It’s very nearly time for the schools to close again for the long summer holidays and many of you may already be pondering how best to keep the peace at home until September wears round.
One increasingly popular option is summer schemes. A growing rang
The American model, where youngsters can opt to attend residential summer camps, hasn’t developed to quite the same extent on this side of the Atlantic, but you might not be aware that there is a still a good variety of well organised summer schemes available at venues across Northern Ireland.
Despite any parent’s best efforts, it’s inevitable that most normal youngsters will suffer bouts of boredom during the long summer holidays. Summer schemes are an increasingly popular method of addressing this while providing children with the opportunity to try new activities, learn new skills, make new friends and, importantly, learn to be more independent.
The list of available summer schemes across Northern Ireland is growing all the time and the advertising on these pages gives you some idea of the kind of activities that children can get involved in. Unlike the US model, however, most of these schemes don’t have a residential element.
Assuming that your child isn’t averse to the idea, then it’ll be up to both of you to decide which scheme best suits. Geography will be an important consideration – most of these schemes run for a set period in the summer and you don’t want to be ferrying your off-spring over long distances each day. Pick something that’s within easy reach of home.
•Consider your child’s special
interests perhaps they enjoy
drama, music nature study or a
•Is your child happy to attend events their own, or would it be better if afriend went along?
•Does your child have special needs or health problems which might need to be taken into consideration?
You know your child better than anyone else and you’ll be able to say whether or not he’s ready for an experience such as this. His age, personality and experience to date will be important considerations.
You’ll also want to evaluate the schemes themselves. Is it professionally run? Will it be a safe environment for your child?
Here are some fundamental questions which you should be asking about any schemes you might be considering:
What is the ratio of staff to children?
Are the instructors qualified?
This is particularly important for sports schemes.
•Will anyone with first aid training be available?
•Is there supervision at all times, including on meal breaks?
•What does a typical daily schedule
•If it’s an outdoor scheme, what happens if the weather is bad?
•Are the children supervised until they are collected – even if the parent is late?
•Will the children be leaving the site and if so, will seatbelts be available? Who will be driving?
Better safe than sorry
If the scheme takes place in hot weather, ensure that your child has a drink, a sun hat and sun protection cream.
If rain is forecast, ensure that your child has the right clothing and perhaps, a change of clothing too.
Make sure your child has the right footwear, particularly if the scheme involves sports.
If your child is taking a packed lunch, then make sure that it’s enough to see him through – a sandwich, some fruit and a bottle of juice or water should be sufficient, but don’t include chocolate as this will melt in the heat.
If your child is on medication and needs to take it during the scheme, then make sure that the organisers are aware of the condition and have a note telling them how to use the medication.
Where to from here..?
When it comes to choosing a summer camp for your kids, you’ll realise that there’s already a huge variety of themes and activities from which to select. Damien O’Neill has been taking a closer look at some of the province’s most popular schemes…
A voyage of discovery
Amy and Mike Arlow from Helen’s Bay launched the Discovery Company after they returned from the United States. They’ve spent much of their careers working within the education sector and they believe that learning is a never-ending process of exploration and discovery.
Their summer camp covers a variety of topics and is filled with hands-on activities which are guaranteed to interest the most curious of minds. The projects on offer are a unique blend of arts, culture, the natural world and science.
“Coming from America where camps are a part of every day life, we felt it was important to stress that they aren’t necessarily all about sport”, Amy told ni4kids. “There are children out there who don’t wish to spend the whole day playing sports but do want to have the opportunity to expand their horizons – embracing education but having fun at the same time.
Amy adds: “What’s most satisfying is that the children go away with a new perspective on what they can achieve by themselves. There’s a new found confidence within the children, they want to go out and explore and do new things that they wouldn’t normally do using their new-found skills of creativity, exploration and invention.
Summer Sports Weeks
Paul Acheson, who runs the Paul Acheson Summer Sport Weeks, has a background in education and broadcasting. He presented the innovative children’s show, The Wheeker Electric Radio Programme (WERP) for eight years on Downtown Radio in the 1980’s, and has worked extensively for the sports departments of the BBC and UTV. .
“What the children like most about our camps is the ability to make new friends, particularly when getting involved in new and exciting activities with children of their own age”, explains Paul. “They enjoy the fresh air and the exercise that comes with it and they enjoy the variety of the different activities, whether that’s arts and crafts with a sporting twist or some other sporting activity such as climbing or even playing laser quest.”
He also says that he can see how the children change as they work their way through the camp programme:
“The children develop as individuals in so many ways. Their independence grows as they spend time away from home and their parents, and their self-confidence soars as they discover what they can achieve for themselves”, says Paul. “They acquire self-esteem as they receive recognition and encouragement from their new friends and staff, and they learn the valuable skills of teamwork, sharing, and the positive side of competition. Above all, they have enormous fun and go home tired but happy.”
Fun in the sun
Kilmakee Activity Centre opened its doors in the summer of 1981 and has been established as an important centre for meeting the recreational needs of those who live in the Dunmurry and Lisburn areas. And every year, the centre puts on a summer scheme for the children so they have something interesting to do during the long school holidays
John Thompson from the Activity Centre explains;
“The scheme runs for three weeks during July and August. The summer scheme leaders are also teachers who come in and help the children with a variety of activities from arts and crafts to playing fun games such as uni-hoc, table tennis and badminton. The activities on offer are designed to get the children out in the fresh air while keeping them away from their televisions and computer games machines.”
And not all the events at Kilmakee take place in the centre – children are often taken to visit new places:
“Not all activities take place within the grounds of the centre, we also take the children on different trips to places such as the Armagh Planetarium or even the Tayto Factory in County Armagh, which helps to promote the importance of education and allows the children to have fun at the same time.
“When the scheme ends the children go away happy, with a new-found confidence and with the feeling they have completed something worth while.”
On the ball this summer
Keith Thompson, sports development officer at the University of Ulster told ni4kids what children can expect from this year’s Samba Soccer Camps.
“Here at The University of Ulster we decided to launch the Samba Soccer Camps for boys and girls aged between five and 16 years to give them the opportunity to learn new soccer skills and give kids the chance to play like their Brazilian soccer heroes”, explains Keith” “We’ll be teaching kids soccer the samba way by introducing them to things such as samba ball control, creative play and much more over a fun-packed five days.”
And Keith adds: “The Samba Soccer Camps are a creative way for children to spend their summer as the camps create a warm and welcoming atmosphere along with promoting friendship, team work and fair play in a physically active environment.
“There will also be a special Samba Soccer guest coach from Brazil who will be on hand to improve and refine the skills being taught. The camps are ideal for all levels of ability and are specifically designed to develop children’s skills based around fun games and non-competitive activities.”
Outdoors in Ards
Lisa Erskine who works for Leisure Ards, encompassing the leisure centres at Ards and Comber as well as the Portaferry Sports Centre, talks about the forthcoming summer schemes in her area.
“At the different centres, we provide a wide variety of activities for children of different age groups to enjoy during the summer holidays. We try to use the centres’ facilities to their full potential whether it’s using the swimming pool at the Ards Centre for crash course swimming lessons or having the older children take part in trampoline lessons at the Portaferry Sports Centre which are always very popular.”
And Lisa adds: “The schemes are very busy each year and the children enjoy the activities that are provided. It keeps them organised and gives them something to do which,more importantly, avoids boredom while developing key skills which will help them when they grow up.'