School holidays have come again in Malaysia. It’s only for a week but it’s already wreaking havoc on offices as hordes of their staff file for leave to take care of their children (if they have problems secure a babysitter) or go on a holiday with the entire family.
You can expect flights to and from KL and hotels all over Malaysia to be fully booked at this time of year, and airfares to be higher than usual. So don’t be surprised if KL-Jakarta-KL ticket on AirAsia now costs RM927 when it usually costs below RM500 if booked at the last minute.
With the current economic downturn, however, more and more families are opting for a staycation, i.e. staying at home or taking day trips to nearby attractions. So I thought it only fitting to list down a few inexpensive ways of keeping the children entertained without creating a significant dent on your bank account, without need for any special expensive equipment, equestrian apparel, or special running shoes.
1. Visit a nearby park. It’s best to go early in the morning before it gets too hot and before the children are too tired or cranky. In Malaysia, most housing areas have small parks located within walking distance. Never mind if they only feature a couple of slides, a few swings and a mini monkey bar. What’s important is to get your children to go out, breathe some fresh air, and release all that energy outside. If you want a bigger park, Taman Tasik Perdana is a nice place to go. So is Taman Tasik Titiwangsa (Titiwangsa Lake Gardens), whose children’s playground was recently refurbished. Bring along the children’s bicycles. And the badminton set that’s gathering dust in your attic.
The newly upgraded children’s playground in Taman Tasik Titiwangsa. Click on the image to see a panorama photo taken with my Nokia N82. Photo quality is not that good but it will give you an idea of what the place looks like.
2. Take your children to the local library. If you live in KL area, try the children’s section at the National Library in Jalan Tun Razak. Registration is free. Just bring a photocopy of your child’s birth certificate or passport.
3. Have a movie night…at home. Buy or rent a family movie like ‘Nim’s Island’ or ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ and watch it in the comfort of your own home. Dim the lights and cook some popcorn to complete the cinema experience.
4. Cook with the children. It will be a huge test of patience, but it will keep them occupied and it will ensure that they eat the fruit of their labour. A simple dish to make is pizza. Buy pita bread, grate some cheese, prepare a selection of toppings. Your children will go wild! (The mozzarella cheese can be quite expensive, but it’s a lot cheaper than taking everyone to Pizza Hut or Domino’s.) Cookies are a cheaper option. Choose a simple sugar cookie recipe and give the kids free rein with the cookie cutters.
5. Create your own bubble solution and let the kids play with bubbles in your front yard. Take some dishwashing detergent, mix with water, and add the sticky sap from the inside of a hibiscus flower. The sap will make the bubbles last longer and not burst too easily. A simple trick I learned from 3rd grade science class.
6. Wash your car with the kids. They’ll end up getting more soap and water on themselves than on the car but it will keep them occupied for a good hour or so. They probably won’t even stop unless you tell them to. No guarantees on getting your car cleaned properly though ;)
7. Go fishing. Children love to fish. You’ll be surprised at how patient they can be as they wait for the fish to bite. No need for expensive fishing gear. Just take a long stick, tie nylon thread at the end, attach a small hook and sinker, get some bait (stale bread will do) and you’re all set!
8. Get crafty. Scour the internet for simple craft projects that utilize everyday objects like old newspapers or empty boxes and bottles. ArtAttack is a great site for ideas.
9. Take your children swimming. If you live in KL and your children are below 10 years old, take them to the wading pool in KLCC Park, where admission is free. Or drive to Ulu Langat, Ulu Yam or Janda Baik to enjoy the cool river waters. Bring along a small charcoal stove, some marinated meat and shrimps, some corn, leftover bread, butter and kaya (roti bakar on charcoal tastes infinitely better!) and have your own barbeque. The children will enjoy being so close to fire for once (under constant adult supervision, please!), and they’ll have so much fun playing in the water, they’d be too exhausted for the rest of the day. Ulu Langat entrance fee is very cheap, something like RM2 per person, chalets are optional.
Too tired to drive anywhere? Fill up the bathtub or a huge basin or an inflatable pool with water (bubbles optional) and let the kids play until all their toes and fingers are as wrinkled as prunes. Water and kids always go together well!
10. Take the kids for a visit to their grandparents, if they live nearby. Your parents (or in-laws) will be happy to see their grandchildren and your children will enjoy being spoilt for a good few hours.
Do share with me some other inexpensive ways of keeping children occupied during school holidays!