality, easy-to-use and affordable digital cameras available, even total novices can came up with some amazing images. In addition, there are heaps of great online programs available such as Be Funky where they can manipulate their images, creating effects that were once only possible for professional photographers.
If your teenager is especially enthusiastic and talented, perhaps encourage them to enter one of the many competitions which are always being held, locally and interstate.
Get Crafty If your teenagers are creative, work in cooperation with them to make up a arts and crafts kit for our home. The contents of this will depend on what media they like to work in. A visit to the library may also provide ideas for their projects. Beading, card-making, sewing, knitting, drawing and crochet are easy crafts to do at home, and there is plenty of help available from library books and on-line.
There are also some awesome creative courses around Perth, so if you can afford it, book your teens into some of those. Older, more mature teenagers may feel comfortable attending adult classes while younger ones will probably want to be with kids their own age. Fremantle Art Centre and the Tresillian Community Centre in Nedlands often hold very good courses specifically for teenagers during the school holidays.
Fremantle Art Centre often holds courses for teenagers.
Volunteering is a great way to give back to our local community, and it's important that young people are aware of its importance. Here in Perth there are many opportunities to volunteer, and the following are a few suggestions. Oxfam, also known as Community Aid Abroad, operates three fair trade shops around Perth and they're always looking out for volunteers. Working here, your child will learn about human rights, fair trade and the struggle for existence which many people in developing countries experience.
Sail Into The Sunset
Based in Fremantle, the Leeuwin Ocean Adventure Foundation offers Youth Explorer Voyages throughout the year for young people aged fourteen and over. The Leeuwin is a magnificent three-masted barquentine, approximately 55 metres in length with over 810 square metres of sail. Operating under the principle of 'challenge by choice', participants are expected to get involved in every aspect of life on-board, including sailing, steering, navigating, cleaning and even climbing the mast. Check out the Leeuwin website for more information, but keep in mind, school holiday voyages get booked out very quickly.
This image is from the Leeuwin Ocean Adventures.website.
Duke of Edinburgh Award
Bright, active and community-minded teenagers may find the Duke of Edinburgh Award program appealing. Aimed at young people fourteen to twenty five years of age, participants are required to select and complete an activity in a specified time period for each of the four criteria: volunteering (community service), physical (sport, dance or fitness), skills (creative, practical or social interests) and an expedition. There are three progressive levels, bronze and gold, with the requirements becoming increasingly demanding as the participant works through them.
This image is from the Duke of Edinburgh Award website.
Established in 1956 in England, the Duke of Edinburgh Award program is still popular in Australia and many schools encourage their pupils to get involved. However, it's also possible to participate independently, although your children might feel more inspired if they do it with a group of their friends, especially for the expedition, which involves working in a team. Although some people consider it a bit old-fashioned, I personally think it's great and it will look fabulous on your teen's resume. For more information, take a look at the Duke of Edinburgh Award website.
This image is from the Duke of Edinburgh Award website
Outward Bound Australia is a unique organisation which focuses on personal and leadership development through outdoor adventure activities. As well as holding expeditions for adults, during most school holidays they offer programs in wilderness areas around Western Australia for young people aged fifteen to seventeen. Participants have the choice of two different expeditions: one in which they can take part independently and the other in which they are accompanied by a parent or care-giver. These unique programs give teens the chance to not only experience some of our magnificent Western Australian wilderness areas, but also to cultivate qualities such as self-reliance and resourcefulness, while working as part of a team. Activities include hiking, rafting and rock-climbing.
This image is from Wikimedia Commons (by Hughesdarren).
Outward Bound also offers a specialised six-day program which supports the expedition segment of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards: something that can be a challenge for young people who are working towards them independently. Check out the Outward Bound website for more information about all these programs.
Canoeing is a wonderful hobby for people of all ages, and exploring our local waterways is a great adventure. If you don't own your own canoe or kayak, it's possible to hire them at various places around the city. Beginners may be interested to paddle along the upper reaches of the Swan or Canning Rivers. Alternatively, Mandurah and the Peel region has some very scenic and sheltered waterways. The Canning River Eco Education Centre at the corner of Kent Street and Queen's Park Road in Wilson has maps of canoe trails along the upper reaches of the Canning River, while the Mandurah Visitors Centre at 75 Mandurah Terrace provides several maps of canoe trails around the Peel region.
Another possibility for active and adventurous teens is to embark on a cycling adventure. While older teenagers may be mature and competent enough to travel alone, this could be a wonderful family trip if your children are younger. Here in Perth, there are cycle paths everywhere, so your adventure could simply be a long day trip, or you extend it to include one or more nights. One suggestion for an overnight trip is to cycle from Perth to Rockingham, a route which mainly follows the Kwinana Freeway and the Mandurah railway line. This might be ideal for novices, as you can simply catch the train if the physical exertion gets to be too much. Click here for a copy of the Perth - Rockingham cycle map. If you're planning to stay overnight, be sure to book your accommodation well in advance.
Other options are the Munda Biddi Trail, WA's ultimate off-road cycling experience, which begins in Mundaring and will eventually continue all the way down to Albany. To accommodate long-distance cyclists, there are cabins along the route. However, it's probably a good idea to pack your own tent and camping equipment as the trail can get pretty busy at peak times.
If your teenager is mature and competent to ride on major roads, travelling anywhere is possible. With a properly equipped bike and light-weight, good quality camping eqipment, a family cycling and camping holiday is a cheap and exciting way to explore Western Australia.
Over the last decade or so, the Australian lifestyle has become increasingly sedentary. A great way to combat this and the health issues which it implies, is to get out regularly into the great outdoors. Bushwalking is a terrific activity which can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels, and if outings are planned carefully, even extremely lazy teenagers can be inspired to participate.
While the Perth Hills are criss-crossed by innumerable walking trails of varying lengths, teens may also enjoy the challenge of a long-distance walk which involves camping out. The Bibbulmun Track is the most famous of Western Australia's long-distance walks, and stretches from Kalamunda in the north to Albany on the south coast, with plenty of well-maintained camping sites along the way. The Cape to Cape Trail, a five day walk starting near Dunsborough and ending in Augusta is also a great walk, with magnificent views over the ocean. If you're travelling up in the far north, the Piccaninny Gorge Walk in the Purnululu National Park near Kununurra is also strongly recommended for experienced, fit and well-equipped walkers. For more information, contact the Purnululu National Park Visitors Centre on 08 9168 4200.
Family camping trip
In my opinion, the best kind of holiday is a family camping trip. Covering a vast area spanning from the tropical north to the temperate south, Western Australia has more than fifty national parks, as well as innumerable nature reserves and sanctuaries, many which provide camping facilities. Personal favourites are Karajini National Park in the Pilbara region and the Cape Range National Park near Exmouth, which provide stunning scenery and walking trails as well as top camping sites. Check out the DEC Campsites website for more information about camping in Western Australia's national parks. While the camping facilities at many national parks are quite rustic (many are just simple bush camps), there are also many well-equipped caravan parks in tourist centres around the state and these may be more suitable for families who want to travel on a budget but still like a few creature comforts.
Western Australia is also a paradise for four-wheel drive enthusiasts, and tracks such as the Canning Stock Route and the Gunbarrel Highway have a legendary status around the country. Many involve traversing extremely rugged country, so if your teen is an adrenaline junkie, then this may be their kind of adventure.
In conclusion, school holidays with teenagers don't have to be purgatory. With good communication, intelligent preparation and an investment of your time, the whole family will start to look forward to holiday time, seeing it as a chance to learn about the world, practice new skills and connect with each other. Give some of the above ideas a try, and see how your teenager responds. I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised.