Free things to do with kids in the summer holidays

Are the kids getting bored as fast as your school holiday budget is running out? Then try these fabulous free experiences, from movies to creative workshops.

NGV Kids Summer Festival

Get them off the couch and into the arts with nine days of hands-on activities exploring the theme of make believe. Kids Summer Festival events at NGV International include dancing in the garden, drop-in drawing and art workshops. Just up the street at NGV Australia, options include an Indigenous art trail and surreal photography workshop for teens. It’s all free, but some events require bookings. 5-13 January 2019.

A woman and a child drawing on a piece of paper

NGV Kids Summer Festival

Melbourne Museum

School Holidays at Melbourne Museum are amazing, starting with free entry for kids! Check out everything from little bugs to big dinosaurs, and get into children’s activities like Above, Below and Beyond: Metro Tunnels. Junior Melburnians’ can add their colourful piece to the puzzle of transporting everyone around the city. Until 29 January.

Melbourne Zoo

Did you know that Melbourne Zoo entry is free for kids during the school holidays? So it’s the perfect time to visit your favourite animals, including Mali the elephant. She’s so big that her birthday party takes three days, from 16-18 January. Little ones will love dancing and jumping about to The Wiggles’ Corroboree Frog song at the zoo’s new play space. The Frog Disco is on daily until 29 January.

A meerkat sitting up on its hind legs on a rock

Melbourne Zoo is free for kids on weekends, public holidays and school holidays.

Fun at the library

There’s so much more than books at libraries these days. Like the Mythical Creatures Craft workshop at City Library and the Giant Bubble Show at Library at the Dock and City Library.

You can also learn how to create choose-your-own-adventure stories, with author George Ivanoff at City Library and Kathleen Syme Library on 22 January.

Botanica: A Village Among the Oak Trees

Curated by artist Darryl Cordell, the Royal Botanic Gardens’ Botanica: A Village Among the Oak Trees is back by popular demand. Get the whole family involved in creating cubby houses and imaginary creatures using natural materials collected from the gardens. There are activities to help you on your way, from engineering to decoration. 16-19 January.

A group of kids and adults making teepees from leaves and branches in a park

Botanica: A Village Among the Oak Trees

Classic family films at the State Library

The grand State Library of Victoria isn’t always silent and serious. It’s hosting two special school holiday screenings of classic family flicks, and dressing up is positively encouraged. Will you come as an Oompa Loompa for the 1971 musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on 16 January? Dorothy or the Wicked Witch for 1939’s The Wizard of Oz on 24 January? Book your free tickets and start planning that costume!

The Playground Pop-Up at Fed Square

Let the kids loose at The Playground Pop-Up at Fed Square while you relax in the lounge with a meal or drink. It’s open from 11am until well into the evening. The sheltered play space has everything from yard games to a ball pit – plus there are junior treats like ice-cream! Until 13 January.

ArtPlay Backyard

Drop into one of Melbourne’s best destinations for encouraging kids to get creative at the fun, free ArtPlay Backyard. There will be lots of stuff for children of all ages to make artworks with, including recycled and natural materials. Even dirt for drawing designs in, and water for a bit of splish-splashing! 9-27 January.

A child sitting on the floor making a picture from sticks and other items

ArtPlay Backyard


Reborn annually with a stunning new design, this public space’s busy program includes several free events for children and their grown-ups. Like Club Kids Music Academy (19 January), where everyone can have a go on electronic music equipment including samplers and drum machines.

The Mi Gente (My People) Sound System Party (20 January), features young local DJs mixing the sounds of summer. And the season’s final Stories at MPavilion with State Library Victoria, is for kids aged 5-8 (22 January) and 0-5 (31 January).

Movies Under the Stars

Quit complaining about how expensive going to the cinema is and get your family to Movies Under the Stars at Yarra’s Edge. Peter Rabbit wraps up the three-nights-only season, and older kids will love Black Panther on the second night. Pack a picnic, or spend your cinematic savings on something special from the food vendors or nearby restaurants. 7-9 February 2019.

A crowd of people sitting on a lawn watching a movie on a big screen with the city skyline in the background

Movies Under the Stars