The best school holiday programs and activities in Canberra

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Meet the dinosaurs at the National Dinosaur Museum. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Keeping kids busy during school holidays can be challenging. The good news is that Canberra has a huge number of holiday programs and activities to keep children busy, while learning and even exercising.

Whether you’re looking for a general holiday program in which to register the kids, or are just searching for activities to do throughout the school break, you’ll want to focus on quality, imagination and creativity. You will also want a safe, affordable and motivating environment. Fortunately, there’s no end to the possibilities.

Below, we outline the qualities to consider when choosing a school holiday program or activities, and where to find the best ones in Canberra.

What makes a great school holiday program or activity?

With so many options in Canberra, choosing the right school holiday program or activities for your kids can be mind boggling, but knowing there are options is reassuring.

It can be helpful to keep the following factors in mind when deciding which program or activity best suits you and your child.

  • Fees. Budget will be important with a formal school holiday program so assess how much services are and if there are discounts. Consider factors such as the number of staff on board, food that’s provided and whether there are other costs. Then you can decide if the program suits your budget and offers value for money.
  • Quality of program. School holidays are a time for kids to have fun so check out if programs or activities are engaging, creative, suit your child’s personality and what they love to do. It’s good to choose programs or activities that incorporate exercise and learning.
  • Location. Depending on your personal circumstances, location can be key. There’s little point choosing a venue that is stressful to get to.
  • Quality of venue. You want your kids to attend their school holiday program or activity at a venue that’s clean, neat, organised and professionally run (with appropriate qualifications, licenses and insurances).

The best school holiday programs and activities in Canberra

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National Library of Australia

National Library of Australia

Home to Australia’s largest reference library the National Library of Australia offers more than a collection of books. Housed in iconic architecture a visit is a fabulous way to nurture a love of culture, history, and the arts.

This school holidays the National Library of Australia is unlocking its performing arts treasure trove and hosting a Stage Design Workshop for youth aged 8 to 15.

A successful performance involves more than a script, music, and orchestrated production. The finer details of costume and set design are critical to any performance and are often what sets the apart. Drawing on the Library’s extensive performing arts collection as inspiration and reference, participants will design and draw their own costumes for a play or performance, and create the stage set design.

Using common craft materials participants will draw on a selection of scenes and plays provided, with all designs taken home at the end of the workshop. To round out the session all participants will also be taken on a short tour of the Library’s On Stage: Spotlight on Our Performing Arts exhibition.

Held on Wednesday 20 of April in the Ferguson Room, the workshop is offered across two sessions; 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm. Tickets are $20 per person and bookings are essential. Perfect for budding theatrical enthusiasts this workshop is all about creativity and imagination.

Norman Monshall shared this sentiment on Google, “Great exhibition - On Stage - a history of the performing arts in Oz.”

Parkes Place
Canberra ACT 2600
National Dinosaur Museum

National Dinosaur Museum

Kids will have a dino-mite time at the National Dinosaur Museum over the school holidays, and participate in adventures they’ll never forget.

With 23 complete skeletons and more than 300 displays of individual fossils, the museum is an amazing place for young ones. Kids can visit exhibitions and participate in interpretive displays covering the history of life on this planet. They can also wander through the landscaped Dinosaur Garden and be in awe of life-like fibreglass models. Kids enjoy meeting ‘Stan’, Canberra’s larger-than-life dinosaur who is 20 metres long and six metres tall. They also love the fossil, crystal and minerals shop.

Zoe Baldwin wrote on Google, “The museum has a great range of exhibitions, with informative plaques for the adults, animatronics for the young ones and videos for all. The displays are fun for all ages, its great that the place is wheelchair accessible, air conditioned and photography friendly. My two-year-old (and hubby) had a great time.”

Woden Community Service

Woden Community Service

Woden Community Service offers a diverse and rich school holiday program, at schools in locations including Garran, Red Hill, Margaret Hendry, Curtin, Duffy, Wanniassa and Evatt. Programs are packed with fun, educational and entertaining activities that rotate throughout the holidays.

Activities vary from location to location but can include artist’s box, crazy constructions, cotton art, clay beading and melted crayon art. Memorable excursions and incursions are also woven into school holiday programs, such as movie days, fashion day, park crawls and scavenger hunts.

Morning and afternoon tea and lunch are provided, with yummy meals like stir fries, spaghetti and meatballs, and pizza muffins.

Woden Community Service school holiday programs are designed to keep kids active, learning and having such a great time they’ll be keen to return for more.

Risk management plans for excursions are available at each service or by request.

26 Corinna St
Phillip ACT 2606

National Gallery of Australia

School holidays are a breeze with the National Gallery of Australia’s (NGA) school holiday programs. From free tours and workshops to art-making spaces, there are so many ways the kids can enjoy the NGA. Activities includes storytelling, tours, making art, participating in performances and dance, and listening to music. Kids get to visit exhibitions and incorporate art into their lives.

Exploring the outdoor areas, including the Sculpture Garden, is a must. Activities are designed from young ones through to teens.

As Peta Crossley wrote on Google, “Amazing collection of Indigenous art … There's things for the kids to do and exploring outside in the gardens is a must. We love the fern tree garden.”

Communities at Work

As the largest provider of children’s services in Canberra, Communities at Work School Holiday Programs offer a huge selection of quality, engaging, inclusive and fun activities at
over 10 locations in Canberra each school holidays, such as excursions to the movies, Questacon and Big Splash, battle games, inflatable obstacle courses and much more.

Incursions include interactive magic shows, creative gardening, sports, scavenger hunts, cooking classes, cultural workshops, song and dance events, and special visits from guests such as the Royal Flying Doctor.

The team of qualified educators collaborate with children to ensure play, leisure and recreational activities are both safe and meaningful. With a focus on fun, the range of school holiday activities encourage children to meet and make new friends, explore a new adventure every day, and develop a lifelong love for learning.

As Stephanie Brady said in her feedback, “My child has loved every minute of the excellent holiday care program, and comes home each day raving about the activities he’s been doing with his new friends!”

Museum of Australian Democracy

Located in the Old Parliament House building itself, the Museum of Australian Democracy is a living museum of social and political history. The mission of the Museum is to provide people with a deeper understanding of Australia’s social and political history through engaging, child-friendly activities to educational, enlightening tours and thought-provoking exhibitions.

As Google reviewer Celia Lancaster writes, "Beautiful gardens outside. Lots of Australian parliament history inside. Play-up runs during weekdays for young kids and is lots of fun. It's a great activity if it's raining."

If you’re looking for more information on school holiday activities in Canberra, you might like our article on the best playgrounds and the best activities & programs for teenagers that Canberra has to offer.

Your experience with school holiday programs and activities in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the school holiday programs or activities listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of joining a school holiday program?

Socialisation, education and physical activity are all major benefits of joining a school holiday program, as they allow your kids to enjoy fun and creative activities surrounded by friends and peers during the school break, rather than staying at home.

Can I add school holiday programs to my resumé?

Absolutely - employers will very often be looking for job candidates with a wide range of skills and experiences, and school holiday programs are a great way to gain some, such as joining a sports team, trying out something artistic, or learning how to use new technology.

How do I find school holiday programs in Canberra?

Most schools will distribute information on school holiday programs as the break approaches, so keep an eye out for that. Otherwise, consider getting in touch with local recreation or sports centres and find out if they have anything planned for the school holidays!

How can I reduce screentime?

According to a poll conducted by the Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne in 2017, teenagers aged 13-18 years spend over 40 hours a week using screen-based devices. Joining a regular program or making time for activities out of the house are great ways to reduce this number, while also getting you moving, socialising, and thinking creatively.

How can I find disability-inclusive school holiday programs in Canberra?

Canberra has many school holiday programs that are either disability-inclusive or designed specifically for special needs kids. Communities@Work, the YMCA, Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Forward to the Future are all local groups that great school holiday programs for special needs kids, such as film making workshops, coding lessons and sports.

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Aeon Academy has unique & creative art & immersive adventures holiday programs that my daughter loves. She comes home inspired and excited to go back the next day.

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