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Avoid the cries of ‘I’m bored!’ these school holidays. There are so many wonderful events and activities around Perth. We’ve done all the hard working searching for ideas – so all you have to do is pack the sunscreen and hat for your kids and decide what you want to tick off the list first.

SEASONAL EVENTS

Christmas, New Year and Australia Day means many opportunities to celebrate over the summer school holiday period. Check out these family-friendly options:

  • Christmas decorations During The Perth City Festival of Christmas there will be Christmas lights and decorations throughout the city, including a new 13 metre tall Christmas tree, a nativity scene and The Bell Tower’s lighting display. A number of city streets and parks will be illuminated with lights and decorations as well, including James Street, Lake Street and William Street in Northbridge.

 

  • If you love Christmas lights, remember there are many individuals that go to great effort to deck out their homes with Christmas lights for neighbours and friends to enjoy. Check out the Buggybuddy’s guide to Christmas light displays to find participating homes in your local area, which supports the PMH Foundation’s Christmas Lights campaign, buggybuddys.com.au/christmas_lights_perth

 

  • Forrest Place Christmas Carnival Held on the 6th and 7th of December at Forrest Place, the kids’ carnival features free rides, face painting, mini golf, a petting zoo and a visit from Santa.

 

  • Festive Flicks There will be free festive feature film screenings at Northbridge Plaza movie screenings the 6th and 7th, 10th – 13th, 17th – 21st and the 24th of December, with Christmas family favourites including The Polar Express, Elf, The Santa Clause, Love Actually, Frozen and The Muppet Christmas Carol.

 

  • Piazzarama Northbridge: Festival of Christmas – A free family day with roving characters, activities for the kids and family-friendly films. Held on the 7th of December in Northbridge Piazza from 12noon to 4pm, it will feature Christmas craft activities, carol singers and screenings of The Polar Express at midday and Elf at 4pm.

 

  • Dreaming of a White Christmas? Head to London Court from the 13th of December until the 24th of December for the London Court Snow Show. Each day, snow will fall at the entrances to London Court during two fifteen minute shows at 11.45am and 1.15pm.

 

  • Christmas Nativity Take the kids to Forrest Place from the 16th of December until the 19th of December to see the story of the birth of Jesus featuring hundreds of performers and live animals, at Forrest Place at 7.30pm.

 

  • IGA Carols by Candlelight Enjoy a picnic at this great event, held at the Supreme Court Gardens on the 21st of December at 7.30pm.

 

  • The Channel Seven and The West Australian Christmas Pageant supported by Lotterywest and City of Perth Everyone loves the iconic Christmas pageant with amazing floats, dancers, television personalities and Santa. The pageant is held on Saturday the 6th of December, St Georges Terrace at 7.30pm.

 

  • Tech-savvy kids? Have some festive fun by downloading the ‘Perth City Visual Friends’ iOS and Android app to take photos with Christmas characters around the city. There are six characters to unlock between the CBD and Northbridge.

 

  • Streets Happy Zoo Year If you thought there were no family-friendly events on New Year’s Eve – think again! Have you ever thought of going to the zoo on New Year’s Eve? See the animals, children’s entertainers, listen to good music and bring a picnic to enjoy with the family. As a family-friendly event, the New Year will be counted in at the earlier time of 9pm. Tickets through Ticketmaster. Go to www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au for details.

 

  • Northbridge New Year’s Eve To celebrate the New Year, there will be free entertainment, including roving dancers, singers and acrobats around Northbridge Piazza, Perth Cultural Centre and surrounding streets from 6pm.

 

  • City of Perth Australia Day Skyworks Various family-friendly events will be held on Monday the 26th of January to celebrate Australia Day – including an Entertainment Zone at Langley Park.

 

TOURISM HOTSPOTS

You don’t have to be a tourist to enjoy the tourism hotspots of Perth during the school holidays. If you haven’t been recently, these great places make for a fun family day out:

 

The Swan Valley

There are many things to do with the family in the Swan Valley.

  • Enjoy a game of ‘supa golf’ at the Oasis Supa Golf and Adventure Putt.
  • Indulge in some chocolate at The Margaret River Chocolate Company or Whistler’s Chocolate Company (Whistler’s has a fantastic outdoor play area – with a large grassed space and large chalkboard for the kids to burn off some chocolate-fuelled energy).
  • Visit the Cuddly Animal Farm.
  • Enjoy lunch at one of the many wineries or restaurants. Mandoon Estate and Homestead Brewery have a beautiful grassed area along with an enclosed play area, which is perfect for the kids.
  • For something a bit different, why not go on a driving adventure with the kids? ‘The Amazing Valley Chase’ is a fun scavenger hunt, beginning at the Swan Valley Visitor Centre in Guildford. You download an instruction or clue sheet from the Swan Valley website (or pick one up from the visitor centre) and you are guided through the Swan Valley to collect clues to a riddle, with stops along the way at interesting locations. The chase takes about three hours and is a great activity to discover gems of the Swan Valley with the family. www.swanvalley.com.au

Hillarys Boat Harbour

Enjoy the water, scenery and food that makes Hillarys such a hit with tourists and locals alike.

  • Find some Christmas presents at the local art and craft market, which is held on the second last Saturday of every month. The December market will be held on the 20th of December.
  • Enjoy a meal at one of the many food establishments. The Sorrento Beach Shack is a family-friendly venue worth mentioning, with fun decor and a play area for the kids.
  • Go to AQWA – the Aquarium of Western Australia. Learn about WA’s coastline and see fish, sharks and other marine animals.
  • Have fun at The Great Escape – a fantastic adventure playground with rock climbing, waterslides and rides.
  • Catch a ferry over to Rottnest Island for a day trip. Hire a bike to explore the island, look out for quokkas and enjoy the pristine waters.

Fremantle

Art, shopping and great food – catch the train into Fremantle for a great family day out.

  • Experience the colour, food and shopping at the Fremantle Markets.
  • Take a tour of Fremantle Prison – or for something different, go on a tour of the prison by torchlight on a Wednesday or Friday night.
  • Enjoy lunch at Little Creatures Brewery – there is even a sandpit for the kids to play in. Visit the Maritime Museum. Go to www.visitfremantle.com.au for details.

Think like a school teacher and take your kids to places that are fun, interesting, and educational, such as:

The Western Australian Museum (Perth)

Simply  explore the museum or check out a current exhibition. The exhibition, Afghanistan Hidden Treasures from the National Museum Kabul, is currently on display until the 18th of January. www.museum.wa.gov.au

The Art Gallery of Western Australia

Just go to enjoy the exhibitions or check out the school holiday activities. The kids can take part by drawing their own masterpiece at the Art Gallery’s drawing space or make their own mask inspired by a piece from the New Passports, New Photography exhibition (from the 12th of January to the 23rd of January). Go to the Art Gallery’s website for updates on school holiday activities, www.artgallery.wa.gov.au

Scitech

It’s a fun and interesting place to go for a school excursion or family day out – but there are also some great activities for the kids over the school holidays. Some great activities at Scitech to check out these holidays include

  • Workshops in the CSIRO Lab

– Suitable for children aged 4 to 16, they offer workshops on various topics including engineering design, electronics, chemistry and physics (bookings essential).

  • Backyard Adventures exhibition

– This new exhibition enables the kids discover the science in their own backyard

– they’ll get the chance to do things such as use special lenses to look at the garden through the eyes of a dog, check out the DIY Science garden and use a giant skipping rope

  • Starlight planetarium show – A new show, narrated by Sigrid Thornton, which explores what a star is. The show is at Scitech from the 18th of December.                                                                     For more information visit www.scitech.org.au

 

WATER FUN

It is summer after all, so cool the kids down by taking them somewhere to enjoy some fun in the water. Some popular places for water play around Perth include:

  • The Great Escape at Hillarys Boat Harbour.
  • Bayswater Waves (an aquatic centre that features a wave pool and water slides).
  • Whiteman Park
  • Rainbow Waters Playground Ellenbrook (a free community water playground).
  • Beatty Park Leisure Centre l Adventure World

AT HOME

Get the kids to decorate an empty tissue box. Write various activities on pieces of paper. This could include everything from playing a board game, reading a book, Skyping or calling a friend or watching a movie, to a chore like cleaning their room or washing the car. This tissue box then becomes the ‘I’m bored box’. If the kids say they don’t have anything to do, get them to choose a piece of paper from the box with a suggestion that they have to complete.

Events may be subject to change. Go to relevant websites or contact event organisers/businesses to check times, booking details and costs involved.

To let your kids’ play in dirt, or to not let your kids’ play in the dirt; that is the question. Maggie Dent, an acclaimed parenting guru, suggests that kids should be getting back to playing in nature as there are so many benefits for kids’ playing outside rather than their lives’ being dominated by technology.

If you were to mention the name Maggie Dent in parenting circles chances are someone would have subscribed to her values, heard her on radio, attended a seminar or read one of her five books in the quest for answers on how to survive in the world of parenting.

Maggie could never be accused of tiptoeing around the truth. She holds strong on her values and isn’t afraid to voice them. And while her work touches a vast array of issues across the parenting spectrum, from homework and education, emotional development, bullying and suicide, gender differences, play, crisis management and building resilience, her heart never wavers from its true ambition of helping parents raise happy and healthy kids in the modern world.

When Offspring spoke with Maggie she straight up offered to let us in on a secret. A little secret about raising children. All ears tuned in and we waited with baited breath. She may have ensnared a copy of that mythological user manual that failed to be handed out to us when our children were born.

“The secret is dirt,” Maggie quips. And we suspect she quite enjoyed our initial state of confusion. “Dirt, and lots of it.”

“The secret is dirt, and lots of it.”

Could it really be that simple? In her familiar, passionate, banter Maggie went on to explain through her seventeen years of teaching in Western Australian schools and then working as a counsellor, as well as raising four boys into happy and well rounded young men, that the real secret to raising kids is to let them play, explore and have fun while allowing them the chance to make mistakes, get dirty and occasionally get hurt.

“Today’s modern lifestyles, full of game consoles, social media and television is having a consequence on our children’s development and kids as young as five are suffering clinical depression and anxiety disorders,” Maggie explains.

“We have created a world so busy, so competitive and an education system so focused on academic results that we are providing our children with fewer and fewer opportunities for unstructured play. We are diminishing their freedom to just be kids.”

Without hesitation Maggie finger-points NAPLAN testing as well as compulsory starts to pre-primary years as some of the main catalysts.

“We now have a world full of information available at our finger tips but we rely on Google instead of instinct.”

“The irony is that 20 years ago children were turning up to Year One better prepared and with less learning delays, stress and anxiety related illnesses and hyper-sensitive behaviours than the children of today. We now have a world full of information available at our finger tips but we rely on Google instead of instinct and sweeping national standards of achievement rather than tuning into the individual child,” she says.

“We spend so much time trying to safely guide our children and prevent bad things from happening to them that we are dissolving their ability to judge risk for themselves which ironically sets them up for disaster in this unpredictable world.”

Buoyant with enthusiasm, Maggie divulges how play teaches us to learn to wait, to take turns, to develop the art of strategy, to lose and to win graciously. It’s also fantastic exercise and can reduce stress.

 

Perhaps most importantly, unstructured play stimulates our curiosity, our “seeking mechanism”. An under-active seeking mechanism in adulthood can contribute to a person staying stuck in an unloving relationship, or a boring and soulless job. And no one wants to sign their child up for that!

“If we, as parents, teachers, indeed, as a society, don’t start taking play more seriously and allow our children to take a few risks, we are denying them the opportunity to be resilient human beings,” and the sense of urgency in her voice is clear.

Sadly, the problem doesn’t discriminate – country or city, outback or coast – somewhere over the last ten years parenting became a competition with the perception of having to be a perfect parent and also having the perfect child. This in turn is increasing anxiety in our kids.

“I have never met a perfect human being so why do we pressure our kids to be exceptional and perfect? There is no perfect child, parent or teacher. There never was nor will be. Humans have flaws,” she says.

“If we, as parents, teachers, indeed, as a society, don’t start taking play more seriously and allow our children to take a few risks, we are denying them the opportunity to be resilient human beings.”

So are we doomed or is there a solution? Maggie assures us all is not lost.

“Children need to know they are valued and loved. Feeling invisible or unloved causes enormous stress to a child’s nervous system. Often children can become emotionally needy and anxious about getting the love they yearn,” she says.

 

“Remember, children do not see all the cooking, washing and cleaning as signs of love and connection. To feel loved, children need to hear the words, have loving touch and know that you are ‘present’ to them.”

It sounds easy. But in reality parents are busy people. Many parents work or have a litany of demands upon them and limited capacity to play without time constraint. An excuse maybe, but for many, this is reality.

“Anyone with young children in their household needs to make play a priority,” Maggie is staunch on this point. “Spontaneous moments of connection are more valuable to a child than timetabled quality time.”

You can put your diary down.

Somewhere over the last ten years parenting became a competition with the perception of having to be a perfect parent and also having the perfect child.

Often the only time in our busy days, when we can really relax, focus and connect with our children is at bedtime. Perfect. Maggie describes how following a loving bedtime ritual every night is an extremely powerful way of anchoring your love for your child and reducing anxiety.

Maggie gives the tip that the last thing your child should hear every night before entering the land of nod is how much you love them and fostering the concept of a love that transcends all boundaries and absences. A concept she has aptly named a love bridge.

“I always told my boys ‘I love you more than all the grains of sand on every beach, more than all the stars in the night sky and more than all the hairs on all the bears’ and they still remember it,” she says.

“It’s about creating a sense of connection even in absence. For children, particularly under four years, repeating the concept nightly and planting the idea of the enormity of your love can create an almost tangible sense that you are always with them.”

 

“Spontaneous moments of connection are more valuable to a child than timetabled quality time.”

The love bridge can do wonders for anxiety in children (and alleviate some parental guilt for times when you can not be with them).

Are you ready for another secret? It’s about presence not presents. With Christmas just around the corner, Maggie reminds us that children are naturally creative thinkers and don’t need the latest fancy toys to predict and channel their play, instead the best gift would be spending time together discovering, playing and making magical memories. That might mean going away on holidays together or just spending time at home.

“It’s important not to be swayed by advertising and commercial pressures and enjoy a little of the magic that comes but once a year.”

Maggie’s best piece of advice?

“Have fun and spend as much time as you can with your child in the first three foundation years because children who experience joy and delight through free play are psychologically stronger and a have greater capacity to overcome adversity in the adolescent years.”

Being a mother often means that you need to give up the things that you love, but these mums have found a way to still be mums do what they love – Surfing!

At first glance they look like any other surfers, bobbing up and down on their boards waiting patiently for the next decent wave. But scan your gaze back to the beach and you’ll soon see the difference, there’s more than a beach towel waiting on the sand for this surfing clan – in fact there’s a brood. Meet Perth’s Surfing Mums – a dedicated group of women who share a passion for surfing and parenting, and see no reason why the two can’t be combined.

It’s not a new phenomenon; the first Surfing Mums group started in Byron Bay with two new mums who were feeling a little lost. They were brought together by their love of surfing and the frustration at having to now sit on the beach with their babies just watching the waves. So they started to meet on a regular basis, taking turns to look after each other’s children while the other went surfing.

Word quickly spread and the idea moved from State to State, and now there are 15 Surfing Mums groups nationally, comprising Surfing Mums Australia.

In 2008 the group became an incorporated association, so members pay either an annual or half-yearly fee and are fully covered by public liability insurance.

The mums get together annually in Byron Bay for the group’s annual general meeting, which of course also factors in plenty of time for them to take advantage of the many amazing local breaks.

WA has two main groups in Perth and Geraldton, with Perth’s group comprised of about 20 members who meet each week for surfing and “beach-sitting” duties. Members are encouraged to buddy up and look after each other’s children, who range in age from six weeks to 15 years old, on a one-on-one basis for a designated time period, before swapping babies for boards.

Cara Williams has been a member of Surfing Mums Perth for two years and is now the national secretary, but she says the group has given her far more than just the chance to go surfing.

As a single mum hailing from the east coast, Cara says meeting others who shared her passion for surfing and encouraging a healthy, outdoor lifestyle was an invaluable support for her.

“For me it’s not just a group, I consider these women to be my friends,” Cara says. “It’s such a great support network.”

There is no question that Cara is mad about surfing, she’s been a keen surfer since the age of 15 and her daughter Lacey Lane is named after a surf break in Queensland. After finding out about Surfing Mums from her Mothers Group, Cara says she thought it was too good to be true and quickly joined up when Lacey was just six months old. She’s never looked back.

“Surfing Mums has given me so much, both mentally and physically and I love that we’re teaching our kids to be active throughout life.”

“It’s such a welcoming group of people and I think that attitude comes from our co-ordinator, Claire Romea Gorton, who is now the national president too,” she says. “We just adore her and she encourages a really friendly and non-judgemental environment. Surfing Mums has given me so much, both mentally and physically and I love that we’re teaching our kids to be active throughout life. We’ve got such a great mix of members and there is a range of ages, some in their late forties and one who only learnt to surf when she in her forties but is amazing. But everyone is really passionate about living a healthy, outdoor lifestyle.”

New members are encouraged to join, even if you’re not a skilled surfer or have never surfed before, they can arrange a few lessons before you join the regular weekly meets. Although it’s aimed at mums, the group is not limited to women – dads and carers are also encouraged to come along.

If you’re not in Perth or Geraldton but love the idea, Surfing Mums is also happy to support the formation of new groups.

According to Cara, one of the keys to success is the buddy-up system, so new members feel more comfortable about hitting the water knowing that their child will be well cared for in their absence.

 

“For me it’s not just a group, I consider these women to be my friends,” Cara says. “It’s such a great support network.”

“In order to do it right, the mums pair up so it’s not just a mass of women and children, there is more responsibility and it works well,” she says. “I get to go out and enjoy a surf knowing that Lacey is in good hands. The Perth group generally meets at Trigg in summer and Cottesloe in winter, or wherever the waves are best, as co-ordinated by Claire.” They also take two annual surf trips. One is a closer, long weekend trip where families are encouraged to come along and the other is the main trip, which this year was an all-mums surfing trip to Java. And Cara maintains that “surfing trip” is not just code for a glorified relaxing holiday with cocktails by the pool, these mums mean business. Picture nine women walking through the airport, each with one or two board bags – clothes stuffed in around their beloved boards. This is clearly not a shopping trip.

“We surfed from dawn until dusk, it was amazing,” Cara says. “It’s something that a lot of male surfers have had the opportunity to experience but not a lot of women, especially mums. We got back and pretty much re-booked for a trip in April, with another mum and I even signing ourselves up to learn Indonesian before we head back.”

 

For more information:

www.surfingmums.com