Arlene Harris discovers why school holiday camps are great for developing a child’s mental and social skills and more importantly for having fun.
What’s so good about school holiday camps?
It only seems like yesterday that we were taking down the Christmas decorations and here we are wondering how to keep the children entertained during the long summer holidays. Living in Ireland, we all know that we are not guaranteed eight weeks of lazy, hazy days in the garden or family picnics on the beach.
So with that in mind, it is always useful to have some sort of a back-up plan. With three young children, Aishling Conway was a novice last summer when it came to keeping her twins and their younger brother amused for the long school break. But just as she was about to lose her sanity completely, she heard about an afternoon camp, which was taking place in her local school. Having first thought her five-year-old girls would be too young to attend, she quickly realised that not only would there be lots of other children the same age there, but they all had fun, made new friends and most importantly, slept soundly each night of the camp.
“My son, Liam, is still very small and last summer was beginning to walk so was always up to mischief,” says the Dublin woman. “This was fine while the girls were at school and I could keep my eye on him, but when they were off for the summer holidays, they needed constant attention as they bicker a lot, so I was stressed out from trying to watch all of them. “My sister-in-law told me she was sending her son to an activity camp in the school and encouraged me to do the same. At first I said no, as I thought they wouldn’t be able for it. But they overheard me talking and said they really wanted to go – so I thought, ‘why not’?”
All round advantages
The few hours away from home was beneficial all around, as Aishling was able to spend time with her baby and get jobs done while the girls were at camp, and they, much to their mother’s surprise, had a whale of a time. “I’m so glad I found out about the camp last year – the girls had great fun and came home in much better form than if they had been around the house all day,” she says. “And even though it was just three hours each day, it did make my life easier all around.”
“I have already booked them in for the same camp this summer and I am planning on putting them into a swimming camp in August also – for peace of mind and peace in general, I have definitely become a fan of summer camps.”
Child psychologist, David Carey says for the most part, summer camps can only be very beneficial for children of all ages as the long holidays loom. “Summer camps are often the only opportunity a child has to learn through play,” he says. “Play is the work of childhood and it is through play we learn about social and emotional intelligence. Through play and sport we learn to tolerate frustration, postpone impulses, follow rules and engage cooperatively with other children.”
But the expert says that some children may be too shy to attend summer camps and parents should be aware of this before deciding whether to book them onto a course or not – and to talk to the child beforehand so they feel secure about what may be their first foray into the unknown.
Encourage, don’t force
“There is no harm in sending a child to a summer camp unless the child is especially sensitive or reclusive,” he says. “Those children can be stressed and uncomfortable in the intense social interactions of summer camps. So it all depends on the temperament of the child and their willingness and interest in attending something like that. “The best solution to this problem is to encourage the child to attend but let them know there is a safety net in place should they not enjoy the experience. Encourage them to attend for three days and if they still don’t want to go back you can remove them.
Children need to be encouraged not forced. “Ultimately, I would tell parents that the best way to know if your child is ready for camp is to follow their lead. The overly shy child may benefit but on the other hand may also be too stressed. It may be useful to make contact with the camp director and tell them about your child, so they can organise a smooth entry into the life of the camp. Forcing a child to attend against their will can be distressing for all concerned – so be gentle and communicate.”
Fun and friendship
Eileen Sheehy of Let’s Go Summer Schools says the emphasis of these camps is on children having fun and making new friends. “At Let’s Go! Summer Camp we offer children a week of action, fun and adventure in a safe, secure and healthy environment,” she says. “It’s a great place for children to have fun and meet new friends. “We encourage them to try new activities, which allow them to expand their interest in a wide variety of games, sometimes leading to a new hobby.”
“Our qualified teachers ensure all classes are taught to the highest standards and that all children are included and encouraged to reach their full potential. Ultimately, fun is the name of the game at a Lets’ Go! Summer camp and therefore every child who comes to camp brings home a smile.” Throughout the summer, there will be countless camps across the country – here are a few ideas below for nationwide courses
Soccer is always big on the agenda for some children and FAI soccer schools offer coaching, matches and expert advice. Suitable for boys and girls aged between six and 14 years, each camp runs for five days from 10.30am to 3pm. For more information visit www.summersoccerschools.ie or call 1890 653 653.
Anyone for tennis
Every summer the world goes crazy for tennis and while few of us have access to courts on a regular basis, our children can learn the basics with Parks Tennis Camps which are located all over the country. The camps are suitable for children from five to 17 and times vary according to clubs so to find out about the venue nearest to you visit www.parkstennis.com
An Irish childhood wouldn’t be complete without GAA activities and for those children who want extra time on the pitch, Cúl Camps offer week long sessions all over the country with a mixture of games and activities. Suitable for boys and girls between the ages of six and 13. For more information visit www.gaa.ie
Let’s go activity camps
For children with a lot of energy, the Let’s Go camps are the ideal way to let off steam. Separated into age groups, there are two programmes – one for five to six year olds and the other for seven to 13 year olds. With various venues all around the country, it is advisable to check out the website www.letsgo.ie or call 021 4877111 to find out about the camp nearest to you.
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