Keeping the kids entertained over school holidays may seem challenging, and costly too. But there’s a wealth of choice for things to do, especially in Melbourne.

Fed Square and nearby arts institutions have a variety of free events for families over the autumn break, with a focus on inclusivity, interactivity and entertainment. Best of all, some of them don’t require you to get out your wallet – just book in advance where needed. From there, you can relax and treat the whole family to an eye-opening new experience.

Here are five of the best things to do with your kids this school holidays break.

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Play Date

A fresh new project from inclusive, artist-led creative company All the Queens Men, Play Date is Tristan Meecham and Bec Reid celebrating identity and imagination for children of all ages and backgrounds against bouncy pop tracks. After trialling it for smaller audiences at Midsumma, the duo will bring its over-the-top show to Fed Square, complete with costume changes, bubble machines and a massive LED screen.

“It’s a pop concert that celebrates little ones and their chosen families,” says Meecham. “We’re calling it a ‘disco day doof’. We’ve created something that we wanted to see when we were kids.”

He plays Turtle opposite Reid’s character Sugar Rush. “Sugar Rush is a sparkling ally who’s helping Turtle get over a number of things to become their true, authentic self,” Meecham says. “They learn things from each other and it’s like seeing two best friends on stage, because Bec and I have been performing together for years.”

There are six Play Date shows across three days, plus optional workshops beforehand in The Atrium so kids can learn the show’s Auslan dance moves and even make their own costumes.

The Edge, Fed Square, April 4–6, 11am and 2pm daily (with optional workshops at 10am and 1pm), free with booking.

The Flying Canoe

Storytelling meets interactive performance in this hour-long show hosted by comedian and ABC Pacific broadcaster Bobby Macumber. Inspired by the traditional stories, singing and dancing of Kiribati – an island nation north-east of Australia and New Zealand – The Flying Canoe is fun and action-packed for kids aged five and up. And if the six-show event sparks an interest in Kiribati culture, you can head along to Ko na Mauri Melbourne at Fed Square on April 14 for an even deeper immersion into the living history and unique culture of our Pacific island neighbour.

The Edge, Fed Square, April 11–14, 11am and 1.30pm daily, free with booking.

Little Food Festival

Australia’s only food festival designed specifically for kids, Little Food focuses not just on delicious flavours but healthy and sustainable habits for the future. Stretching across two days in the Main Square of Fed Square, the festival offers activation zones based around themes of growing, moving, buying, cooking, eating and reusing food. Kids and families can roll their sleeves up to plant seedlings, dive into the world of bush food, unleash creativity in craft activities, master the art of preparing nutritious meals and more. The whole event is low-waste; everything is served on reusable plates and bowls from Green My Plate.

Main Square, Fed Square, April10–11, 10am–3pm, free.

Rififi: Jean Jullien for Kids

Dive into a colourful undersea realm as French artist Jean Jullien recasts the NGV children’s gallery as something immersive and playful for all ages. Rififi is an eye-popping installation designed for the NGV Triennial, teeming with coral reefs, octopi, crabs, jellyfish and other friendly forms of ocean life inspired by Jullien’s childhood jaunts to the beach. With its simple strokes and bright hues, the gallery looks like a sketchbook that has come bursting to life. Expect moving images, vibrant sounds and hands-on activities, but also floor pillows and seating for when a rest is needed.

NGV International, Children’s Gallery, through 15 April, 10am–5pm daily, free.

ACMI Wood & Weather Workshop

Get a hands-on sneak peek at an upcoming videogame from Melbourne developers Paper House. Still in the works, Wood & Weather is centred on a wooden city to which the player can apply sudden weather events of their choice. Visitors to ACMI are invited to build their own village out of papercraft and other materials, bringing the game to life in the real world. Even non-gamers will enjoy getting around this tactile activity. Paper House has previously brought us Paperbark – a sleepy wombat-led journey narrated by Camp Cope’s Georgia Maq – and retro-themed golf game Brendan Keogh’s Putting Challenge, so hopes are high for this next creation.

ACMI, Flinders Street foyer, April 2–12, 10am–5pm daily, free.

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