The noise levels appear to have become amplified in the suburbs - a tell-tale sign that school holidays have arrived. It also leaves parents facing the perennial dilemma of thinking about activities for the kids.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of low-cost ideas. Remember all the free, fun games and activities you enjoyed as a kid (before PlayStation and Xbox)? You'll be surprised at just how much fun you'll still have - and your kids will enjoy them, too.
Think about the projects they have been doing at school and find relevant activities, events or exhibitions in your area to help your child better understand the topic.
Many public libraries and local councils organise free activities for children during school holidays.
And don't forget the old favourites - play dough, fingerpaints, water sports, bubbles, and camping out in sheet tents, a favourite with younger children.
Plan an expedition: take the bus or train, and get the kids to map out a walking adventure or bike ride.
Pack snacks and have a picnic.
Get your kids to write a few ideas for things to do in the holidays and put them in a jar. Each day, pull out one activity to do - it could be cooking, having a friend over for an afternoon, etc.
M.G. from Hastings says: "Get together with friends and start your own holiday programme. If you can only get one day a week off work, then get your mates to do the same thing, (different days), and drop your kids at the appropriate house with their packed lunch. Arrange between yourselves different activities for each day depending on what each can provide. For instance, one person may be able to take all swimming while another may not have transport, so maybe they could do art and crafts, video days, pizza-making, board games, a wheel outing, (skateboards, bikes, skates or scooters)."
Another reader has an interesting idea about how to give a treat or a gift. "Tie the item with string, but don't cut it off. Hide the parcel then run the string line throughout the house - around chairs, under the bed, in and out of rooms, outside then back inside, and so on. Having done that, give the person the end of the string and tell them their surprise is at the other end!"
Alternatively, set them a Mission Impossible challenge. Make the mission - should they choose to accept it - something important to them like finding the missing biscuit jar. With exciting Mission Impossible music playing, give them an envelope with mystery clues inside.
Kites are fun and easy to make. You'll need string, glue, nails, timber rods or small bamboo to make the frame, and paper, nylon or cloth to cover it.
One reader says they have great fun with face paint, especially while everyone is excited about the rugby. Here's a simple recipe for face paint. Mix equal parts of cold cream and cornflour. Add water until it forms a smooth paste. Divide the mix up into four bowls. Add yellow, red, and blue food colouring to three, leaving one white. Now you have a colour palette which you can mix together to make other colours. To make black, mix equal amounts of blue, yellow and red. Paint it on the little faces sparingly.
Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips online at www.oilyrag.co.nz