Every year around this time, give or take a few months, parents around the world turn their thoughts to their children’s Easter and summer holidays. How to keep the kids entertained? How to make sure they will be safe and supervised while you are at work?
How to restrict their time with electronic gadgets, keep them active and engaged and make sure they eat well – not just crisps and chips and chocolate?
Concerned parents in the UK are no different.
Like parents the world over, we want our kids to have the best experiences, the kind that shapes our progeny into self-assured, confident individuals who will eventually find their place in the world.
We also want them to stay safe while we’re bringing home the bacon that will afford them those enriching experiences.
In one way, we’ve been luckier than most: our culture still embraces the boarding school. With our children safely tucked into residence halls that provide extended care, our worries over them during the school year are, to a large part, allayed.
Equally fortunately, some of those schools also run summer residence programmes.
For students enrolled in those, the curriculum is less academic and more focused on skills-building and discovery, although some academic subjects may for the theme of the ‘camp’.
Math camps, science camps and even arts training are popular choices of such camps for kids. You might even choose a tech camp so your kids can learn how to code, develop computer games and/or build robots!
With time being of the essence – early registration guarantees your child a place at camp (and may afford you a discounted fee), we waste no time in cruising all over the UK to find the best summer residence camps and see what they have to offer.
Strictly Outdoors Camps
Admittedly, residence-camping is much more popular across the pond than it is here and, there, the emphasis has traditionally been on outdoorsy, adventure activities with a hefty dose of socialising thrown in.
Although sleeping in dorms is not much of a discomfort for our students, especially those who live in residential halls at school, sleeping rough - outside, on the ground or in a tent is not necessarily our definition of fun.
And, unlike just about everything else American that we Brits have taken a shine to, rough camping is approached cautiously. We apparently like the idea of a week-long sojourn into adventure, so we’ve adapted their idea of camping to suit our tastes.
There are a number of residential camps to be found around the UK where tents and sleeping bags do feature, along with an inordinate amount of fun and adventure.
We’ll look at those camps, first.
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Mill on the Brue
Although sleeping in a tent is an option, at Brue, campers have the option of bunking in a cabin or even a house, albeit still in a dormitory, with others. What does all of that togetherness promise?
Mill on the Brue emphasises problem-solving through team building activities such as solving logic puzzles or building a raft.
The life skills your child will learn, not the least of which is cooperation will follow them long after they’ve left their camping years behind.
If your child cannot stay out of the water when you go on holiday to the beach, you should probably consider this residence camp. From riding a pony along the water line to learning how to boogie board, any sun, sand and sea enthusiast would feel perfectly at home here.
What we really liked about Wickedly Wonderful was their penchant for eating outdoors, unless it rains, of course. Then, campers get to eat in teepees.
That’s what we like. What impressed us the most is that most sweets are banned and so are electronics! There isn’t even any WIFI…
So uniformly great is this camping venture that we featured it in our list of top-rated kids camps.
If your child stays glued to the telly (or the computer) at the mere mention of Bear Grylls, this is the camp for him/her.
Their 3- or 5-day stint will teach them elements of survival from building a shelter to lighting a fire. Foraging for food and semi-long hikes are integral parts of this camping experience.
You needn’t worry about illness or injury: everything is done under the careful supervision of trained camp counselors in a safe environment.
All around the UK, there are camps that involve a great deal of outdoor activity but the campers sleep in dorms every night. Camp Cooper is an excellent example of such.
Located in Glasgow and making use of American camping philosophy, this facility has a dining hall, separate dorms for boys and girls and lots of structured activities – from sports and outdoor adventures to music and theatre events.
Camp Cooper also welcomes international campers, adding to their long list of attributes the possibility of your child forging friendships with campers from distant lands.
Learn and Experience
Much more in tune with British tastes is this camping venture – not to say that your kids will be short-changed on experiencing any elements of camping.
There will still be campfires and physical challenges and lots of water play but there will also be cricket and archery and indoor activities such as arts and crafts.
Wellington Riding School
Another positively British camping flavour is this residential camp offering but it comes with a caveat: your child must be able to ride – off the lead rein and nearly at a canter before becoming a participant.
This camp’s premise is unique: each camper is assigned their own horse to care for and ride; the week culminates in a competition to prove the best among all equestrians.
As you might have guessed, all of the activities in this camp involve horses.
Camping With the Arts
We are now getting as far away as possible from camping in its purest form. None of these ventures involves any outdoor activity, save for maybe walking from their dorm to the workshops and rehearsal halls.
Centre Stage Summer School
If your child aspires to The Arts, tripping the light fantastic and exercising soaring vocals, this is the only camp to have on your radar.
Unfettered by WIFI or television, all your kids will have to focus on is making their dream of performing come true.
Their efforts will be guided by seasoned professionals of stage and screen who, in spite of the seriousness of their endeavour, nevertheless sprinkle fun activities throughout the work.
Cambridge School for Visual and Performing Arts
Anything ‘Cambridge’ has cachet, including its illustrious school for The Arts.
Such renown doesn’t go to waste when school is not in session; instead, the school opens its doors for an assortment of summer camp programmes, from fashion design to film making and directing.
If your teen is angling toward a career in fashion, singing, dancing or drama, this is the camp for you.
With its full week of mentoring by professional artists, Cambridge’s drama camp is especially popular. And, besides learning the rigours of the metier, there are evening excursions and other activities to look forward to.
These offerings are truly summer camp, UK style!
Met Film Making Camp
Whereas Cambridge diversifies its camp offerings, the Met focuses on film making exclusively.
Camp activities include everything related to the making of films, from scene writing to video editing and everything in between.
If your child’s heroes are named Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, you could win their adulation forever by affording them the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those giants of the industry.
By no means is this a comprehensive list of all residence camps in the UK; we haven’t even touched on camps for app development or video game design. Nor have we said anything about sports camp.
And, admittedly, day camps are far more popular in the UK, especially those that incorporate field trips. The cost is a bit less prohibitive while still rendering the same benefits: making new friends, learning new skills and, most of all, having fun.
Camps for children are truly an idea whose time has come in the UK, and it doesn’t matter if your child is 5 or 15 years old; all of the camps we investigated feature age-appropriate activities.
Furthermore, your child will have a camp counselor who specialises in youth development.
After their stint at camp comes to an end, you will be reunited with a child brimming with self-confidence.
A child whose every summer day was filled with adventure and learning, whose weeklong – or two-week journey into discovery resulted in them keen to learn more about whatever activity they were introduced to at camp.
Their enthusiasm for camping may even lead you to consider family camp for your next holiday…
Contact information for residence camps:
|Facility name||Location||Phone number||Age group(s)|
|Mill on the Brue||Bruton||0174 981 2307||8 to 15 years|
|Wickedly Wonderful||West Wittering||0794 123 1168||6 to 13 years|
|Camp Wilderness||Hertford||0333 200 4469||7 to 15 years|
|Camp Cooper||Glasgow||0333 344 0077||7 to 17 years|
|Learn and Experience||Bedale||0175 673 0982||8 to 14 years|
|Wellington Riding School||Heckfield||0118 932 6308||7 to 16 years|
|Centre Stage Summer School||Belfast||0800 324 7046||8 to 18 years|
|Cambridge School for Visual and Performing Arts||Cambridge||0122 334 5698||15 to 18 years|
|MET Film Making Camp||Rugby||0208 832 1933||14 to 17 years|
Now, discover where all the best summer camps near you are.