How to keep kids active during the school holidays

Many parents and children have experienced restrictions on their activities due to COVID-19 over the last few months. The necessity of the situation has seen many kids less active and being on screens significantly more. With school holidays coming up and the weather improving it’s a great time to get the kids outside and get them moving.

The kids might not be so keen on this and have some other ideas! But by taking a considered and inclusive approach you can make it easier and more fun for everyone.

Write your school holiday guidelines

Kids work better when they know what is expected of them and if they feel like they have had some input. Before the holidays start, grab some paper and a pencil and sit with the kids to write up a broad plan for your expectations and what the kids would like to happen during the school holidays. This isn’t a detailed schedule outlining what everyone is doing for every minute of the day, but it provides a framework of expectations for the whole family. For example, it could look something like this:

  • Everyone (including the parent/s) to spend a minimum of one hour outside at home a day.
  • Three times a week the family will do some form of movement outside of the home together.
  • On the weekends when the weather is good, the family eats one meal a day outside together – kids get to choose the homemade meal.
  • Everyone reads for 30 minutes a day.
  • On days off and weekends, parents play a game of the kids’ choice.
  • Kids get 2 hours of screen time per day.

Get creative

With COVID-19 restrictions making life pretty repetitive, get creative with the activities you do with the kids to get them moving. Take standard activities and give them a twist. Here are some things you might like to try:

  • Create art while you walk, run or cycle. Using a free app like Strava plan out a route, track your movements as you go and create a picture as you do it. Check out the website Stravart for some amazing inspiration! But I would recommend starting small like the examples above first.
  • Before you head out for a walk to the playground, create a scavenger hunt. Create a short list of items you know the kids can find on the way to or at the playground. The winner who collects the most items can get to choose the movie or TV show the family watches that night.
  • Make it a goal to visit as many new playgrounds as you can during the school holidays. Get the kids involved in choosing which ones you go to and what you think a reasonable target is for your family. If they are old enough, have them conduct internet searches to find playgrounds in your area that you are yet to visit and write up a list in table form. You can have columns that the kids can fill in after they’ve been, where they can rate the playgrounds, so they will remember which ones they liked and would like to return to.

Stack activities

A common and very successful way to create positive habits is to use a technique called habit stacking. This means that if you have something you already do out of habit in your day, add something else to it you would like to do regularly so the first habit acts as a cue for you to do the next one – it creates a mini routine.

Most kids work well with routines, so if you consciously stack activities together you can get the kids more active during the school holidays. For example, you could stack a series of activities like this:

  • Have lunch outside.
  • Tidy up.
  • One hour of screen time.
  • One hour of outdoor time. You could swap the order of these last two activities and do the screen time after being outside. But kids can often be at a loose end when they first get off their screens, so having to get outside can be a great way to focus their energy.

The most important thing to remember is that kids take in not only what we say, but also what we do. Role modelling an active lifestyle is key to get kids moving, and as a byproduct you will feel better for it too!

These ideas are put together in accordance with the current guidelines for COVID-19. Please check official channels to ensure you have the most up to date information regarding any restrictions in place in your area.


Nicole Avery is a Melbourne mum to five beautiful kids aged 11 to 21. She is the master organiser behind the popular parenting blog Planning With Kids and the author of a book by the same name, where she shares tips and tricks for organising the chaos of family life.