School Holidays & Childcare: What Options Are Available?

In Australia we’re lucky to have four school holiday periods a year. These breaks are a chance for students, teachers and parents alike to have a rest, free from the hustle and bustle of the daily school run, and with plenty of time to reset and re-energise for the term or even the new school year ahead.

This is ideally how most families would use their school holidays, in theory. However, the reality is that almost 80% of families with children that are of school age still have working parents and, unless you’re fortunate to have family or friends available to look after your kids during holiday periods, the question arises: who will care for your children when they’re off school but you’re still at work?

Today, we’ll be outlining the top childcare options available to Aussie families during school holiday periods. Read below to find the best childcare options for your family.

Early learning or childcare centres

In some cases, where early learning and/or childcare centres are located close to primary schools, they might offer holiday care for children in their first one or two years of school (approximately 5-7 years). This isn’t commonplace so definitely inquire well in advance of needing holiday care.

The benefit of school holiday care situated in an early learning environment, is that staff must be qualified with at least a CHC30121 – Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care. As such, parents can rest easy, knowing their children are being cared for by dedicated educators rather than simply facilitators with Working With Children checks and perhaps no other formal training or certification. 

School holiday overnight camps

Another option is sending your kids to an overnight camp during the school holidays. There are hundreds of camps around Australia providing fun and educational activities for kids to engage with over school holiday breaks.

Camp tends to conjure up ideas of pitching tents, huddling around a campfire, and lots of hiking and physical activity. However, camps don’t necessarily have an overnight component. Programs based around a particular skill or activity that run over a few days are often called camps, even though they do not provide overnight accommodation.

Overnight camps for primary-aged children generally range from one to five nights, often covering the Monday-Friday work week. Outdoor adventure camps are the most common, with children participating in activities such as abseiling, rock climbing, canoeing, hiking, ropes courses and swimming. Myriad other activity-based camps are on offer, including horse riding, surfing, skiing, and creative camps.

Adventure camps are often held in scenic locations ‘off the beaten track’, however city camps are also available and can often be a good stepping stone for younger participants. City camps are better suited to certain themes, such as coding and gaming, exploring the history of the city, and volunteering.

Workshops and day camps

What if your kids are perhaps too young for school camp but too old for childcare? Then you’ve got the option of fun activity workshops and day camps. There are a wide range of school holiday programmes and activity groups running across all Australian capital cities nowadays. You can find these activities via sporting clubs, leisure centres, local councils, community houses, churches, museums, charities, and even private organisations.

Workshops are often one-day sessions focusing on a single topic. Day camps vary in length and participants often showcase their learning on the final day. Sport camps and workshops are widely available, with soccer, basketball, gymnastics and AFL being amongst the most popular. Other themes include magic, coding, gaming, cooking, art, theatre, STEM, dance, and singing.

The downside of day-based camps is that they often run on ‘school hours’, meaning a 9am drop-off and a 3pm pick-up time. Costs of programs may also vary, however not-for-profit and government run programs are usually cheaper. So be sure to look into the workshops and activity groups that may be running in your locale during these coming school holidays.

Holiday OSHC

With most of the parent population engaged in full time work, the need for OSHC services has rapidly increased and the private sector has massively expanded. Out of school hours care (OSHC) services are generally based at schools and provide care during term time and on school holidays. Not all centres operate holiday programs but other providers will usually accept enrolments for children who do not attend the school at which the service is based.

Most OSHC programs include a mix of activities at the base location, incursions and excursions. Planned activities incorporate STEM, team games, art, music, free play, and ideas that the children come up with.

Services usually open around 6.30-7.30am and close at 6 or 6.30pm, providing a lot of flexibility for working parents. Unlike the camps, you may be eligible for the child care subsidy which can save you up to 85% of the fees.

Virtual programs

With every school holiday break that rolls round, more and more internet-based holiday programs are added to the mix. Virtual programs involve being in a video call with a leader and other children as they complete the set activities.

Coding and gaming are ideal for virtual programs, just make sure to check what tech is needed before signing up as, often, more than one device is required. Other groups also offer virtual workshops and, where certain resources are required, they will post the items in advance. Places like museums and art galleries often offer free virtual tours and paid workshops. And even some RSPCA centres deliver virtual activities as well as tours of the behind-the-scenes areas where participants ‘meet’ the animals and learn about what is required to care for them.


As you can see, there are myriad ways to keep kids entertained and busy over the school holidays. With so many options available, your family will be able to find options that fit your needs and your child’s interests.  So chat with your kids today to see what fun activities they’d like to load up their next school holidays with.

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