How early is too early to start planning a major holiday event?

Some people start their Christmas shopping during the summer months while others wait till the last minute and rely on overnight delivery to get the gifts home on time.

Likewise, some people plan their annual holiday excursions while snow and cold still linger and others find that summer holiday travel with no reservations is an adventure in itself.

If you’ve ever flown standby – the airlines’ way of filling empty seats just minutes before takeoff, you know what an iffy proposition that can be.

Whichever side of the coin you are – or whether you sit squarely in the middle, one holiday aspect enjoys a near-universal response: what will we do with the kids?

Where family frolicking and good times are concerned, no doubt everyone would like the kids along but, where school holidays are concerned, the question takes on another meaning.

By definition, our role as caregivers means that we must provide care. How can we do that if our work schedules do not coincide with our children’s school holiday schedules?

Summer camps – day camps and residence camps, where kids may stay for a week or two have emerged as an obvious solution.

Your Superprof has investigated all types of Easter and Summer holiday camps all across the UK, from adventure camps to sports camps and theatre arts camps to science camps.

Now is the time to present our findings…

Summer Camps for Kids

In the halcyon days of summer, children could look forward to long stretches of time spent outdoors, playing with their mates. Those activities were unstructured, unsupervised and unrestrained.

Sure, there were children who had to help around the farm or in the family shop but, for the most part, kids were left to their own devices for the better part of the day.

As long as they didn’t break anything and returned home in time for tea, life was good.

Gone are the days when children could run about unsupervised
Kids have always liked to explore their adventurist streak, whether by dashing through the great outdoors or by reading a good book Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Sometimes, children were treated to extracurricular lessons: on horseback or in swimming pools, in front of pianos or cradling violins.

And, of course, church-going families could rely on the parish to plan activities for kids over school summer holidays.

All of these have one thing in common: they were individual enterprises, not organised efforts to cater to a specific segment of the population.

It is rather remarkable that camping started out as a British pastime.

Over time and through circumstance, mad-for-adventure Britons were forced to abandon their adventurous ways in favour of day-to-day survival while Americans, enamoured of Wild West legends, wholeheartedly embraced the activity.

Today, the American Camp Association is a thriving organisation dedicated to promoting camping, especially kids summer camps.

There is no similar organisation in the UK, which makes it a bit harder to find summer day camps or extended care camps; prospective campers have to rely on their own resources to search out summer programs.

Fortunately, camp programs are getting a lot of attention these days, in part because they also function as a day camp and/or after-school care while kids are in school.

Many of the camps we listed in our in-depth article about camp for children have partnered with local schools to provide school after care programs filled with fun activities and even field trips.

Should you register your child for one of them, you will be well-acquainted with the group by the time you send them to summer camp.

Your residential camper might not sleep in a dorm quite this rustic
Residence campers usually sleep in dormitories - some more rustic than others Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay

The Case for Residential Summer Camps

Summer day camps are an idea whose time has come in the UK.

Study after study has shown that children need structure in their lives; even teens show reduced stress when their day is laid out for them and there is a responsible adult nearby.

Of course, nobody is criticising anyone parenting skills; after all, we are in the same boat: we have to leave our kids behind when we go to work. Who we leave them with and what they’re permitted to do in our absence is our responsibility.

That is why residential summer camps make so much sense.

These are professional organisations, perhaps OFSTED-approved, with camp counselors trained to create a safe environment for our children, where fun and learning go hand in hand.

If you dread another school Easter holiday your kids will spend playing games and eating crisps and sweets, you might want to see what a weeklong residence camp has to offer.

Outward Bound is just such an entity.

Their forte is residence camps during the summer but they also offer a three-day residential in the wild that will whet your child’s appetite for outdoor adventure and teach them outdoor skills such as how to recognise edible plants and light a campfire.

A lot of time, camps such as these enforce physical resilience, endurance and stamina – not because your child will be under duress but just by the sheer nature of the course.

They involve a lot of hiking, sometimes over rough terrain and often while carrying a backpack.

Of course, nobody would force your child to march or be left behind but they will do wonders for your child’s desire to get and stay fit.

Speaking of staying fit…

Youth fitness has been a matter of great concern for the past few years. By all accounts, our children are getting heavier, moving less and eating more. This is an alarming global trend that desperately needs to be reversed.

If such concerns are uppermost on your mind for your child, you might consider weeklong or two-week fitness or sports camp stay.

Uppingham Summer School has multiple summer residence programmes available to campers of all stripes, from arts and crafts to music and drama. Their most popular camp, however, is sports.

From archery to tennis, always age-appropriate, Uppingham makes sure your young athletes get the guidance they need in sports and among other campers.

A note of caution: if your child is mad for the whole camp experience – sleeping in a tent and sitting around the campfire, s/he will unfortunately not find it here. Campers are housed in the school’s dormitories.

Still considering the rave reviews this residence camp has garnered, it would be well worth checking out!

A Word on Camps for Children with Disabilities

Not every child is keen to join the hordes of boys and girls gleefully boarding camping buses. In fact, for other-abled children, camp activities and making new friends could be downright traumatic.

Admittedly, camps for special needs children number far more across the pond; nevertheless, the UK also has camps for kids on the autism spectrum as well as other non-verbal learning disabilities.

In these camps, the camper-to-counselor ratio is much smaller; in some cases, every camper has their own guide.

Activities include water sports – albeit not quite as intense as in other camping ventures, hiking and outdoor games. One camp even features a carnival-like atmosphere complete with bounce house and rides.

If you feel that your child would benefit from such an environment, you might ask their teacher for a suitable camp to register with; you may also check online for what’s available.

Kids love ziplining, a fast-paced activity
Safety is your camp counselor's primary concern, from ziplining to hiking Image by sebastian del val from Pixabay

Finding a Summer Camp Near Me

We are quite fortunate that today, we’re spoilt for choice over what to do with our kids during their summer holiday; so spoilt are we that we could even register for family camp to challenge our outdoor skills together.

A lot of what kids find so compelling about camping is the breadth of activities open to them that they otherwise might not experience.

They may learn environmental skills or video game design. Tech camps promoted coding and robotics while arts camps provide development in everything from fashion design to theatrical set design.

You might prefer for your child to have an international experience at Ardmay House, about an hour outside of Glasgow, in the Loch Lomond National Park. So popular is their Ardmay Adventure camping package that many campers express the desire to return again and again.

The four major summer camp categories are very well represented throughout our country. They are:

  • Outdoor adventure: sleeping in tents and enjoying water activities and hiking
  • Wilderness adventure: completely off the grid, campers learn to survive in the wilderness
  • STEM: science, technology, engineering and maths – activities include everything from building with Legos to learning about the natural world
  • Sports: everything from team sports such as netball and cricket (there are even football camps!) to gymnastics camps.

You can even find theatre camps, music camps and camps aimed at promoting ecological and environmental awareness.

How can one find these camps besides reading Superprof’s article on how to find camps near me?

You might ask your children’s teachers and talk with other mothers. You may find a camp’s listing on social media or finding them through an internet search.

You may actually live within close proximity to a camp. Haven’t you been wondering what it’s all about?

There’s no time like the present…

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A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.