It’s school holidays again. Here at Newy with Kids, we usually put out an extensive list of school holiday activities. However, with COVID-19, it’s a much different scenario than we’re used to. Workshops are running, some of them with small class sizes or virtually via Zoom. So for these school holidays, we’ve put together a list on in-person activities offered by local libraries, museums and art galleries as well as fun things you can do at home or outdoors with your family. Please note, this article is a work in progress – we’re still waiting for some last-minute confirmations so please keep checking back.
SCHOOL HOLIDAY FEATURED EVENTS
National Institute of Dramatic Art
Spring into action these school holidays with a NIDA acting course! Kids in Years 3–12 are invited to discover their inner actor and let their creativity bloom with some of NIDA’s most popular short courses in acting and screen acting.
School holidays are made for new and exciting experiences, and the National Institute of Dramatic Art gives students the chance to have fun, build confidence and learn practical skills in an engaging and supportive learning environment. Classes run from 6 – 11 October at Newcastle Grammar School.
For more information, visit the NIDA website.
Brickman Awesome Exhibition
Newcastle and Hunter region LEGO® fans, get ready! Ryan ‘The Brickman’ McNaught is bringing his latest exhibition, Brickman Awesome,to Newcastle this September school holidays! Newcastle Entertainment Centre is the venue for Brickman Awesome, Ryan’s third exhibition made entirely from LEGO® bricks, featuring 36 models, none of which have been seen in Newcastle before, and which took a mammoth 5,000 hours to build from more than two million LEGO® bricks.
The Brickman Awesome exhibition runs from 1pm Friday 25 September to Sunday 18 October. Advance tickets recommended.
For more information, visit the Brickman Awesome Exhibition event page.
Enjoy some safari-themed activities for kids at Jesmond Central during the school holidays from Monday 28 September – Friday 2 October 2020. Kids need to find safari animals hidden around the centre to get a FREE Safari Plush Toy. There are different toys to collect each day – Gerry Giraffe, Linus Lion, Terry Tiger, Marcel Monkey, Ellie Elephant – so come back daily to complete your safari animal set! It’s free but bookings are essential.
During the second week of school holidays Monday 5 October – Friday 9 October, take a photo at the big-game Safari scene, upload to Instagram and tag @jesmondcentral for the chance to win one of three $50 centre gift cards!*
For more information, visit the Jesmond Central website.
Enjoy some safari-themed activities for kids at Wallsend Village during the school holidays from Monday 5 October – Friday 9 October 2020. Kids need to find safari animals hidden around the centre to get their FREE Schleich Safari Animal Figurine .
There are different figurines to collect each day – Lion Cub, Young Orangutan, Cheetah Cub, Baby Hippopotamus, Zebra Foal – so come back daily to complete your safari animal set! It’s free but bookings are essential.
For more information, visit the Wallsend Village website.
Lake Macquarie City Library
Lake Mac Libraries are rolling out a range of in-person programs. Coding, music, science and heaps more on offer these school holidays at Lake Mac Libraries, Theatre and Museum of Art and Culture
All programs and events are run with COVID Safe Plans including social distancing, limited numbers and additional hygiene numbers. Masks are recommended for all programs.
Join the Codewise team to help us create a soundtrack and game characters for an ‘Twang’ installation in Pearson Street Mall, Charlestown. Twang is a fun music game that blends artistic creativity with digital technologies. Children can create hand-drawn characters on paper which are seamlessly integrated into the game action. Lake Mac Libraries hope the game and its story will inspire children as they discover the synergy between creativity and technology. Sessions will be held at Charlestown Library and Toronto Library. Free event, bookings essential, limited numbers and suitable for kids 7+.
Join the Curious Cubs team for Pop Up Science Labs at Rathmines and Warners Bay to participate in four different hands-on science activities themed around physics and chemistry. These workshops are designed for children aged 3-11 years. Parents and carers are encouraged to supervise and assist, adhering to social distancing measures. Sessions cost $7 and bookings are essential as there are limited numbers
Lake Macquarie City Council is also running online cultural awareness sessions for families to do from the comfort of their own home, rain hail or shine. In the free Aboriginal Elder Talk, join Aboriginal Elder Aunty Daniella to listen, learn and ask about local Aboriginal culture, history and connection to the land. Aunty Daniella a Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan woman of the Pilaarrkiyalu Pilar tree Mayi, joins us from Speaking in Colour to deliver this interactive online session suitable for ages five years and over. In the Interwoven Aboriginal Weaving session, attendees learn about Traditional Aboriginal weaving and create a keepsake using contemporary weaving techniques. This fun and interactive online session is suitable for five years and over. The materials are included in the ticket price ($5) and mailed out prior to the event. Learn more about Torres Strait Islander dance and culture in a free online session. Selina from Speaking in Colour hosts this fun and interactive online session where you will learn about aspects of traditional Torres Strait Islander culture through story, dance and singing.
Join Newcastle Libraries to celebrate the launch of local illustrator Liz Anelli’s latest book, The Biscuit Maker. Written by Sue Lawson, this charming story demonstrates how simple acts of friendship can bring a community together.
Four decades of writing by Paul Jennings will be showcased in the UNREAL! Exhibition. There will be three sessions available for kids aged 6 – 12 during the school holidays. They can Sculpt Fimo® Rascal Dragons, customise their own Gizmo and take in the Paul Jennings: UNREAL! Exhibition in the Lovett and Lounge Galleries. View original works and illustrations, sculptures of much-loved Jennings characters and scenes, such as the lighthouse from Round the Twist, The Thhefyspray, a multicoloured sea creature, and Rascal the dragon. Play in Rascal’s home or sit on the Dunny!
Grow your imagination with Newcastle Libraries. The Library team have partnered with local growers and green spaces to create a series of child-friendly activities to grow the imagination and gardens! Book online for tickets as there are limited spaces.
- Gardening Fun at Merewether Community Garden
- Yoga Stories in Lambton Park
- Story Stomp at Civic Park
- Step Out with Seeds and Stories at Blackbutt
- Fun with the Newcastle Seed Library at HMC Community Garden
Did you know that Newcastle Libraries have recently opened a new Digital Library? Featuring a ‘grab and go’ collection of popular adult and kids titles, interactive digital storywall, magical story box, a programmable robot, 3D printer and so much more.
Maitland City Library
Maitland Libraries have a range of exciting activities available online and in branch these school holidays relating to the theme “Going Green”.
Book into one of the free workshops with author and illustrator of The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals, Sami Bayly. Make a rock plant markers, a fun and special touch to mark out your family’s garden patch or make a beautiful, quirky miniature garden in a teacup. You can also take advantage of the warmer spring weather by cooking outdoors on a homemade solar oven.
You can also still access e-books, e-magazines and stream legal music with Freegal with Maitland City Library. For kids missing out on Storytime, log onto the Storybox Library where some of Australia’s best storytellers read their stories on screen. It’s a vibrant and interactive way for children to enjoy their favourite Australian children’s stories, and enjoy storytime at home.
MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
Newcastle Art Gallery
Although Newcastle Art Gallery has reopened, school holiday activities are being hosted online. Join a Newcastle Art Gallery Educator for a free 30-minute online Zoom class using materials from around the home. Developed for primary-aged children, these free webinars are designed to stimulate playful art making possibilities.
During Week 1, kids can join local exhibiting artist Bree Rooney to discover how you can create your own prints using a printing plate from cardboard and texta!
In Week 2, kids can join local artist and KILGOUR PRIZE 2020 winner Michael Bell for a workshop on pet portraiture! Plus meet Michael’s pet dog Larry!
Newcastle Art Gallery is also open with two daily sessions Tuesdays to Sundays. To avoid disappointment, book your free Gallery session via the Art Gallery website.
Missing out on weekend Art Cart? Explore Art Cart at home by downloading and discovering a range of accessible and hands-on activities. All inspired by iconic works of art in the Newcastle Art Gallery’s collection.
MAC (Museum of Art and Culture)
MAC is offering range of activities and shows had been tailored to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, with smaller group sizes creating a more intimate atmosphere for participants.
Hands on art, coding, music, science and heaps more on offer these school holidays at the Museum of Art and Culture and Lake Libraries and Theatres.
All programs and events are run with COVID Safe Plans including social distancing, limited numbers and additional hygiene numbers. Masks are recommended for all programs.
Visit the gallery for in-person workshops. Kids aged 7+ can be inspired by artworks on display at MAC. They can create their own artwork while learning techniques to create a wonderful portrait in the Simple Portrait Drawing session led by RECONNECTED artist Lana Mansfield.
They can also create their own artwork while learning how to use different drawing materials in the Drawing With Coloured Ink session led by RECONNECTED artist Julie Graham.
Kids aged 10+ can learn how to paint with acrylic paints on canvas in the Learn to Paint Bees session with artist Helene Ruma.
The Big Draw is the world’s biggest drawing festival from The Campaign for Drawing. With the year packed with climate change, bushfires, protests and pandemics, Lake Mac City Council is presenting a series of creative events that focus on a greener, brighter future. Join in on creating a large-scale community drawing of the Lake Macquarie area, plant a vegetable and then study and draw one up close, draw an Eco Warrior and do a composite drawing. All sessions have a limited number of participants to ensure safe social distancing. These workshops are all part of the green BIG DRAW 2020 and proudly provided by Lake Macquarie City Council. Bookings for The Big Draw are essential.
Maitland Regional Art Gallery
MRAG has now reopened with a limited numbers of visitors from 10am to 5pm daily. There’s no need to book, simply register on arrival. Every Sunday families are invited to drop into the art gallery for free art activities inspired by the exhibitions on display for Free Art Sunday. However, for the next little while, participants will need to register beforehand to support a COVID safe environment.
Drop into MRAG these school holidays to see inspiring exhibitions and have fun with our self-directed activities located in the gallery, or you can pick up a take-home kit to have MRAG art fun at home!
To support the community staying connected and creative from the safety and comfort of your own home, Maitland Regional Art Gallery launched MRAG from Home. Your family can see an exhibition online, make your own artwork with downloadable work sheets or get doing with a range of activities designed to get those creative sparks firing.
Maitland Gaol has reopened for self guided audio tours on your own device only. As they are not a typical museum this is the only way to learn about the site and its history as there will be no guided tours. Pre-booking is recommended and there is a maximum of 50 people on site at one time.
You can also learn about Maitland Gaol from home with Snitch’s Spot. While the historic site was closed, Maitland Gaol created some fun online resources guided by the ghostly character ‘Snitch the Rat’ to entertain kids at home these school holidays. For those familiar with the Gaol site, Snitch the Rat is the voice of the children’s self-guided audio tours, and he comes to life in the newly launched ‘Snitch’s Spot’ on the Maitland Gaol website, where his picture can be seen for the first time. There are also activities for kids to try including making their own butter and liquid soap.
Newcastle Museum is always a popular spot for school holidays. There’s a new exhibition at Newcastle Museum. From 25 September, Colour is coming to the Newcastle Museum. Direct from Questacon, this special exhibition explores the science of colour and perception. Go with your family and learn what influences the visible and invisible spectrum and how optical illusions work. The exhibition features COVIDSafe interactives for the whole family to enjoy. Book tickets today from $5 for children to $25 for a family of 4.
The popular school holiday science shows will be live-streamed but you can also enter for your chance to win seats at Museum Express Science Shows! These school holidays, Catherine will be live-streaming her show online and the museum is looking for some visitors to be part of the live audience. With only space for 20 places per show the live audience will have exclusive access to a never before seen Science Show ‘EYE EYE!’ To enter, fill in your details here and pitch Newcastle Museum your coolest topic or idea for a future Science Show! They will choose 20 people per show to come along and see EYE EYE live! Entries close 5pm 23 September 2020.
The Museum is open seven days a week during school holidays but bookings are essential due to COVID protocols. Book online at newcastlemuseum.com.au
The iconic ‘picture palace’ returns with Civic Cinema, with the good old days of seeing a movie at the Civic Theatre once again possible with the installation of a new digital projection widescreen.
Settle into the regal seats for these special school holiday screenings:
- Mon 28 Sept 2pm – The Lion King (PG)
- Tue 29 Sept 2pm – Frozen 2 (PG)
- Wed 30 Sept 2pm – Ride Like A Girl (PG)
- Thur 1 Oct 11am – Scoob! (PG)
- Thur 1 Oct 3pm – Think Like a Dog (PG)
- Fri 2 Oct 2pm – A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (PG)
Visit civictheatrenewcastle.com.au for ticket details.
ANIMALS & NATURE
Playgrounds, walking trails, open spaces, shelters and barbecues at Blackbutt Reserve are open. Although the wildlife exhibits were temporarily closed due to urgent structural maintenance on the boardwalk and to meet COVIDSafe requirements, they have now reopened. Perfect timing for school holidays. Visit Blackbutt and see family favourites like koalas, wallabies and wombats. You can also see emus, wallabies and kangaroos in a separate paddock behind the playground. The kiosk has reopened for snacks, coffee and animal food. Purchase a feeding cone from the kiosk and feed the emus. However, public programs, including animal feedings and reptile show, remain suspended until further notice.
Hunter Wetlands Centre
These school holidays are all about lizards at Hunter Wetlands Centre in Shortland. Pick up an All things Lizard booklet and take a leisurely Lizard Walk around the sensory garden looking for the 10 lizard posters on display. Learn more about these cute creatures and find out how to make your garden lizard- friendly. You can also meet Curley, the new Pygmy Bearded Dragon. You can also catch up with Blue Tongue Lizards Nudge and Russell who have been very quiet over winter but have now come out of hibernation and can be seen in their enclosure. Take home some lizard activity sheets. Other attractions include canoeing, dip-netting, bird feeding, playground, egret tower, walking and cycling tracks. Cafe open from 10am to 2pm. Entry Fees: Children (4 to 15 years) $5 (under 4 free), adults (16years+) $7.50
OUTDOOR FAMILY FUN
Family Walks & Hikes
Go for a hike where there’s more room to stay away from other people.
Hike the Hickson Street Track down to Burwood Beach or the Yuerlarbah Walk at Glenrock Lagoon. Do the Awabakal walk from Dudley to Redhead Walk and enjoy panoramic views of the coast. Enjoy the Redhead Coast on the Ken and Audrey Owens Walk. Explore Shipwreck Walk, a walk along the Stockton Breakwater which incorporates the wrecks and hulks of several iron and steel ships within the structure. Or go a bit further and explore Gap Creek Falls in the Watagans. For more walks, check out our roundup of local family walks.
Go for a bike ride
Newcastle is full of some of the most beautiful and fun bike paths to suit any cyclists – from little ones just beginning on their biking adventures to those kids who want some challenge and fitness. Here is a list of some of our favourite paved paths and mountain bike trails.
Play Frisbee golf
Take some frisbees and play frisbee golf at Jesmond Park or at Styles Point Reserve in Rathmines. For those unfamiliar with disc golf, it’s similar to traditional golf but instead of using golf clubs and a ball, you use a frisbee. The aim is to complete each hole with the fewest number of throws.
Take a walk around your neighbourhood and get some fresh air, exercise and a change of scenery. To keep kids occupied on this walk, we’ve come up with a neighbourhood scavenger hunt printable. It has lots of things that you and your family can look for on your neighbourhood walks. Bring some binoculars or a magnifying glass and get them to use their observational skills. And the scavenger hunt doesn’t all have to be done on one walk – do it over days or a couple of weeks. Print it off and let the kids check them out or keep it on your phone.
INDOOR FAMILY FUN
Visit Australian landmarks, zoos, aquariums, galleries, museums & world heritage sites from your home. Travel plans might be on hold at the moment due to COVID-19 but you can still explore Australia without leaving your home. Here are more than 30 virtual online tours you can do across Australia. Some involve Google Steet View tours while others let you view online exhibits.
Going to see a new release movie is a school holiday favourite. Although cinemas have now opened, some families prefer to watch movies at home. The Newy with Kids team has come up with an extensive list of family movies that you can watch with your family. We’ve got something for everyone: classics, animals, sports, sci-fi, fantasy and comedies, even some cringeworthy gems from the 80s and 90s. We’ve chosen a selection from around the world including some great kids films produced here in Australia. So choose a movie, pop the popcorn, settle in and get ready for some family viewing.
Want to keep little minds interested? Get them listening to podcasts especially during school holidays at home. We love podcasts as kids can listen to the subject matter while relaxing, drawing or just playing with LEGO. And there are so many topics to choose from. No matter what your child is interested in, there’s a podcast for them. Choose from science, ethics, mysteries and music and more. Here are our picks for the best podcasts for kids. We’ve chosen a selection from around the world including some great podcasts created here in Australia that parents will love too! Either listen to the podcasts together or give kids some headphones.
Unplug from your devices and spend some family time together playing board games during school holidays. Here’s a list of board games that you and kids might like. If your kids are preschoolers or in their teens, there’s a game to suit. The list includes some retro classics as well as some of the hottest games. Bonus: Some of these fun board games even have educational benefits. Just don’t tell your kids that. Just tell them it’s unplugged play, family style.
Started in late 2012 by a local mum and newcomer to Newcastle, Newy with Kids has grown into a thriving go-to family guide for the Newcastle & Hunter region. Parents visit the Newy with Kids website to find things to do with babies, kids and teens. Whether it’s local attractions, upcoming events, kids eat free, school holiday activities or birthday party ideas, Newy with Kids is the best website for local parents to find local kid-friendly activities and information 24/7.