Five of the best holiday programmes

1. My Kitchen Rules

At the YMCA Auckland CBD, October 2, for 5 to 13-year-olds: $28
Bring your culinary genius and create a taste sensation. Best dish wins the grand prize.

2. Magician workshop

Youthtown Auckland central, October 7, for 5 and 6-year-olds: $5 on top of the in-house daily programme cost.

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Prepare to be amazed by an entertaining magic show. The magician will then teach you the tricks so you can perform them for friends and family later. Come dressed in your best magician costume to be in to win a prize.

3. Kidsactive survival training course

September 29, October 3 or October 8, for 7 to 12-year-olds: From $130
Get dirty and wet, learn survival skills while having loads of fun supervised by a highly-trained survival instructor.

4. Parnell Trust School Holiday Programmes

Mad Scientist Day
October 1, for 5 to 14-year-olds: $65
Be a mad scientist for the day. Put on your lab coats and goggles to watch fantastic displays and try some hands-on experiments. Make lava lamps, instant snow, exploding volcanoes and more.

5. Alliance Francais d'Auckland circus course

Campbell Free Kindergarten, September 29 to October 3, for 6 to 14-year-olds, $245
Work with performers Cirk'anard and Circability, who have completed more than 5000 circus workshops. Learn tightwire, unicycle, juggling, diabolo plates, and more.

Child-friendly cafes

1. Cafe Windsor, Windsor Park

Safe, big indoor and outdoor play areas, including a jungle gym, make this cafe a winner for parents and kids. The coffee gets great reviews, too.

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2. Cupcake Fairy, Highland Park

Sample Cupcake Fairy's cabinet cupcakes that look too good to eat and a child-friendly setting that also caters for kids' parties.

3. Devonport Stone Oven Bakery and Cafe

A wide variety of bakery goodness produced in-house, as well as solid breakfast and lunch menus. This popular cafe gets extra points for the kids' area at the back, with a good selection of toys.

4. Luscious Food Store, Te Atatu South

A large outdoor space and menu including a kids' build a sandwich plate and kids' mince pies mean Luscious Food Store is often voted Auckland's best option for those with kids in tow.

5. The Tannery Cafe, Portage Rd, New Lynn

You get a coffee, the kids get a Kohu Rd icecream - what's not to love about that? You can even watch icecream being made from a window in The Tannery through to The Creamery.

Best playgrounds

Coyle Park, Pt Chevalier

With a miniature train, slides and a flying fox, as well as room to chuck a ball around, this park is worth checking out even if it isn't warm enough to venture into the ocean.

Western Springs

Not only does Western Springs have an excellent playground, including a twin slide, it's a great place to spot some ducklings.

Tui Glen Reserve

The Tree Tops Play Space at Tui Glen Reserve is so popular it's been called a "destination playground". It includes an eagle's nest, rope bridge, flying fox and tube slides.

Barry Curtis Wetland Playground, Flat Bush

This themed playground includes sculptures of giant pukeko, metal flax stems that make sounds when they're turned and puddle pavers that fill up with water when it rains, for kids to jump in. Kids can survey the huge park from two birds' keeps. A spacenet tops it off.

Rocket Park, Mt Albert

Kids can't climb the rocket that gives this park its name any more but this playground, pictured below, gets a mention because it includes exercise equipment, so mum or dad can have a workout while the kids are on the slide or in the fairytale castle-themed area.

Honourable mention

The giant snakes and ladders game on Bramley Drive, Farm Cove. Spin the dice at the bottom and kids work their way up numbered stepping stones. If they land on a ladder, they climb up. If they hit a wiggly slide, they slide down again.

Outside Auckland

Town Basin playground, Whangarei; Kowhai Park, Wanganui; Waitangi Park, Wellington; Tauhara Park, Hamilton; Levin Adventure Park.

Movies

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Based on the comics and TV series of the same name, starring Megan Fox and Johnny Knoxville.

2. Boxtrolls

3D animated fantasy-comedy, which tells the story of an orphan named Eggs, raised by cave-dwelling trolls, who are then targeted by an evil exterminator.

3. Step Up All In

The fifth instalment of the Step Up series sees the stars of the previous films in Las Vegas fighting for a career-defining victory.

4. Planes: Fire and Rescue

Animated comedy-adventure featuring a crew of firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting a national park from wildfire.

NB: You'll have to wait until October 11 for the new One Direction concert film.

Free things

Port boat tour - September 30, October 7

Ports of Auckland offers free public boat tours to give the public a view of the port operations from the sea. The tours take an hour and go alongside the container terminals and around the commercial wharves. Bookings are essential.

Get face-to-face with farm animals - October 5

Ambury Farm Day is a free event full of farming activities at Ambury Farm Park, including pony and horse rides, sheep shearing, cow milking, butter making, wood chopping and even gumboot throwing. Starts at 10am.

Auckland libraries school holiday events

Libraries across the city have some great events during the holidays, including Invent an App, where kids can learn how to make their own Android app, Game-making jam, where they can make their own computer games and a stop-motion animation workshop. Find out more on the website www.aucklandlibraries.govt.nz

$5 And under

Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum has the second of its two open days dedicated to the most dangerous jobs on the water today, with free entry. During the holidays, for $5 kids can follow a danger trail through the museum and take part in activities to find out what it's like to work under the sea.

Auckland Museum

If you haven't been to the Auckland War Memorial Museum lately, go. Throughout the holidays, there are events such as storytime at the museum and creative crafts. Kids will love the Weird and Wonderful gallery.

Best day trips

Woodhill mountain bike park
Rent mountain bikes and try out some of the trails. It's $7 to use the park if you bring your own bike.

Sheepworld

Just past Warkworth, about 40 minutes from the centre of Auckland, is Sheepworld. Get a taste of rural New Zealand and check out the pink sheep.

Crystal Mountain, Swanson

New Zealand's largest collection of crystals and minerals is at Crystal Mountain in Swanson. But there's also a theme park that will keep the younger members of your family entertained: Journey through the exotic animal park on the Crystal Mountain Express Train, feed the animals, pan for crystals, try out the bungy tramp and ride on the Gonzales Roller Coaster.

Visit Tiritiri Matangi

Sure, you could climb Rangitoto or head to Waiheke, but why not try something a bit different? Take a 360 Discovery cruise out to this island bird sanctuary from Gulf Harbour for $52 for adults and $31 for children.

Matakana Country Park

Play on the adventure playground, try out the pony rides, feed animals and ride the miniature train. The Matakana Country Park is 40 minutes from Auckland.

If money's no object

Go whale watching

Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari will take you on a 4½ hour eco-cruise out of downtown Auckland in which you are guaranteed to see marine mammals of some kind. Adults from $160, children from $105.

Drive a V8 race car at Hampton Downs

This is one for the over-14s - drive four laps of the racecourse in a V8 racecar for $425. You'll be suited up in a race suit and boots and can take a spectator with you if you want to. Licence not required.

Auckland to Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton movie set private tour

See both attractions in one day in movie-star style, transported in a luxury vehicle. $265 to $495

If you're stuck at home

Inside

:

• Play paper-bag skits: Divide kids into groups, give each group a bag full of props and give them 15 minutes to come up with a skit using the props.

• Put on a fashion show: If the wardrobes could do with a cleanout, set up a catwalk and get your children to model their outfits. You can play fashion critic from a chair at the end and help decide whether clothes are staying or going.

• Simon Says drawing: Call out instructions as the children are drawing, such as "Simon says draw circles, draw eyes, draw red squares". When everyone is finished, get them to compare their creations.

• Set up a "laser maze" using crepe paper, that kids have to navigate their way in, around and under.

• Make Jewellery: Make your own charm bracelet by attaching a jump ring, which you can buy from a craft store, to your favourite treasures such as shells you find at the beach, foreign coins and puzzle pieces. Thread them on to a piece of elastic or thread.

• If you have some old fabric flowers you don't need, snip the stems off. Wrap a piece of ribbon around your finger, cut it to size and glue the ends together. Then glue the flower on top.

If it goes really well, you could sell some of your creations on a site such as Etsy.

Outside:

• Buy some big pavers and paint numbers on them to form a hopscotch grid.

• Set up an obstacle course.

• Start a worm farm: Get a couple of styrofoam vege boxes. Put one in a shady spot in the garden. Cut holes in the bottom of the other box and sit it on top of the first one, so the moisture can drain into the bottom box. Line the top box with a 10cm layer of shredded paper and compost. Water it. Buy some compost worms and pop them in the compost. Cover. You'll need to feed them fruit and vege scraps and coffee grounds.

Top five grab one school holiday deals

Paradice Ice Skating:

$10 for entry and skate hire

Lilliputt Minigolf: $6 for 18 holes of minigolf for one person

Auckland Hop-on Hop-off Explorer: $10 for an all-day pass.

Freddy's Ice House: $35 for a family pass

Lock n Load Paintball: Kids' junior paintball school holiday pack, from $19

www.grabone.co.nz

How to say 'i'm bored' in:

Maori

: Ahau hoha i

German: Ich bin gelangweilt

French: Je m'ennuie

Japanese: Watashi wa taikutsu shite imasu

Korean: Neomu jigyeowo

Danish: Jeg keder mig