Stuck for what to do with your little ones these school holidays? Don’t worry, it’s completely understandable with nearly all activities geared towards school kids, regular weekday activities for under 5s on hold and most playgrounds overcrowded. Well we’ve come to your rescue with a great bucket list for these summer holidays! And there’s also a list at the end of school holidays events that little ones may enjoy.
For years, we’ve had our little ones with us full-time over the school holidays (and the rest of the year). And now have a great list of tested things to do with kids under 5. Here are our top 20 picks for these summer holidays in and around the Parramatta region. Most are free or cheap activities. All are suitable for preschoolers, and toddlers and babies (and even young primary school kids) should enjoy nearly all as well. There’s not a whole lot of ‘new’ things if you’ve been following ParraParents for a while, but these are all our favourites for a reason! And we love doing them again and again.
1Cool Off at Dundas Water Playground
Water playgrounds are a fantastic way to cool down – no swimming skills need, great for all ages (including us parents) and free to use! The one at Dundas Park is a favourite as the ‘dry’ playground is also shaded and The Container Cafe is a short walk away. But there are 12 other FREE water playgrounds to enjoy in Western Sydney if you are after somewhere different – or one for each day of the week!
- When: 9am to 8pm daily
- Where: Corner of Quarry Road and Yates Ave, Dundas Valley
- More Info
2Swim at Epping Pool
Tucked away in bushland is Epping Aquatic Centre. There’s a shaded baby pool down the back, with a larger kids pool next to it. We really enjoy swimming here as my preschoolers can easily stand but its also deep enough for them to ‘swim’. The kids pool doesn’t have a shade sail but gets natural shade in the afternoon. And there’s the 50m pool as well. Keep in mind that there are stairs down to the pool but the staff will help you carry your pram.
And you can check out our list of kid friendly local swimming pools for more inspiration.
3Play at Third Settlement Reserve Playground
When you are wanting a break from water play, playing at a local playground is a good option. And while we have lots of good playgrounds in the area, not all have much needed shade to enjoy them in summer. Plus the larger ones tend to be popular in the holidays with school kids. So we generally go for smaller, shaded playgrounds that are fenced or have play equipment mainly for little ones.
Third Settlement Reserve in Winston Hills is high on our summer playground list, with a good mix of play equipment for little ones, shade sails and toilets. And while only a smallish playground, we can easily spend an hour here. There is also a short bushwalk along Toongabbie Creek. Or a slightly longer one to the water hole, which is lovely to visit after some rain.
Here are 10 other good playgrounds for little ones in summer:
- Larry Bolitho Reserve, Carlingford
- Henry Brigg Playground, Epping
- Don Moore Reserve, North Rocks
- Binalong Park, Old Toongabbie
- Dunrossil Park, Carlingford
- Caber Park, Winston Hills
- Kim Rutherford Reserve, Epping
- George Kendall Reserve, Ermington
- Darvall Park, Denistone
- Heatley Reserve, East Ryde
Plus 10 local schools are open during the school holidays as part of the Share Our Space program and would make for a nice outing.
4Read Along at Holiday Storytime at a Cumberland or Ryde Council Library
While the regular weekly storytime sessions are on holidays, Cumberland Council and Ryde Council libraries run some holiday storytimes – no bookings required.
Head to a Cumberland Council Libraries for a free Curious Creatures storytime session for all ages. Celebrate great Australian literary creatures including Grug and the gumnut babies at this fun storytime session. All sessions start at 10:30am.
- Monday 7th: Regents Park Library
- Tuesday 8th: Merrylands Library
- Wednesday 9th: Granville Library
- Thursday 10th: Wentworthville Library
- Tuesday 15th: Greystanes Library
- Wednesday 16th: Lidcombe Library
- Thursday 17th: Auburn Library
If you have a bub or toddler, you can visit North Ryde and Gladesville Libraries for rhyme time. All sessions start at 10:30am.
5Splash at Putney Park
Putney Park is a fantastic park for families, along Parramatta River, tucked down near the Putney Punt. There’s fun free toddler pools, water views, two playgrounds (with some natural shade), toilets and picnic facilities.
6Get Active at a Local Park with the Active Parramatta Van
Enjoy getting active with your little ones at an Active Parramatta van pop-up session in a local park. Run by City of Parramatta Council, the Active Parramatta van has sporting equipment and games for all ages, including soccer, tennis, cricket, skipping ropes, hula hoops and foam frisbees.
- When: Usually 9:30am to 11am, 11:30am to 12:30pm and 3pm to 4pm
- Where: Various local parks
- More Info
7Build Sand Castles at Greenwich Baths
No Sydney summer holiday bucket list would be complete without a trip to the beach! And while we can’t just pop down the road to one, there are a few little kid friendly beaches within 30-50mins of Parramatta. And the upside of travelling to the coast, is that the temperature is usually about 10 degrees cooler!
Greenwich Baths is a netted, tidal beach on Sydney Harbour with gorgeous views of the city. There is an small entry, but it comes with a kiosk, beach toys and beach lounge chairs. We also really like that there is natural shade on the beach. But it can get very busy in the mornings during summer.
- When: open daily, 8am-8pm
- Where: Greenwich Baths, Albert St, Greenwich
- More Info
Anyone else get a new bike or scooter for Christmas? Or have a kid obsessed with riding? Well we just love the scooter/ bike tracks that mimic the road, with signs, markings and roundabouts for kids. But it can get mighty HOT riding in summer!
Thankfully a handful of the 22 local scooter/ bike tracks have some natural shade. Our top two picks are Boronia Park and Crestwood Reserve (larger track) – as both have shaded playgrounds and toilets as well.
9Splash, Eat and Play at Narrabeen Lakes
We’ve already been to the new Tramshed Cafe and playground three times in two weeks these summer holidays! It’s definitely our go to outing on a hot day and love the combo of a yummy, family-friendly cafe, awesome fenced playground and lake swimming.
- Where: Berry Reserve, 1395 Pittwater Road, Narrabeen
- More Info
10Watch Paw Patrol Live on Stage at Stockland Merrylands
Join the adventures of Police Pup Chase, Fire Dog Marshall and Ryder in Nickelodeon’s PAW Patrol live shows at Stockland Merrylands these summer holidays. They will be performing two shows daily, from Monday 14th to Friday 18th January. There are also a number of other fun activities at local shopping centres. Check out our Facebook events section for more details.
- When: 14th to 18th January at 11am and 1pm, with a meet and greet at 12pm
- Where: Level 1, near Big W at Stockland Merrylands
- More Info
11Get Up Close to Native Animals at Central Gardens
Animals are usually a crowd pleaser. And there are a few local places you can visit for FREE, where your little ones can get up close to some animals. Our favourite is Central Gardens in Merrylands as it also has two shaded playgrounds and a waterfall. Auburn Botanic Gardens is also lovely to visit but it can cost $5 per adult to enter in the school holidays if you’re not a Cumberland Council resident.
Another fun option is visiting Kellyville Pets – it’s a massive pet store with a lot of different animals. Or you could take a road trip to the awesome, free animal enclosure at Blackbutt Reserve near Newcastle.
12Join the Sydney Festival Circus When it Comes to Town
Roll up, roll up…the Sydney Festival is bringing spectacular free circus performance to Parramatta from Friday 11th to Sunday 13th January. Families will be able to enjoy incredible free Mallakhambindia performances, marvel at Heliosphere and even turn your bikes, prams or scooters into a flying flame machine to join the opening parade. Aerialize are also back with circus skills workshops for all ages and abilities at Riverside Courtyard. Plus, there are outdoor Flying Trapeze workshops.
- When: 11th to 13th January
- Where: Prince Alfred Square, Parramatta
- More Info
13Pick Strawberries at Berrylicious Strawberries in Thirlmere
We’ve been picking delicious hanging strawberries from Berrylicious Strawberries in Thirlmere (near Picton) several times over the last year. Sessions are limited and you can eat all the strawberries you want while picking. It costs $10 per person 10yrs+ and kids 3-10yrs are $5. Then it’s $10 per kilo for what you pick to take home.
And we highly recommend you make a day of it, with some great attractions along the way. We particularly like the new water playground at Curry Reserve in Camden, NSW Rail Museum and Mt Annan Botanic Gardens
14Play and Read at Parramatta Library
Whatever the weather, holiday play at Parramatta Library is a nice way to spend the morning with little ones. There are puzzles, foam shapes, large dominoes and large lego. Plus of course lots and lots of books for you to enjoy while there or borrow for home.
- When: Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 12pm
- Where: Parramatta Library, 1-3 Fitzwilliam Street in Parramatta
- More Info
15Eat and Play at Flower Power
Enjoy a yummy lunch while the kids play, by to heading to Flower Power at Prospect or Glenhaven. Both have nice cafes with play areas for little ones. Glenhaven has a fenced playground and Prospect has a little play kitchen and colouring in table. Flower Power usually offers free garden classes for kids Monday to Friday at 11am during the school holidays. But unfortunately not during the summer holidays.
There are a few other local cafes with kids spaces that are great to visit with little ones. Our top suggestions are Pages Cafe in West Ryde, Eden Gardens in Macquarie Park and Little Rocks Cafe at Stockland Baulkham Hills.
Plus, there are heaps of local clubs with indoor and outdoor kids play areas. Our top picks for the summer holidays with little ones are Crown on McCredie, NBC Sports Club, Greystanes Hotel and Vikings Sports Club.
16Pick Your Own Plums, Nectarines or Apples at Pine Crest Orchard
Apple picking season is almost here – yay! We really enjoy a trip to Bilpin and picking fruit at Pine Crest Orchard. They are open Friday to Sunday and will have plums, nectarines and apples to pick during the summer holidays. Best to check their Facebook page for which fruit is available to pick as it will change throughout January. Then on our way home in summer, we usually cool off at Yarramundi Reserve.
- Where: Pine Crest Orchard, 2549 Bells Line of Rd, Bilpin
- More Info
Summer is a great time to enjoy Parramatta River via the Rivercat. And Cabarita is one of our favourite stops. Once you get off the ferry, you are greeted by Cabarita Beach and Park. The large park has a lot to offer families – great shaded playground, outdoor swimming centre with views of Parramatta River, yummy kiosk and plenty of bbqs and picnic shelters. Plus there is a beach, with lots of shells and some shade, where you can watch the ferries go by. And if you are lucky, see some dolphins!
- Location: Cabarita Park, Cabarita Road, Cabarita
- More Info
18Swap a Book at a Local Street Library
There’s now an awesome local network of decorated mini libraries full of free books open 24/7. Most have some kids books and it’s great fun going on a street library treasure hunt to find a few nice books to enjoy. We then like to pass them onto another library. See the full list of local street libraries here.
19Go on a Mini Road Trip to Early Start Discovery Space in Wollongong
The Early Start Discovery Space at Wollongong University is a one of a kind dedicated kids museum in NSW! Little ones will have a fantastic time playing in the 14 interactive zones, in and outside. We particularly like the grocery store, construction zone and water play areas. And going on a little road trip can be an adventure in itself! We usually stop at the Bulli Top Visitor Centre to enjoy the view over Wollongong.
Another great summer holiday mini road trip is to Umina Beach on the Central Coast. There is a wonderful playground, cafe and beach all within an easy, short walking distance.
20Go on a Short Bushwalk to Terrys Creek Falls
It’s always nice being out in nature, though I wouldn’t recommend walking in the heat of summer! But there are some lovely short shaded bushwalks that you can do with your little ones, like the walk from Epping Pool to Terrys Creek falls or from Norfolk Place to Balaka Falls. And both come with the added bonus of having water to splash sticks in.
Remember to take water and food with you, plus mozzie repellent and sunscreen. And if you would like to join other local families on a bushwalk, join the Parramatta Little Bushwalkers Facebook group. We have a number of bushwalks these summer holidays.
School Holiday Events for Little Ones
Phew, that is a one long list of things to do in the summer school holidays with little ones. Hopefully there is plenty of inspiration!
Do you have some favourites not on our list? We would love for you to share them in the comments below.