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Image credit: Visit Canberra

An A+ for Canberra

Holidays with Kids finds that you can give your kids a holistic education simply by taking them to our nation’s capital.

Say the words “school” or “educational” to your kids and chances are they’ll bolt in the opposite direction or let out an over-the-top “booooring”.

However, on a trip to Canberra you can sneak plenty of subliminal education into their heads without them even realising it, simply because the sites and attractions here are all focused on learning... but in a super fun way. Here’s a Canberra timetable that’ll see your family on their way to a world of educational fun.

Period 1: History

History is everywhere you look in the ACT. Swing by Parliament House to teach your kids about how our country is governed and see politics in action. Explain to them the green and red colours of the Senate and House of Representatives, look at the portraits of previous Prime Ministers... and if nothing else, they’ll love a café stop and rolling down the building’s grass-hill exterior beneath the towering flagpole.

Make your next stop the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) at Old Parliament House, which has managed to make political concepts – like ‘democracy’ – tangible for young minds through its recently developed Play Up area. This space turns kids’ normal ideas of museums completely upside down. They become the curators of their own exhibition, their artworks are displayed on the walls, and the theme is switched every few months based on the UN’s Rights of the Child (‘The Right to Shelter’ will commence in late August, complete with a Great Kaleidoscope Cubby). The fun continues in the trendy Zine Lounge for teens where they can browse handmade publications or create their own, as well as in the historical dress-ups area, hands-on workshops during school holidays plus a whole bunch more.

Families will find an all-encompassing ode to the facets that have formed Australia’s land and people at the National Museum of Australia. Right now it’s running The Home Front exhibition which takes a close look at life for Australians during the First World War, and be sure to step in the Circa theatre which is a multi-screen audiovisual experience that will have all ages marvelling at the museum’s collection. When it comes to kid-specific fun, NMA packs in plenty. Holiday programmes in the Discovery Space are always interactive – and always different. In the past it has encompassed everything from carts and carousels to puppets and marionettes.

Things take a reflective turn with a trip to the Australian War Memorial where you’re immersed in stories of war heroes and life in the trenches. From its sprawling Sculpture Garden to the building itself, everything is filled with intrigue. Walls of soldiers’ names are dotted with poppies, the echoing Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier is hauntingly beautiful, and the Pool of Reflection (where the Last Post Ceremony is held each day) glistens with coins. Kids are bound to ask questions in such a place – so be prepared to answer them. You’ll watch their eyes widen as they realise the war exploits of Australia’s past. Finish off with a stop at The Discovery Zone, filled with five interactive environments showing trenches in WW1, what life was like on the home front during WW2, an Iroquois helicopter from Vietnam and more. They can clamber all over it and let off some steam.

Image credit: National Museum of Australia

Period 2: Science

Kids will have no qualms with science classes in Canberra. Did you know that 71 per cent of the planet is covered by ocean? Do you know how illusions occur? Do you know how Archimedes helped our knowledge of density? You’ll learn all this and more on a trip to Questacon. It’s not too late to be bamboozled by the touring Perception Deception exhibit which wraps up in October, and even if you miss it you’ll enjoy the wonders of water at H20, feel the force of an earthquake at Awesome Earth and free-fall down a six-metre slide at Excite@Q. Continue the fun by purchasing Q Club memberships which give you free entry to science-based exhibits across Australia plus a number of discounts.

For a lesson in biology, take a trip to the National Zoo & Aquarium. Families with kids aged 12 and up will want to take a ZooVenture Tour that lets them handfeed lions, tigers, giraffes and more. Those with younger ones don’t miss out either, with the Family Tour getting you up close and personal with the zoo’s animals in a safe and relaxed manner. Of course, it’s easy enough to come and simply spend the day wandering at leisure, too.

Best of all, you can now enjoy a night at the zoo in the most intimate way possible at Jamala Wildlife Lodge. Stay in a Giraffe Treehouse or a Jungle Bungalow and enjoy having either tigers, bears or giraffe smilling around outside your home... even while you’re sleeping. There are big glass windows to help you make the most of this incredible experience, along with zoo tours, delicious dining experiences (alongside your wild new friends) and rooms which find you enjoying the best in jungle-themed luxury.

Image credit: National Zoo & Aquarium

Period 3: English

A love of the English language often stems from a love of books, and where better to nurture this than at the National Library of Australia. Visit during school holidays to enjoy special programmes designed especially for visiting children that will open their eyes to the world of words. This June they’ve run a pop-up kids’ space, WordPlay, where kids read, write and imagine all sorts of literary fun, and families can look forward to similar joys come September. If you miss the holiday rush, never fear! You can become a library detective instead. The library’s ‘Find it!’ trail can be picked up from reception, acting as a fun guide through its artworks and reading rooms. Alternatively, check the events calendar when you’re in town and you may even catch the monthly Friends Storytime!

Image credit: National Library of Australia

Period 4: Economics

They say money makes the world go ‘round – in which case, the Royal Australian Mint is a pivotal stop on the Canberra timetable. Here you’ll get the chance to see how all the country’s coins are created, and you can even mint your own! Watch in awe as Titan, one of the world’s strongest robots, does his job; check out the historic pieces in the National Coin Collection; and take home an economical souvenir from the Mint Coin Shop before you leave. This year, the Mint is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and it’s never looked better, with a new Factory Viewing Gallery and interactive touch screens making the experience all the more fascinating.

Period 5: Art

If you’re looking to nurture kids’ appreciation of the arts then the National Gallery of Australia is for you. It has something special to offer budding Van Goghs no matter when you visit. The Children’s Gallery is always buzzing with self-led activity stations, and in the Sculpture Garden you can grab a map and look for clues to take part in the interactive adventure game, Eye See ART. The gallery also holds special kid-friendly events like the annual Sculpture Garden Sundays when families come and get hands-on with artist-run installations and workshops, picnics and music.

When it’s time to go looking for art in nature, families cannot go past Floriade which runs again in 2015 from 12 September to 11 October. Australia’s biggest spring celebration has become a staple on the Canberra calendar, packed with workshops and carnival-style fun during the day and, from 23 to 27 September, the colourfully lit-up NightFest extravaganza with music, comedy and night markets in the evenings. For the latter you do need to buy tickets in advance.

Image credit: National Gallery - Flickr image

Period 6: Hospitality

Hospitality is one industry that kids are likely to interact with in some form as they get older. One fantastic way to introduce littlies to this world is with a stay in a hotel that values service and customer enjoyment above all else.

Fortunately, Canberra has such accommodation in abundance and two of the best choices include East Hotel and Novotel Canberra. The charm of East Hotel lies in its quirks, from a magazine library in the lobby to funky in-room artwork. Kids will be particularly impressed by the copious cakes in the deli and the Kids Cubby rooms that are interconnected to their parents’ rooms, filled with all sorts of fun from bunk beds and bean bags to sugary treats and an Xbox with the latest games.

At the Novotel, families will appreciate the close proximity to major attractions like Lake Burley Griffin and Parliament House, the modern accommodation and the steady stream of special deals that make a family stay more affordable. You can also opt for a Family 3infun package, which includes entry to Questacon, Cockington Green and the Australian Institute of Sport.

Image credit: East Hotel

Image credit: Visit Canberra

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