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Anxiety, anger and trepidation are all common feelings your children might face when going back to school. Here are some tips to help ease them back into the school routines.

Amidst lockdowns, work from home and isolation requirements the last two school years have been nothing but linear. With a new year emerging from the hopeful end of the tumultuous pandemic brings new precautions, routines and expectations for what school might look like. There are some things you can do to prepare for onsite learning and remember you have been ‘back to school’ before.

Talk to your child about what is happening and set goals

Open conversations will be important, as your children will probably have a lot of questions about the new procedures their school has in place, or why some of their friends or teachers are away. It might be difficult to get your children to like school again after the flexibility of at home learning. Set goals with them they can achieve over the school year, such as packing their bag each day, learning to tie their shoes or to get their pen licence.

Schedule normal family time as something to look forward to for after school. Ask them what they are excited for and what they have missed, whether this is school choir or playing in the playground.

children in classroom art

Be ready for a range of emotions

You might need to prepare for school refusal, your child being extremely upset about going back to school and not wanting to attend classes. Every child will be different, so assess the needs of yours individually.

It is normal for your child to come home from their first day back at school feeling overwhelmed, anxious or even disappointed that school feels different. It could be that their best friend hasn’t come back to school, or that their friendship groups have changed over the break. Talk candidly about friendships and how they evolve over time.

kid reading book

Use a planner and establish routines

Learning from home meant children could work at their own pace, so they might face fatigue and stress upon going back to a full school day. Start now by setting up playdates so that your child will be more prepared for a full classroom setting and the noises and sensory overload that comes with a busy playground.

There is no need to rush back into everything, and it may be hard to see great progress immediately. Ease your child back into extracurricular activities or seeing their friends outside of the classroom. Use lunchboxes for daytime meals at home, and go over drop-off and pick-up routines. Rehearse a normal school day in the week before its return to re-establish familiarity. Do the school shopping together and get a new item such as coloured pens to get your children excited about going back to school.

children and teacher in classroom

Reassure your child it is safe, and believe this yourself

Where you can, give your child stability in processes that you can control. This may be getting them in great hand-washing, mask and sanitisation routines or teaching them about air purification devices that may be present in the classroom to stop the spread of infectious particles.

Assure your child that decisions will be made if it were unsafe to go back to school, and acknowledge that their range of emotions such as excitement, relief, worry, anger and disappointment are all normal. Reinforce good hygiene practices – consider singing their favourite team song when washing their hands.

apple on stack of books

Reach out for support when necessary

Communication with teachers will be crucial to understand how your child is coping coming back into the classroom. After a hands-on home-schooling experience, your child might require more 1:1 support moving forward. Talk to your children about what they are learning, and engage with their curriculum to assist when you can. Parental stress might also be an issue, with fears of the changes to school and work life that come with challenging times.

If you or your child are struggling, visit your local GP, contact 1800 333 497, or visit findapsychologist.org.au.

children studying

Throughout the Christmas and New Year period, we are inundated with holiday romance movies, overwhelming social calendars and expectations to look and feel, “Merry and bright”. But for those who are struggling with their mental health, affected by the wrath of seasonal depression, it can feel like anything, but, “The most wonderful time of the year”.

Traditionally, a time for eating, drinking and being merry, the festive season can come with a foreboding presupposition for those struggling with a mental health concern or personal crisis.

When everyone around seems to be in the festive spirit, seasonal depression can make the holidays particularly overwhelming, feeling like a period that needs to be survived rather than thrived.

The holidays have long been associated with seasonal depression, reporting a 40% increase of suicide in the days following Christmas. In accordance with a survey from YouGov,  a quarter of people say that Christmas makes their mental health worse, with an additional survey from the Mental Health Foundation, sharing that 54% of people are worried about the mental health of someone they know at Christmas. 

Whether coping with mental illness, COVID separation, grief or holiday burnout, when seasonal depression creeps in, it’s consequential to recognise and prioritise combatting the symptoms this holiday period.

Some signs and symptoms of seasonal depression include:

  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
  • Feelings of immense lows and depressive feeling throughout majority of the day

Estranged relationships, disappointment of the year that has passed, as well as a range of other personal battles, are just some reasons seasonal depression may present itself. This holiday season, prioritising your health is the key to combatting any form of personal exertion.

Let go of preconceived ideas of what you are “expected” to do, instead alter and simplify the season to best suit  your circumstance, regardless of what that may be.

COVID Christmas

The uncertainty of COVID-19 has protruded ripple effects, seeping into the festive period, with many Australians spending their second year in a row apart from their loved ones. With travel and border restrictions still in place, not to mention the trepidation of COVID crisis entirely, it would be ignorant to view this holiday period without the present ramifications for the majority of Australians still suffering from the pandemic. 

COVID has interrupted and ultimately reshaped this year’s festive period, leaving many feeling unstable in their habitual safety nets of workplace, financial, family or living situations. The first Christmas apart from family, can feel somewhat un-conventional in comparison to the years that have passed. Although it may not feel entirely the same, managing your expectations and mindset, as well as applying a little outside of the box thinking, will go a long way this holiday period.

No two families are the same, and that goes for no two celebrations.  If you are separated from loved ones due to restrictions, stay in touch via phone and video call, as well as inventing outside of the box ways to stay connected and show gratitude for the ones you love, even if that is from a far.

Grieving throughout the holiday season

Grieving throughout the holidays will never be easy, as many become unwontedly aware of the absence of a loved one. As the holidays are a time to come together, it can be bittersweet for those who are grieving, often feeling the missing piece of a loved one and burden of loss far greater over the December to January period.

The expectations of a “perfect” season, that come in the form of favourite Christmas movies and sitcoms, celebrations and traditions can bring about reminders for those grieving wherever they turn. When you have lost someone you love, it is normal to have feelings of painful isolation, as well as incompleteness, grief does not disappear overnight in account of it being the holidays.

Healing is not an overnight process and taking the festive period at your own pace and dynamic is essential.If you are grieving this festive season, recognise the feelings as they pass, and importantly stay present with all that you love. It’s essential to express your emotions as a healthy mechanism and substantial influence in the healing process, this includes talking and crying it out, with those you trust or an experienced psychologist.

Expression, as well as placing emphasis on feeling grateful for anything positive present in your life, will offer alleviation from the heavy emotions associated with grief and tragedy.

Another strategy when processing grief, is to focus and become aware of the time you do spend with other family members and ones you love. Utilise, as well as cherish those valuable moments, as grieving can help to reminded us how precious our time is.

Reminded of the fragility of life as whole, being  present, as well as see beauty in the small and rare moments spent with the ones we love can be utilised in time spent with family and friends throughout the holiday season.

Money and Financial Pressure during the Holidays

The festive season can come at the cost of your wallet and bank account. From presents, celebrations and a little too much cause for celebration, the December to January period can often feel like a year’s worth of spending. This financial whirlwind, however, can be combatted with a little strategic plan and preparation.

Identify what is causing your financial stresses, and begin to take necessary action to alleviate as much worry as possible this Christmas. Communicating your financial worries to family and friends, is also important throughout the holidays. Not to be mistaken for complaining,  suggesting alternatives for gifting such as secret Santa as well as free alternatives when spending time celebrating, will go a long way when budgeting this holidays.

Head to Christmas on a Budget if you’d like more tips and suggestions for financial planning throughout the festive period.

Mental Health throughout the Holidays

Depression is the leading mental health condition treated by general practitioners in Australia. With Beyond Blue reporting a staggering 3 million Australians are living with anxiety or depression. With stress and depression said to arise in approximately 1 in 5 Australians as a direct result of the festive season,  it is evident mental health is fragile, and needs to be protected even at the best of times. Seasonal depression or holiday depression can occur due to the added pressure, expectation, and stress of the festive period. Typically characterised by low mood, self-criticism and low self esteem. 

Feeling low around Christmas is especially common among people who are unemployed (38%), divorced (35%) or widowed (31%).  Anxiety and loneliness are most prevalent among people who are aged from 25 to 34, at between 31% and 40%. People who are out of work also struggle more than other groups: 47% say they’ve felt stressed, 42% depressed and 39% anxious.

Visit https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker/tool/basic-details on advice for when to seek professional help when these feelings arise.

Managing and aiding seasonal depression 

Seasonal Depression may leave sufferers wanting to retreat and isolate themselves throughout the whole of the holiday period. However, withdrawing from social activities and situations will often only lead to feelings of disconnection, loneliness and worsening of symptoms of depression.

Connection and belonging are the most important ways to regulate your mental health. Combatting seasonal depression includes reaching out to close friends and loved ones, volunteering, or even simply being kind to strangers. These small strategies are proven to strengthen positive mood and reprogram feeling grateful this holiday period.

Be aware of personal strategies to combat the season such as staying healthy through eating well, exercise and relaxing when possible. Although it is the season for over-indulging, many find that binge eating or drinking take a toll on their mental and physical health. Moderation is key for surviving the holiday period, when normal routines are interrupted.

Although labelled  “the most wonderful time of the year”, the festive season, like any other period is improbable to be problem-free. Coping with any form of seasonal depression is best to be approached with realistic expectations. Whatever you or your loved ones are facing or struggling with over the holidays, remember that it is just one season of your story. You can plan and re-coup for the new year, re-writing your narrative, beginning with a new chapter called 2022.

If you or someone
you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000)

Lifeline:  Provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.

Beyond Blue: Aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or email.

With Christmas just around the corner, you may be looking for a solution to holiday boredom, and getting the kids in the kitchen for some festive cooking is a great way to entertain them.

Here are our top picks for some simple and fun recipes the kids will enjoy making – and you’ll get to enjoy test-tasting some of their creations in the process.

Gingerbread men

ginger
Pictured: Gingerbread biscuits

These biscuits are popular for good reason – they have a unique and festive taste and they’re also surprisingly easy to make. The kids will love the decorating process and it makes for great entertainment that they can enjoy from the kitchen table.

Ingredients:

  1. 115 grams butter
  2. ½ cup golden syrup
  3. ½ cup brown sugar
  4. 1 egg yolk
  5. 2 cups plain flour
  6. 1 tsp. bicarb soda
  7. 2 cups plain flour
  8. 2 tsp. ground ginger
  9. 1 tsp. cinnamon
  10. 1/3 cup icing sugar

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • Coat paper with cooking oil. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale in colour.
  • Then add in the egg yolk, followed by the syrup.
  • Separately, mix the dry ingredients together: the flour, bicarb soda, cinnamon and ginger.
  • Combine the two mixtures together, then wrap the dough in plastic or parchment paper and leave it in the fridge for an hour.
  • After this, roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut out gingerbread man-shaped pieces. Position these onto your lined baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  • For icing: Mix icing sugar with a tablespoon of hot water, then put into a piping bag. Decorate gingerbread men with your desired design.

 

White chocolate snowflakes

White chocolate
Pictured: White chocolate snowflakes on top of biscuits

This is a very simple recipe, requiring only one ingredient, but the results are impressive and sure to thrill children of all ages – and the adults too. They also go well as a decoration for the shortbread biscuits.

Ingredients

  1. White chocolate

Method

  • Set out a tray lined with baking paper.
  • Melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water.
  • Once the chocolate has melted, put it into a piping bag.
  • To make the snowflake shape either use cookie cutters, baking paper with the pattern cut out, or style your snowflakes freehand.

 

Peppermint hot chocolate

peppermint hot
Pictured: Peppermint hot chocolate

This comforting beverage puts a festive spin on the traditional version, and can be decorated with any number of toppings, from sprinkles to chocolate sauce

Ingredients

  1. 2 tbsp. milk chocolate melts
  2. 1 cup milk
  3. 2 drops peppermint oil
  4. Whipped cream for decoration

Method

  • Put the milk into a saucepan on a low heat.
  • Stir the chocolate melts in.
  • Turn the heat off them add the peppermint oil.
  • Pour it into a mug and top with whipped cream.

 

Christmas shortbread biscuits

christmas biscuit
Pictured: Christmas shortbread biscuits

These classic biscuits are a hallmark for many families at Christmas time – and for good reason. They involve only a few ingredients and there’s a limitless number of shapes to be made, as long as you have the cookie cutters for your desired shape the kids can choose anything from Christmas trees to stars to reindeer.

Ingredients:

  1. 220 grams butter
  2. 1 cup castor sugar
  3. 2 ½ cups plain flour
  4. 1 cup cornflour
  5. 1 tsp. vanilla essence

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a tray with baking paper.
  • Coat the paper with cooking oil. Beat sugar, butter and vanilla until pale in colour.
  • Then add in flour and cornflour. Wrap the dough in plastic or baking paper and leave in the fridge for an hour.
  • Then, roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes.
  • Place them on the baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then decorate as desired.

 

Cheat’s mango trifle

trifle
Pictured: Cheat’s mango trifle

This is a classic summer dessert, but many are put off by the complex steps and elements involved in the recipe. This version is simple and quick – perfect for kids to get creative with.

Ingredients

  1. 2 store-bought sponge cakes
  2. 2 cups custard
  3. 2 cups of thinly sliced mango
  4. 85 grams raspberry jelly powder
  5. 300ml heavy cream
  6. 2 tbsp. raspberry jam

Method

  • Set out a large round bowl and place the first sponge cake in the base.
  • Make raspberry jelly according to package, then pour half over the sponge cake.
  • Then, pour half of the custard on top, followed by half of the mango – arrange it evenly on top of the cake.
  • After this, add the second sponge cake and pour over the rest of the jelly and the rest of the custard.
  • In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. This should take about 5 minutes.
  • Position the cream on top, then drizzle the jam on top and add the other half of the mango for decoration.
  • Leave it in the fridge to chill for an hour.

 

Berry summer mocktail

Berry mocktail
Pictured: Berry summer mocktail

Mocktails are perfect for the entire family – with a touch of elegance and festivity that is sure to impress any guests you have over. It’s also a great opportunity for the kids to get creative with a range of garnishing ideas they come up with, from lemon or lime wedges to mint leaves or even more substantial decorations like coating the glass rim in sugar. Here’s an easy and fun starter recipe.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup blueberries
  2. 1 cup crushed raspberries
  3. 4 cups lemonade
  4. 8 mint leaves
  5. 1 lemon, neatly sliced

Method

  • To begin, make the berry syrup by putting the berries, sugar and a cup of water into a pot. Bring to the boil then set aside.
  • Set out four glasses – if you need to make more, simple adjust the recipe – and add the crushed raspberries into the bottom of each glass.
  • Mix a mint leaf into each cup, then add in a tablespoon of the blueberry sugar syrup mix. Add half a cup of lemonade to each glass then fill the rest of the glass with crushed ice.
  • For garnishes, add a mint leaf and a lemon slice, along with any other fruits or herbs of choice.

 

Candy cane yoghurt bark

yoghurt bark
Pictured: Candy cane yoghurt bark

This recipe puts a Christmassy twist on the easy yoghurt bark recipe with nostalgic candy canes. This dessert is so simple and safe for kids to make as there’s no hot temperatures involved.

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups plain yoghurt
  2. 2 candy canes, broken into small pieces
  3. 1 cup raspberries
  4. 1 tbsp. honey (or to taste)

Method

  • Line a freezer-safe tray with baking paper and set aside.
  • Mix yogurt and honey in a bowl.
  • Add crushed candy canes and raspberries.
  • Pour the mix onto the tray, then freeze for 3 hours. To serve, break into 10 pieces.

 

Alcohol-free pina colada

Pina Colada
Pictured: Pina Colada

It’s not summer without a pina colada, and although this beverage is known for its alcoholic kick, there’s no reason the kids can’t enjoy this summery drink – minus the rum, of course.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup frozen pineapple
  2. ½ cup coconut milk
  3. ½ cup ice cubes
  4. ¼ cup pineapple juice
  5. 4 maraschino cherries

Method

  • Place all ingredients in a blender for 1 minute or until thoroughly blended.
  • Pour into 2 glasses – you can double the recipe to make more.
  • Garnish with maraschino cherries, 2 for each glass.

 

These are a few simple cooking ideas to encourage the kids to get creative in the kitchen. Some of these recipes involve using electric equipment, hot water and the oven, and as such they may require parental supervision to ensure safety for these steps.

Perth Weekend Guide

We’ve found some fantastic fun and engaging things for the kids to do in Perth year-round, all you have to do is choose where to go first!

KEEP THEM ACTIVE

Are your kids bubbling with energy? These activities are sure to keep them entertained all day.

Zone Bowling Joondalup

Looking for a place with it all? With bowling, laser tag, an arcade and yummy food, Zone Bowling will keep them busy for hours. Visit: https://www.zonebowling.com/venues/wa/zone-bowling-joondalup

 

LatitudeAir Joondalup

Take the kids to LatitudeAir Joondalup to climb, bounce and fly. With over 3,000sqm of aerial entertainment, including trampolines and climbing walls, get the kids ready for a day packed full of activity. For more information, head to their website: https://latitudeair.com/?_ga=2.60282477.1790865332.1605578656-66651972.1605578656

The Climb Zone

At Kerem Adventure Park, the Climb Zone is a fun adventure packed experience – with high ropes, low ropes and rock climbing in a safe and fun family environment. Go to: https://www.theclimbzone.com.au

Adventure World

A favourite for the whole family, Adventure World is now open with awesome rides for everyone. If you’re a thrill-seeker, check out the big scary Abyss or the Kraken. Or if you’re looking for something a bit tamer, go see the Hawaiian resort-themed Kahuna Falls. There’s even something for the little ones in the Dragons Kingdom. Visit: https://adventureworld.net.au

Island Aqua Park

Located in Hillarys, this floating aqua park features climbing walls and slides, and is suitable for children 6 years and over. Just make sure to book 48 hours in advance. Go to: https://islandaquapark.com.au

Trees Adventure

Just one hour out of Perth, this action-packed treetop and zipline adventure is suitable for kids 4 years and older, and offers a great range of courses and challenges for the whole family to enjoy. Hopefully you’re not afraid of heights! Go to: https://treesadventure.com.au/park/lane-poole-park/

Bibra Lake Regional Playground

This playground has something for children of all ages, with everything from water squirting bulrushes to educational giant rocks telling local Nyungar stories. Located near Bibra Lake on Progress Drive, this playground has plenty of activities including a double flying fox, rope obstacle courses and climbing frames, and plenty of shade, so you can even bring a picnic. For more visit: https://www.cockburn.wa.gov.au/Recreation-and-Attractions/Parks-and-Playgrounds/Bibra-Lake-Regional-Playground

VR-Arrival

For the older kids, this fun and new Virtual Reality experience is suitable for children 11 years and older. Much more than just gaming, VR-ARRIVAL delivers extraordinary experiences, transporting you, your friends and family into immersive virtual worlds. Boasting the best in professional VR headset (HTC Vive Pro) and room-scale motion-tracking technology, VR-ARRIVAL lets you experience virtual reality at its very best, with unmatched immersion and realism. Walk freely inside virtual worlds and literally step INTO the experience. Visit: vr-arrival.com.au 

LEARN WHILE YOU PLAY

Keep them learning and growing on the weekends, by making their time off fun but educational.

AQWA

A family favourite located on Hillarys Boat Harbour, the Aquarium of Western Australia is the place to see and learn all about the underwater creatures of our coast as you go on a journey to learn and gain respect for our sea life. There is plenty to see and do, including diving or snorkelling with the sharks. For more info, go to: https://www.aqwa.com.au/

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison has some fantastic experiences such as an Escape Tour, for children aged 5-12; and their making a mark art workshop! With tours for children aged 8-12, the prison is an excellent and exciting place to learn while you play, getting a glimpse into the life of a prisoner at Fremantle prison.  https://fremantleprison.com.au/visit-us/

Boola Bardip Museum

Located in the heart of Perth, the new and improved Perth Museum has finally reopened its doors and has a multitude of fun programs and activities to get up to. From their “Blast off! Stop Motion Animation” program about meteorites and our solar system, to their “Virtual Vortals program” about virtual reality and interactive digital adventures, plus many more. See: https://visit.museum.wa.gov.au/boolabardip/tours-programs-events

WA Maritime Museum

This weekend, head on down to the Maritime Museum in Fremantle to learn all about the fascinating world of the Vikings, with activities such as a Vikings themed game show, a choose-your-own-adventure story, or just relax and enjoy a fun-filled adventure of sailing, raiding and exploring. Go to: http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/maritime

 

Gravity Discovery Centre and Observatory

Located only an hour north of Perth, become a rocket scientist for a day with their rocket making activities, and on Thursdays get the chance to become a space explorer with their school holiday program. Visit: Gravity Discovery Centre

SEE THE WILDLIFE

Are you an animal-loving family? There’s plenty of activities to get out and see some furry (or not so furry) friends.

Perth Zoo

A family favourite for wildlife is the Perth Zoo. There is plenty to do, from kids and youth programs to watching live streams of the animals and Zoocoustics where you can see some of the best emerging Australian musicians with your loved ones. Set in the lush gardens of the Zoo, these unique live acoustic music sessions will have hearts fluttering. There will be food trucks for those looking for a bite to eat, or pack a picnic and bring your own food with responsible BYO drinks. General tickets are $30. Perth Zoo members receive a discounted ticket price of $25 (A valid Perth Zoo membership card must be present upon entry).  For more information check out the website:  https://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/programs

Caversham Wildlife Park

Located inside of Whiteman Park, get the chance to meet a wombat, feed a kangaroo, meet the koalas or feed some penguins. Visit: https://www.cavershamwildlife.com.au/daily-attractions/

Yanchep National Park

Have a little explorer on your hands? There are more than 400 caves reported at Yanchep Park, each offering contrasting experiences. Not only this but there are koalas to visit, kangaroos to see, golf to play and the opportunity tolearn about the rich culture and history of the Noongar people of Australia’s South West. For more, go to: https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/yanchep

Cohunu Koala Park

Have a chat with over 30 talking parrots, see dingoes, kangaroos, emus, deer and koalas, just to name a few of the animals that live at this park. Take a ride on the Cohunu Park Railway for $4, it zig-zags its way throughout the park most weekends & public holidays (subject to weather conditions). Visit: http://cohunu.com.au/pioneer-steam-museum/

 

Penguin Island

Just a five-minute ferry ride away, the beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters is an island known for its wildlife. Join them for a cruise to see some dolphins, rare Australian sea lions, as well as the world’s smallest penguins. Plus the chance to swim, snorkel, picnic and explore, Penguin Island is a dream for animal lovers. Go to: https://www.penguinisland.com.au/#welcome-1

Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm

Are cuddly farmyard animals more your style? With entry including free tractor/train rides, a free merry go round ride, free bottle and bucket feeding, and free tea and coffee for the grown-ups, this is a lovely day out for the family. Visit: https://www.cuddlyanimalfarm.com.au

Toodyay Fairy-Tale Farm

Located in the Avon Valley town of Toodyay, this family built and owned farm has a range of indoor and outdoor displays of all your favourite nursery rhymes and fairy tales, friendly farm animals for the kiddies to interact with, and even a vintage toy museum. Go to: https://www.fairytalefarm.com.au

Experiences are invaluable and make the best memories. Do something different, try something new, explore the city and have some family fun with our Sydney weekend activity guide.

ACTION
Activate the adrenaline and eliminate the boredom with this action-packed To-Do list. Bonus points if you do it too!

iFLY Sydney Indoor Skydiving
Pull-on your superhero suit and leap into the thrilling experience of indoor skydiving. In a controlled environment for ages 3 – 103 and no aeroplane to jump out of, there’s almost no excuse not to give it a try! www.iflyworld.com.au

Lets Go Surfing
Perhaps your local pool isn’t quite cutting it and your kids are keen on a new experience or a new hobby. A surf lesson is a fantastic way to dive into the summer and as a bonus, teach kids about resilience – if you fall down, you get back up and go again.

 

Lets Go Surfing facilitates private and group lessons for kids, families, and adults looking to take their water skills up a notch (bragging rights included!). Sydney locations include Bondi and Maroubra. https://letsgosurfing.com.au/

Treetop Adventure Park
It’s a choose your own adventure, in real life. Fly through tree-tops, climb, weave and wobble your way through 100 elevated obstacles. You might even meet some native Australian wildlife in the giant gum trees!
https://www.treetops.com.au/

Luna Park
Another park, but of the ride kind. You know the one. Endless fun and excitement for all!
https://www.lunaparksydney.com/

Ice Zoo
We know Sydney summers can be a scorcher. Pretend you’re in a winter wonderland and cool off at Ice Zoo Ice Skating.
www.icezoo.com/

9D Action Cinemas
If having a family feels action-fuelled and chaotic enough, this one might be for you!  Although you’ll be bearing the brunt of smoke, wind, snow, water, and fire via 3D glasses and 9D effects, you won’t need to reign it in or take the wheel on this one. Sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.
https://www.9dactioncinemas.com.au/

Manly Kayak Centre
Explore the pristine waters of North Harbour with kayak hire, stand-up paddleboard, boat hire, lessons, and tours at Manly Kayak Centre! You will be paddling in paradise, exploring exclusive beaches, and taking in the stunning scenery along the way!

Raging Waters Sydney
Slip, slop, slap, kick and splash at Sydney’s biggest water park. If sliding down a whirlwind is too much for your stomach to handle, race your family on the eight-lane water racecourse or relax in the Cabana retreat by the wave pool.
https://ragingwaterssydney.com.au/

EDUCATION AND MUSEUMS
Learning made easy by visiting these interactive, eye-opening exhibitions and attractions.

Powerhouse Museum
Have you ever wanted to walk through a koala train made from over 2,000 multi-coloured pom poms? Probably not. But artist Rosie Deacon has, and she’s brought it to life at the Powerhouse for the school holidays. There’s something for everyone, with further exhibitions exploring Australian music, the future home, science, and design.
https://maas.museum/powerhouse-museum/ 

Museum of Contemporary Art
The MCA makes learning fun and accessible with their new online activities based on the current exhibition Anywhere but here: MCA Primavera Acquisitions. The activities can take place online at home or in the galleries via audio-guide. Suitable for ages 4+, the activities include string and body mapping, paper storytelling, looking through the viewfinder, and drawing your celebration, inspired by featuring artists.
https://www.mca.com.au/ 

Australian National Maritime Museum
It’s all hands on deck at the Maritime Museum. There are exhibitions including Beach Couture – a collection of wearable artworks made from rubbish and plastic pollution in the ocean, performances, tours, creative workshops, ocean labs, and the immersive and magical experience of Badu by Erth.
All aboard the Sea Museum! https://www.sea.museum/

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
If you’ve been indoors for too long and are after a temporary escape from the city, immerse yourself in the Royal Botanic Garden. Have a sunset picnic or take a pleasant walk through the Palace Rose Garden. Join a crafty workshop or guided tour and hear the stories of the Cadigal people and the plants that grow.  https://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/

Madame Tussauds
Superheroes, world leaders, Bollywood stars, Aussie icons, celebrities and fame, join the red carpet and be in the same room as your favourite people at Madame Tussauds. This jaw-dropping museum will have you rocking in the spotlight to your favourite songs, recreating album covers and transforming into a superhero using the museum’s new Augmented Reality featuring body-tracking sensors.
https://www.madametussauds.com/sydney/ 

Sea Life Aquarium
Just next door to Madame Tussauds you can explore the fascinating sea life at the Aquarium. Face your fears as you walk under some of the world’s biggest aquarium sharks, including Grey Nurse Sharks. This 180-degree tunnel experience is always a highlight!
https://www.visitsealife.com/sydney/

Don’t worry about your kids becoming bored on the weekends because you can make memories in Melbourne with our Activity Guide. We’ve done all the hard work searching for ideas – so all you need to do is decide where to go first!

IN THE CITY:

The CBD offers a variety of interesting and exciting activities all year round. Check out what’s happening now:

  • IMAX is releasing an exclusive documentary SEA LIONS: LIFE BY A WHISKER 3D.Narrated by award-winning actor Sam Neill, this classic coming-of-age story tells the tale of Otto, a young Australian Sea Lion pup, and the Marine Park Ranger dedicated to saving her species. Presented in immersive 3D, the movie features stunning footage of the uninhabited wilderness of the Great Australian Bight and to the lush kelp forests off the Californian coast. Visit https://imaxmelbourne.com.au/ for more.
  • Looking for an exciting and educational day out? Take your family to one of Melbourne’s three biggest zoos where they can meet all sorts of animals! With everything from lions, to giraffes and Australian bush animals you’ll be sure to have a fun day out. Plus, don’t miss the new Dino Lab where your little ones can explore the giant dinosaurs and learn about their extinction. Visit Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Zoo. Go to https://www.zoo.org.au/
  • Ride the Scenic Railway around the perimeter of Luna Park where you can catch the view of St Kilda beach or enjoy the range of children’s rides on offer. If you’re more of a thrill seeker, have a go on the Enterprise or Supernova to get your heart racing! Visit https://lunapark.com.au/
  • Catch the best views of the city on the Melbourne Star. The giant ferris wheel takes you 120 metres into the sky to see 360 degree views of the busy port, city gardens and streets and views towards Mount Macedon and the Dandenong Ranges. Go to https://melbournestar.com/
  • Walk amongst creatures of the deep at the Melbourne Aquarium. With everything from sharks to seahorses to the Mega Croc, you are guaranteed a fun day out. Plus, don’t miss the Ice Age 4D Cinema! Go to https://www.visitsealife.com/melbourne/

  • If your kids are interested in science, then Scienceworks is a must! With loads of live shows and self-guided activities, your kids will be sure to discover something new! Check out the new show Colour Uncovered! to learn about how and why we see colour or stop by one of the Planetarium shows! Go to https://museumsvictoria.com.au/scienceworks/
  • Discover the rare and beautiful plants in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Melbourne. Jump on a bus tour to explore the gardens or visit the new Arid Garden which is over 100 years in the making! Visit https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/
  • Take a stroll down Hosier Lane to admire the artwork of some of Melbourne’s most talented graffiti artists.
  • Discover fresh produce and speciality shops at the Queen Victoria Market. Located on Queen St in the CBD, browse through hundreds of stalls covering 17 acres!

REGIONAL VICTORIA:

Looking to get out of the city for a day? Go for a drive through the beautiful countryside of Victoria where you will stumble upon a number of activities to entertain your family.

  • Summer is here, it’s the perfect time to be with your family and friends making the most of the warm summer evenings – immerse yourself in a magical world of myth and make believe!  Be captivated by a show of world class knights jousting on war horses – as you sip on a cold beer and all enjoy wood fired pizzas together. This summer’s ALL STAR program includes our favourite characters from Alice in wonderland, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the White rabbit! Robin Hood and his crew will be defending the kingdom against the nasty Sheriff! Rapunzel and her Prince will plan an escape from the evil witch’s tower! And do not forget to meet our dragons and the brave knights who compete for the title in our world-famous Championship Joust! Go to: https://www.kryalcastle.com.au

  • Your Mornington Peninsula adventure starts here, at the top of Arthurs Seat. Hit the ground running with our ground-based adventure activities – all included with General Admission! Experience the all-new Sky Scramble as well as our garden mazes, stunning formal gardens & boardwalks, Canopy Walk, epic Tube Slides & giant brainteaser puzzles! Embark on an exciting eco-adventure and get your adrenaline pumping with our exhilarating Grand Tree Surfing course. For the little climbers, our Nippers Tree Surfing course is suitable for ages 4 & up. We highly recommend pre-booking to avoid any disappointment. Visit our website for more information and to book your tickets! www.enchantedadventure.com.au

  • Fancy a ride on a century old steam railway? The Puffing Billy takes you on a 25km journey through the Dandenong Ranges, providing a relaxing day out with fantastic photographic opportunities. Pack a picnic and bring your family along for an enjoyable visit just one hour out of Melbourne. Go to https://puffingbilly.com.au/

  • The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery offers a delightful day of fun with hands on chocolate making classes, a showroom featuring thousands of chocolate products and daily tasting sessions! Don’t forget the landscaped gardens and an orchard, where you can go for a stroll while enjoying a treat from the café. Visit https://www.gorci.com.au/

  • Take a drive along the Great Ocean Road to see the famous Twelve Apostles and the beautiful Loch Ard Gorge. Continue along to reach the Great Otway National Park to enjoy a day of adventure.
  • Spend a relaxing day at the Peninsula Hot Springs where you can immerse yourself in the Bath House or relax in the private baths. Seeking a bit of R&R? Indulge in a spa treatment or massage. Visit https://www.peninsulahotsprings.com/

  • Located at the foot of the Grampians, Halls Gap Zoo is Victoria’s largest regional zoo with over 160 species of animals to keep you entertained all day. Experience a close encounter with cheetahs and red pandas or visit the endangered Tasmanian Devil! With over 600 individual animals to check out, you are guaranteed a day of fun! Go to https://hallsgapzoo.com.au/

Planning your next trip with family to NSW? Let us make the getaway list together! Hunter Valley, The Blue Mountains, Coffs Harbour…there’s plenty of places for you to explore! Get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and spend some fun time with your family!

Snowy Mountains

The Snowy Mountains have long been a favourite for snow enthusiasts and is perfect for summer and winter.

Highlights include

Summer

  • Hiking
  • Horse riding
  • Water sports – kayaking, canoeing, sailing, boating, fishing, swimming
  • Cycling
  • Kosciusko National Park

 

Winter

  • The annual Peak Festival which celebrates the opening of the ski season at Perisher (normally early June)
  • Cross Country Ski Week for all levels (normally early August)
  • Skiing and Snowboarding
  • Kosciusko National Park
  • Snowball fights!

For more information visit:

www.snowymountains.com.au

www.peakfestival.com.au

 

Perisher

Perisher is a great snow spot for families because it caters to the new and experienced as well as the young and old. Perisher has a fantastic Snowsports School which offers lessons to all levels and starts as young as three years old.

Accommodation

The first step is deciding where you want to stay! The most popular style of family accommodation is a self-contained apartment, however, there are plenty of other styles to choose from as well.

For more information visit

Getting there

Cooma is the largest town in the region and is approximately 400km from Sydney. Jindabyne is closest to Kosciusko National Park and is roughly 465km away, and Perisher, Thredbo and Charlotte Pass are close to it.

For more information visit

www.perisher.com.au

 

South Coast

The South Coast sure is home to spectacular scenery and exciting activities.

Highlights include

  • Kiama Blowhole
  • Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk
  • Minnamurra Rainforest
  • Mogo Zoo
  • Batemans Bay
  • Jervis Bay
  • Beach fun

Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures

This is a great activity for the whole family. Its beautiful views take in the rainforest canopy, Lake Illawarra and the South Pacific Ocean. A big bonus is that it’s both pram and wheelchair accessible. It’s located approximately 1.5 hours south of Sydney so could even be a day trip.

For more information visit

www.illawarrafly.com

Jervis Bay

Known for its pristine beaches, turquoise waters and national parks, it’s also famous for its dolphins and whales. There are 80-120 dolphins in Jervis Bay all year round, which gives you plenty of opportunity to see them. The whale season is from June to October and truly is a magnificent sight to see.

 For more information visit

www.jervisbaytourism.com.au

www.dolphinwatch.com.au

www.jervisbaywhales.com.au

Mogo Zoo

Mogo Zoo is home to rare and endangered species from around the globe. The kids could be ‘Keeper for the Day!’

For more information visit

www.mogozoo.com.au

 

Batemans Bay

Accommodation

Batemans Bay is a good spot to base yourself in if you want to stay in one spot. From backpackers to luxury, there is plenty to choose from.

  • Big4 Batemans Bay Beach Resort (cabins, caravans and camping)
  • Chalet Swisse Spa at Surf Beach Retreat

 Getting there

Follow the Grand Pacific Drive and take your time. Batemans Bay is about 280km from Sydney.

For more information visit

www.batemansbay.com.au

www.visitnsw.com

www.grandpacificdrive.com.au

Hunter Valley

Most of us love a good winery and Hunter Valley doesn’t disappoint! With roughly 150 wine producers and breweries a plenty, you’re bound to come across one you like! However, there are some that are more family-friendly than others and include children’s menus, playgrounds and large grassy areas for the kids to enjoy. This then allows the adults to get onto the serious business of eating and drinking!

Highlights include

  • Ballooning
  • Horse riding
  • Hunter Valley Gardens Aqua Golf & Putt Putt
  • Extreme Go Karting
  • Drayton’s Family Wines
  • McGuian Cellars
  • Gundog Hunter Cellar and Gourmet Pantry

Accommodation

  • Potters Hotel, Brewery and Resort
  • Bellbird Cottages and Swallows Homestead (pets welcome here)

Getting There

The tourist route T33 is a lovely drive. Another option is taking the train.

 For more information visit

www.huntervalleyvisitorcentre.com.au/wine/child-friendly-wineries

The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains has a lovely laid back feel and is perfect for a quick getaway.

Highlights include

  • Leuralla Toy & Railway Museum NSW
  • Jenolan Caves
  • The Three Sisters
  • Hop on Hop off Trolley Tours
  • Megalong Valley Heritage Farm
  • Horse Riding

 Accommodation

  • Owls Cottage Katoomba
  • Jenolan Caravan Park
  • Emirates One & Only (luxury)

Getting There

Glenbrook is roughly 75km away and the Jenolan Caves are nearly 200km so driving is the most practical option. However, the train or bus is also another way.

For more information visit

www.bluemts.com.au

www.stayz.com.au/accommodation/nsw/blue-mountains

Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo

For something a bit different why not stay a night at the zoo? For many families, this is a one-off opportunity to get up close and personal to the animals while creating magical family memories.

Accommodation

  • Billabong Camp
  • Zoofari Lodge
  • Savannah Cabins

For more information visit

www.taronga.org.au/taronga-western-plains-zoo

Getting there

Dubbo is an hour’s flight from Sydney or you can drive, train or bus it. The distance from Sydney to Dubbo is just under 400km.

For more information visit

www.dubbotourism.com.au

Port Macquarie

Port Macquarie is still close enough to Sydney for a quick trip, or you could make this a stopover on your way up north.

Highlights include

  • Whale watching (June to October)
  • Water fun – swimming, surfing, fishing, kayaking,
  • Billabong Koala and Wildlife Park
  • Timbertown Heritage Theme Park (on 87 acres of natural forest!)

For something a little different, why not visit the Observatory? Imagine what the kids will be thinking when they look through the telescope! It’s open on Sunday and Wednesday nights throughout the year.

Accommodation

The Mantra Quayside Apartments are suitable for families with a central location and well-sized apartments.

Other spots include:

  • Mantra Observatory Resort
  • Marina Holiday Park

For more information visit

www.port-macquarie.net

www.portmacquarieinfo.com.au

www.pmobs.org.au

Getting there

The distance from Sydney is approximately 380km so no need to rush.

Flying is with Qantas and Virgin.

Coffs Harbour

How can you not enjoy a place that is home to The Big Banana??

Coffs is a great spot to break your journey if you’re on a road trip from Sydney.

Other highlights include

  • Dolphin Marine Magic Show
  • Helicopter Scenic Flights
  • Sky Diving
  • Water fun

Accommodation

We stayed at the Breakfree Annuka Beach Resort and loved it. The water slide was a big hit in our family! Other options are

  • Smugglers on the Beach
  • Park Beach Holiday Park
  • Aqualuna Beach Resort

 For more information visit

www.coffscoast.com.au

 Getting there

By road the distance is approximately 540km, so allow enough time if not stopping on the way. From Port Macquarie it is roughly 150km.

Flying is with Qantas, Virgin or Tiger Air

 

Byron Bay

Byron Bay is such a melting pot of people and ideas and it’s a good spot to base yourself.

Highlights include

Accommodation

  • Lennox Beach Resort (baby-sitting services for a fee)
  • Discovery Parks Ballina

For more information visit

www.visitbyronbay.com

www.byronbayaccom.net

Getting there

Being 800kms from Sydney there are a few options to consider – driving is one of them, as is also the train and flying. Flying into Ballina is with Jetstar, Virgin and Rex.

Helpful driving tips

  • Make sure you have plenty of water with you
  • Don’t get low on petrol
  • Keep mobiles charged
  • Keep first aid kits topped up and carry essential medication
  • Tell someone your itinerary, especially if traveling to isolated areas.

For travel information visit

www.visitnsw.com/destinations/nsw/transport

 

 

 

Ari takes inspiration from her own childhood when planning school holidays for her child.

Okay, so now that I’m a mother, I can see the flawed and horrible logic that is the summer School Holidays.

SO LONG! Why so long? And why so sunny? Not only do the weeks last forever, each day seems like about ten days because the sun never goes down so you can’t do the old, it’s-dark-now-so-go-to-bed-and-leave-me-in-peace trick until about 9.00pm. Gruesome. Badly planned. Too hot. Whoever decides on these things needs a couple of mothers on the committee to arrange things properly.

When I was a kid, I loved Summer Hols, even though they mostly consisted of going to swimming lessons. I mean, there were a LOT of lessons and they kinda sucked. We didn’t get merit certificates for putting our heads under the water, or anything like that. No, me and my three siblings used to front up to the fifty metre non-solar-heated pool and some Old Boiler would make us fling ourselves into the lap-lane and bitch at us about our stroke. Every. Single. Day. I joke not. The only day we didn’t go was Sunday, and that’s because we had to go to church. My folks liked structure.

All of us kids were at different swimming levels and each lesson lasted about an hour – no pithy 25 minutes in a heated pool for us – so we had to hang around the local pool for about five hours by the time we got through everyone. In between lessons my mother, who engineered the annual Swimming Lesson Bonanza, would instruct us to do about a million more laps for ‘practise’, while she leisurely swam about seven lanes away from us pretending, I see in retrospect, that we didn’t belong to her.

Anyway, all that lapping took us through to about 2.00pm every day, and after five hours of swimming in waters that felt sub-Arctic, we had a lot of our collective Energizer Bunny burnt out of us. Basically that meant we were too tired to whinge and fight at the level we were accustomed to. Plus, we were starving.

My mother is a wily woman, non? She was deliberately, and delightedly, onto something and, now that I am a harried veteran of School Hols myself, I can see she utilised this strategy shamelessly throughout my childhood.

Summer hols meant overdosing on swimming lessons and Old Boilers brandishing megaphones but I think our winter holidays were worse. In winter, we’d take a trip down to Bluff Knoll and have to climb the mountain pretty much constantly. Once was never enough.

I, personally, do not understand the point of mountain climbing. I know there is a point and people feel all I’ve-Conquered-The-Mountain kind of thing when they’ve slogged up the rock face and are standing at the top, but I am quite happy for the mountain to conquer me. The mountain can win and I am MORE THAN OKAY with that. There. I said it. Go mountain. Victory is yours. Unfortunately, my folks are conquering types so I have actually conquered Bluff Knoll – miserably and without grace – more times than I care to recall. Sorry ‘bout that mountain. Won’t happen again.

If we didn’t climb the mountain, we’d go on long bush walks – like six hours or something – with an apple and a vegemite roll for sustenance, and only one another for company. I am not sure why. My parents thought this kind of thing was Fun With A Capital F. I mean, they really dug stumbling along some bush track for hours playing ‘I Spy’ for kicks. There’s only so many times you can Spy a Tree, if you know what I’m saying.

And being winter it rained quite a bit. Basically it rained whenever we had to do a Challenging Outdoor Activity, which was every day. It did not matter if there were fecking hail stones the size of golf balls – we still went mountain climbing or roaming around in the wilderness. My mother packed an odd assortment of raincoats for such weather and flung them happily at us, along with random too-big gumboots, and off we went.

We did complain to our parents, of course. I might have, ahem, complained more than anyone else but they took precisely zero notice and we still had to do these God-awful Extreme Sport like holidays, except we didn’t look cool like they do in Extreme Sport commercials, we just looked random and mis-matched, dodging hailstones in our weird raincoats.

So anyway, this School Hols we had a few weeks of the child bouncing-off-the-walls and me and the other half were starting to get a bit desperate and tetchy. The days were sunny and hot and, above all, long. So, so long.

“I have the solution,” I said, one morning after trying and failing to persuade the child to bounce on the trampoline in the broiling son without Mummy.

The other half raised an eyebrow.

“He needs to know how to swim better than he does,” I gabbled. “Much, MUCH better. We need to book him into swimming lessons EVERY DAY for the rest of the holidays RIGHT NOW.”

I grabbed my phone and started dialling swim schools and, gosh darn it, I did not stop dialling until someone told me they would take him the very next day. Huzzah!

And so he went. And he put his head under the water and blew bubbles and stuff. And he got a merit certificate and a colouring in book and lots of high fives. Unfortunately, it seems Old Boilers are now extinct, but he still got tired-ish. Sort of.

Next hols, I’ve decided that we’re off to Bluff Knoll. I plan to nominate myself for tea duty, while my husband and son conquer the mountain.

The Four Seasons Hotel at Westlake Village offers an unparalleled wellness escape in a blended setting of home comfort and 5-star indulgence.

The Four Seasons Hotel at Westlake Village is all about health, wellness and retreating from pressures of modern life. It is set in the pristine environment of the Santa Monica mountains, not too far from the Malibu beaches, but close enough to the heart of LA to get away for a night or weekend.

This hotel was probably the most impressive and luxurious hotel in which I have ever stayed.

This hotel was probably the most impressive and luxurious hotel in which I have ever stayed, with all the trimmings one would expect from a 5 Star establishment including opulent furnishings, stylish décor, ambient lighting and fantastic service.

We stayed in an enormous corner suite which possibly had more comforts than home! It was well-appointed with a private bar, coffee machine and electric curtains which opened into breathtaking views from the floor-to-ceiling views of the local mountains.

The rooms were adorned with lavish furnishings including mahogany furniture, polished boards, handmade rugs and grand chandeliers. The linen was plush linen and there was loads of space.

Our accommodation included two bathrooms, one of which was enormous and included a deep marble spa and satellite TV.

The reception at the Four Seasons Hotel is warm and accommodating, and instantly one feels relaxed and peaceful. The hotel throughout is quiet, spacious and extremely comfortable.

We were welcomed on arrival with a complimentary glass of champagne, fresh fruit and a “mini chocolate mountain on a plate” as described by my children.

We were welcomed on arrival with a complimentary glass of champagne, fresh fruit and a “mini chocolate mountain on a plate”.

There were two pools on the premises, one for adults only and the family pool area which was also deluxe with comfortable day beds, fluffy towels, a jacuzzi and poolside service for refreshments.

The hotel is family friendly, but also perfect for that much-needed adult escape time, to take advantage of the wellness programs on offer, which comprise retreats and individualised health services inclusive of the services of a team of doctors and health experts.

For more information visit www.fourseasons.com/westlakevillage/