Published 24 March 2020, updated 18 August 2020

It’s school holidays and the kids are at home except this time they are really at home (plus many parents are still trying to hold together a working life at home). We all need a few magic tricks in our bag for occupying little hearts and minds and a little uptime among the downtime of COVID-19.

Here’s some activities – online and offline – to keep them occupied that allow for physical distancing and safe hygiene practices and/or that let you stay in and stay sane. Please follow the restriction guidelines for the region at the time. To check what activities are restricted check here.

Pack your own picnic or order a picnic pack from a local restaurant of café (that you can pick up without contact) and find a spot to enjoy away from others – perhaps in your own garden or on your balcony.

Google maps – take a virtual tour of the region. Set the kids a task of 10 places to find on the map and drop pins to create an itinerary ‘to look forward to’ of all the places you’ll visit when restrictions ease.

Read a book by a local Yarra Valley or Dandenong Ranges author. Eastern Regional Libraries in the region have loads of books to borrow online.  They are also running storytime livestreams on their Facebook page and have author interviews to listen to plus free Busy Kids entertainment programs online. have also put thousands of books online for free access and instant streaming for kids of all ages. 

Melbourne Zoo (Healesville Sanctuary) has live webcams where you can watch super cute animals such as lions, penguins and snow leopards go about their day. Click here to watch.   (Note zoos are closed) 

The Yarra Centre is launching 100+ free online health classes accessible in your lounge room. Think new family activities to stay fit together.

Take a virtual history tour of the Dandenong Ranges villages, or your favourite towns in the Yarra Valley.  Website What Was There?  lets you enter a town of your choice (from loads of places in the world) and find historical photos that tie to Google Maps so you can see them then and now in a click.

Take a photography walk in your own garden. Set a different theme each day – birds of the region, native plants, veggies growing.  Take a photo a day of a tree losing its leaves. Autumn in the garden is a spectacular time.

Find a self-guided walk and learn as you go about local history or sustainability. (Or keep this one up your sleeve for a handy homeschooling activity)

Pack the scooters or the bikes and tackle a section of the Warburton to Lilydale Rail Trail

Stock up on fresh fruits and veg at Rayner's Orchard in Woori Yallock. It's peak season and Farmer Len has so many varieties of stone fruit ripe and ready you'll think you're in fruit heaven. Buy by the kilo and spend a day bottling, preserving and jamming in readiness for future Apocolypses. And while you are there get Len's advice on fruit trees you can buy from the Rayner's Nursery to plant at home, and how to get a veggie patch started. He's only too happy to guide you.

Take the dog to a dog agility park or off leash area and teach an ‘old dog new tricks’, they’ll love spending extra time with you. 

For a perfect treat for cooped up kids (and perhaps the perfect bribe also), the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie has plenty of outdoor activities, takeaway from the cafe and the essential service that is chocolate in their showroom. 

Walk in the forest and find your solitude among our amazing flora and fauna. These walks all take less than an hour and will provide plenty of exercise for little legs.

Remember social distancing and appropriate hygiene practices and keep everyone safe and well. Please adhere to the current stage restrictions.


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