Looking for school holiday fun? Try these virtual events to banish the boredom – The Age


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Did you breathe a sigh of relief when Term 3 ended on Friday? Once again, it was almost entirely a matter of remote learning, so anyone who spent the past two months coaching, coaxing, cajoling and encouraging their kids through the curriculum deserves a gold star, if not a glass of wine.

Before you pour a second glass, consider that school holidays at home begin in earnest tomorrow. That doesn’t have to mean young glazed eyes from endless hours of TikTok and World of Warcraft, or cries of “I’m bored!” every half hour.

Before Term 4 begins on October 4, make some of your children’s screen time count with these virtual events and activities created in Melbourne for lockdown learning-meets-fun. Unless otherwise noted, these online opportunities are free.

Go behind the screens

Given its focus on screen culture, ACMI can help families make that school-holiday digital pivot better than most Melbourne institutions. The online version of its showcase multimedia exhibition The Story of the Moving Image is a good starting point, or young cinefiles, gamers, TV buffs and digital artists can choose their own adventures from among the online learning resources.

Choose your own adventure from
ACMI’s holiday program.

Choose your own adventure from
ACMI’s holiday program.Credit: James Henry

A day or three will fly by with activities such as Make a Book Trailer and Homemade Homage. Among numerous other contents not aligned to school curricula is a guide – including how-to videos – for Scratch. This free game engine uses block coding which is so easy that primary-school-aged children can create their own game, from the characters to the music.


Visit the library online

It’s easy to banish boredom if a good book is at hand, even virtually, so bookmark two pages just launched on the State Library of Victoria’s website. The family e-bookshelf highlights titles that pre-teens love, such as The Unexpected Crocodile and Pirates Eat Porridge, while the children’s classic audiobooks page directs young ears towards Beatrix Potter, Peter Pan and Stan and Mabel among others.

Book now for the library’s online school holiday events, including the Children’s Storytelling Workshop with Andrew Plant. The author, illustrator and former zoologist, best known for his book Could a Tyrannosaurus Play Table Tennis?, hosts two sessions on September 21: 11am for ages 5-8, and 1pm for 9-12.

Book creators Nat Amoore (The Right Way to Rock), Adrian Beck (Stop the Dad Jokes!) and Mick Elliott (Squidge Dibley) are the MCs for Book Party in the House (September 30). This interactive hour will get 5- to 10-year-olds literally jumping for joy about books. There are also weekly Storytime and Playdate sessions for preschoolers.

The library has some new “anytime” activities too. Paperrazi Design Studio is helping crafty kids aged five to 12 discover how to turn random bits of paper into something special. If there are any holidays left after all of that, dig around the goldmine of on-demand content like Deceptology: The Science of Magic. Hosted by Tricky Nick author Nicholas J. Johnson, this video is made for budding magicians who want to learn some new tricks.


The zoo comes to you

It’s not quite like waving at wombats and saying hello to hippos in real life, but the Zoos Victoria website could be just what’s needed to stop kids in iso going ape. Animals at Home is loaded with on-demand encounters at Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary. Choose from guided tours and keeper talks (including some Auslan-interpreted options) for virtual meet’n’greets with critters such as lions, seals and Tasmanian devils.

Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos at the Healesville Sanctuary.

Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos at the Healesville Sanctuary.Credit: Zoos Victoria

There are also six live webcams; check feeding times for the best chance of spotting giraffes, penguins and other furry and feathered friends. Or catch up on limited-edition animal-cam action, including Healesville Sanctuary’s parrot enclosure and the Open Range Zoo’s camera-on-wheels 20-minute safari. Create a soundtrack by singing The Lion King’s Hakuna Matata to the rhinos, zebras and ostriches!


Artists at home

The NGV has just started its latest virtual children’s art classes, so get in quick. Art Club with Bundit Puangthong (October 2, 16 and 30) is inspired by the history of puppet-making in the artist’s family and requires only basic art supplies. Wrangling preschoolers? Settle them in for a Japan and Me session, which includes spotting and guessing games and a simple origami activity (September 21 and 30 and October 7).

NGV Art Club with Bundit Puangthong.

NGV Art Club with Bundit Puangthong.

Bookings are recommended for these live events, but there are also anytime options, including downloadable activity sheets and games, and videos such as Making a Possum Skin Cloak with Maree Clarke, Family Meditation with Little Warriors Yoga, and Digital Dance Party with Body Electric.


Getting active is academic

Victoria University’s college of sport and exercise science has adapted its usual school-holiday sports programs for these interesting times. From ball skills to dancercise, coaches lead varied Kids Blast online sessions that help locked down primary-school-aged children to stay active and engaged. Register in advance and Zoom in on Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

Virtual Active Kids Parties are also available, with your child’s choice of a Kids Blast-style session, zumba or a specific sport, such as netball or Aussie rules, plus a singalong with dance moves to wrap up a fun 45 minutes ($140).

Or take advantage of Victoria University’s one-on-one kindergarten-at-home and help early childhood education students gain essential experience. The virtual sessions are customised and might include drawing, singing, storytime or talking about favourite toys.


Night and day at the museum

Encompassing the Melbourne and Immigration museums and Scienceworks, the Museums Victoria website has long been a popular port of call for school-holiday inspiration – especially now, with its Museum at Home content.

Check out the Melbourne Museum’s online program.

Check out the Melbourne Museum’s online program.Credit: Benjamin Healley

Try the virtual puzzles, including images of artefacts from the temporarily shuttered Treasures of the Natural World exhibition. Find out how to do a Backyard Bioblitz, listen carefully for the bird-call quiz, bake biscuits inspired by the Milky Way galaxy, or escape to the Otways with a mindfulness video for kids.

Other edutainment includes making a T-Rex mask and the Dino Moves video that will get children jumping and stretching like their favourite prehistoric creatures. These are ideal activities for thinking about what Victoria’s official State Fossil Emblem should be. Nominees for the Museums Victoria public voting campaign, which closes on October 4, include Koolasuchus cleelandi. With such a cool name, this ancient four-metre-long amphibian will be hard to beat.


Seek Heide online

The storied Heide Museum of Modern Art’s digital school-holiday program keeps the creative fires burning, starting with Micro Sculptures: Play with Clay (September 21 and 30). Inspired by Nabilah Nordin’s Birdbrush and Other Essentials exhibition, which is now on hiatus, these workshops show mini Michelangelos how to create mini worlds from modelling clay and mixed media.

They can also bend, twist and weave materials to create modern masterpieces with Sculpture: Wood, Wire and Weave (September 22 and 29), which looks to the spinning, floating sculptures in Margel Hinder’s Modern in Motion exhibition. Or take a virtual tour of Heide, then design and construct a little house – complete with art and pets – during an Architecture and Design: Mini Art House session (September 23 and 28).

Each of these 90-minute workshops are $15 a child, $12 concession or $10 for members. Other Heide at Home options include on-demand videos and downloadable activity sheets for projects such as making stop-motion animated shorts or a Mirka Mora-inspired dolls house.


More digital diversions

Melbourne Fringe The festival’s mostly cancelled, but online shadow-puppetry show The School Yard Incident (October 2; $10-16) and environmental romp I’m a Raindrop, Get Me Outta Here! (September 30, October 2 and 3; $6.50-16.50) endure; melbournefringe.com.au

Escape Room Melbourne Online narrative puzzle game Isolation is hosted by an actor – your virtual gathering’s “intruder”. Best suited to four to six participants (from age 12, with a majority of adults), it’s a novel way to gather family from near and far. From $120 for two people; escaperoom.com.au

Australian Shakespeare Company Enhance the Melbourne troupe’s online spring holiday workshops with optional home-delivered activities and props. Ages 7-11, September 20-22; ages 12-15, September 27-29; ages 16-19, September 30-October 2. $60; shakespeareaustralia.com.au

Yarraville artist Dawn Tan in her Little Art Yurt.

Yarraville artist Dawn Tan in her Little Art Yurt.

Little Art Yurt Yarraville artist Dawn Tan has transformed her kids classes into downloads, including exploration kits for artists such as Henri Matisse ($10), plus a virtual watercolour class for teens and adults ($35); dawn-tan.com

Live Penguin TV Download the Nature Notes then watch the sunset parade of Phillip Island’s little penguins. You can ask questions in real time too. Daily; penguins.org.au

Parrwang Lifts the Sky A Dreamtime tale sung in English and Wadawurrung, Victorian Opera’s latest family production is available on demand. $28-30; victorianopera.com.au

Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.

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