Rachel Grunwell checks out children’s activities for next week and beyond.

Walk and talk to the animals in Rotorua

Rotorua is about three hours' drive from Auckland and Rainbow Springs has organised a Junior Keeper Programme for the school holidays for children aged 7-16 years. In the junior programme (ages 7-9) kids have the chance to handle wildlife and learn how to care for them in a hands-on educational environment. They'll also do activities and puzzles. Those on the secondary junior programme (ages 10-12) will go behind the scenes at some of the exhibits. The advanced junior keepers programme (ages 13-16) is an extended programme in which teenagers have hands-on care of exotic reptiles and can get behind the scenes with birdlife and explore behaviour theory. "We wanted to do something different and exciting with our school holiday programmes," says Rainbow Springs' sales and marketing manager Michelle Caldwell. "And being a junior keeper for a day or two is a one-of-a-kind chance for kids to get close to our animals and learn how to care for them - as well as understanding how a wildlife park works." Each junior keeper class is run twice on separate days through the holidays. For full programme details and dates visit rainbowsprings.co.nz.

Arty animals

Fine Young Artists is offering its Art Safari school holiday programme at Auckland Zoo this Wednesday. Children will head to selected parts of the zoo to focus on different drawing techniques. This includes learning how to create light and dark art. Budding artists will be taught drawing tricks too like how to use a rubber as an art tool, says Lexie Loof, who runs the programme. This is for children aged 8 years or older and costs $90. Kids come home with a sketch book. fineyoungartists.co.nz.

Little green fingers

Children can be "souper" detectives at Auckland Botanic Gardens.

Become a "Souper" detective at the Auckland Botanic Gardens. Explore the edible garden and Potter Children's Garden and collect clues for a soup recipe - kids will search for cabbages, taro, kale and some herbs too. Drop into the Huakaiwaka Visitor Centre to collect a worksheet for this free, self-guided trail around the gardens during the school holidays. aucklandbotanicgardens.co.nz.



Dinosaurs and meteors will be the buzz words at the Stardome Observatory and Planetarium at the One Tree Hill Domain. There will also be the chance to touch a meteor from space, create crafts, do activities on the dinosaur theme and see the show Dinosaurs at Dusk. Children $10, adults $8 for sessions weekdays 10am and 1pm. Bookings essential stardome.org.nz.

Glow run

Auckland's Wynyard Quarter is buzzing with active and creative things for families to do in the fresh air. Check out wynyard-quarter.co.nz for workshops and events. Youngsters can make tasty treats for birds on July 27 (11am-2pm). Keep watch for more information coming up on the 5km Puma Night Run - with a glow theme, spot prizes and a celebrity MC - which will be held at 6.30pm on August 14. Check in from 5.30 pm at the corner of Jellicoe and Beaumont Streets.

Go for snow

It's all "white" at Mt Ruapehu throughout winter and a great time for families to get away to the snow. Visit mtruapehu.com for what is happening on the mountain, prices and info about planning your trip. A beginner package to learn to ski or snowboard includes lift passes for a day, a lesson and rental equipment (adult $112, youth $80).

Build a boat or hop on a bike

Take to the water at Auckland Council's leisure centres.

Auckland pools and leisure centres are hosting school holiday programmes Auckland-wide, including sessions for 5-8-year-olds and other sessions for 9-13-year-olds. Check out aucklandleisure.co.nz for a centre near you and to see what's on, including games, sports, arts, cooking, crafts and fun trips. Birkenhead Pool and Leisure Centre has a "build a boat" day for older kids where they can use ropes, bamboo and inner tubes to build a raft then test it out in the pool. July 15 is "Wheelie Crazy Tuesday" in which children can bring a bike, rollerblades or scooters and explore the skate park and off-road trails. Costs range from $22-$45 for the day activities.

For other school holiday ideas, check out eventfinder.co.nz or enter your region for more information.