What your 3 – 13 year old child can do in the holidays

What your 3 – 13 year old child can do in the holidays

You’ve done the hard bit. Your son or daughter is starting Nursery School. Let’s call her Charlotte. You’ve registered her and are pleased with your choice. You breathe a sigh of relief. And after a few weeks you become preoccupied with a second issue. What should she do during the holidays?

You approach the problem rationally. You could clear your diary and spend all your time with Charlotte. But you’d like her to spend some time with kids of her own age. You’d like her to spend time outdoors. But you’re concerned about her getting hurt in the back garden. You want her to do more than watch TV.

What should you do?

Given time, space and some like-minded friends, there’s no reason why you can’t provide the whole lot at home. However, where that isn’t viable, there is an alternative. A number of organisations run day camps (play schemes) for kids in the school holidays.

What value can these add? And what should you look for when choosing one?

Firstly, you want more than a glorified babysitting service. Activity camps should add value for every child.

There are five core areas where this value can be identified:

  1. The school timetable is becoming increasingly restricted by the National Curriculum. Activity camps can provide a chance for children to express themselves creatively. And for sessions to develop spontaneously.
  2. Children at camp get the opportunity to mix with others from different religions, genders and social backgrounds. This can preclude the development of a number of prejudices in children attending single sex or religious or private schools.
  3. Children at play schemes get the chance to make choices. Within their age group they can make decisions about whether, for example, to paint, play ball games or to listen to a story. This encouragement of independent decision-making can hugely boost a child’s enjoyment and self-esteem. The same opportunities don’t always exist at school.
  4. Camp can provide a wealth of experiences. A well-run play scheme will have energetic, imaginative staff providing an atmosphere that is simultaneously fun and stimulating. Within one day, a three year old can play indoors and outside, complete puzzles, paint, do Yoga and have a Judo session. And enjoy them with a large group of friends. Without a TV in sight!
  5. Play Schemes are not school. So ‘teachers’ become ‘leaders’, and their relationship with each child is relatively relaxed and informal. Which means that some of the traditional barriers between adults and children disappear. And the results can be hugely positive.

The best camps will offer all this. They will also underwrite it with rigorous safety procedures. Before booking you’ll want to check they are registered with OFSTED. You might want to have a look at their ‘Safety Procedures’ documentation – which should be available. You’ll want to check their ratio of staff to children which should be 1:8 or lower and what the staff recruitment is like.

You’ll find play schemes that run every school holiday and half-term. You’ll find a lot of choice and some attractive marketing leaflets. It’s worth taking time to make your mind up. Your child could attend the same camp for more years that their primary school. And if you find the right one, Charlotte could have an enriching experience that could turn her school holidays into an enjoyable and fulfilling break for you both.

Richard Bernstein is Director of XKeys Ltd t/a Cross Keys, Mini Minors and XUK. You can read more about his camps on the website www.xkeys.co.uk or call for a chat on 020 8371 9686.