Choosing fun: summer camps for your kids
This year's offerings range from sporty to scientific, but should you cater to your child's interests or challenge them
Those long summer school holidays are nearly upon us, and the prospect of trying to keep restless children entertained may be a daunting one. Thankfully, there has never been such a diverse range of summer camps on offer, and this year there's something for everyone, from cookery to coding. But should you immediately jump at a programme that meets their existing interests, or broaden their horizons with something a little different?
When it comes to choosing the right summer camp for your child this year, try to mix up a little of what they know and like, with what they haven't yet experienced, but could love.
Just like their parents, our kids are all wired differently. Some are naturally more sporty, others more artistic. Some orientate instinctively towards the performing arts, while others might be more science or construction-centred, or even computer and technology driven.
It can be tempting to enrol children week after week into the activities they know and love. But what of their wider personal, social, emotional, intellectual and physical development?
The key is starting the summer with camps that you feel your kid will definitely enjoy. Then, as their confidence to experiment increases week by week, graduate them into those areas that are, shall we say, blind spots in their young lives to date. If possible, try do so in cahoots with the parents of some of his or her closest pals: they are far happier to explore areas in which they lack skills or confidence if they've got a mate (or even a brother or sister) in tow.
But the major hurdle, of course, is understanding the difference between how a five-year-old, a prepubescent and an adolescent will respond to such "suggestive" summer indulgences.
If starting from scratch, a good first port of call is the School Days website (schooldays.ie/articles/kids-camps) and navigate from there. And expect to pay anywhere between €60 and €150 per week, for anything from 4-9 hours a day.
Like most things in life, it's how you see it: the logistics of researching, booking, preparing and getting your darlings to and from summer camps can be a pain in the proverbials, but it can also be a rare, wonderful and often affordable opportunity to introduce them to stimulating and life-enhancing experiences that they might never otherwise have.
Ranging from soccer, GAA and tennis, to golf, athletics and water sports, these are usually, but not always, single activity sports camps led by qualified instructors, coaches or associations.
Parks Tennis (parkstennis.com) is one of Ireland's most popular tennis programmes, and welcomes all children, irrespective of previous tennis experience or what tennis gear they may have. The camps keep a focus on enjoyment and participation at 150 locations across Ireland. Most of the camps cater for the 5-17 age range. All venues vary in terms of cost and time of camps, but it is possible in places to receive up to 20 hours coaching a week (as part of a group, of course) for as little as €45. And even better, kids just need to bring runners and sports clothing, as rackets and balls are provided at all locations.
The Astropark Camps (astroparkkids.ie), in both Tallaght and Coolock, are for the all-round (junior) football lover in your life. Running from 10am to 3pm daily, they're suitable for kids aged 4-13. There's a morning focus on football, between coaching and structured games, before an afternoon of inflatable games, bouncy dodgeball, goggle football, fun races and the like. Win-win.
Performing Arts Camps
Starcamp (starcamp.ie) summer camps currently run in almost 160 towns nationwide, usually each weekday of summer between 9.30am and 2.30pm for boys and girls aged 4-12. Starcamp activities include superhero masterclasses, dancing, drama/acting for camera, confidence building, arts and crafts, hip hop, music and singing and kids news and weather.
The Independent Theatre Workshop (itwstudios.ie) runs three types of age-restricted summer camps across Dublin. Based in Ranelagh and Drumcondra from 9am-1pm, its Creative Kids summer camp for 3-7 year olds covers dancing, drama, art, singing, puppetry, face-painting, and more.
Based in Clonskeagh and Drumcondra, Camp Broadway (itwstudios.ie) caters for 7-16 year olds, Monday to Friday 10am-4pm, with a focus on songs, dances and scenes from a different musical each day. Lastly, for 12-18 years olds (again 10am-4pm in Clonskeagh), the ITW Dance Studio Summer Dance Intensive is a week-long dance technique, and choreography training.
Creative Arts Camps
Creative arts camps focus mainly on art, animation, creative writing, fashion design and photography, from the most elementary to the most applied.
With 10 locations around Dublin, and a further seven across Leinster, Artzone Summer Camps (artzone.ie) is run by qualified art teachers throughout the summer, working to a structured visual arts curriculum that caters for five to 12-year olds, generally from 10am to 2pm each day.
The Craft Corner summer camps (thecraftcorner.ie) take place in Celbridge, Straffan, Dunboyne and Sallins, running from 10am to 2pm daily, for ages five-11. With a motto of making art accessible to everyone, camp activities include stencil printing, tea staining, salad spinning, splatter art, clay making, making art paper, painting and drawing with glue.
While more craft than art, Healthy Ever After (healthyeverafter.ie) offers healthy cooking camps for seven to 13 years olds throughout July and August, from 9am to 12pm, on the Old Dublin Road in Galway City. Closer to the capital, Kids Cook (kidscook.ie) cookery school in Clonee, offer cooking lessons for five-13 year olds.
Science and Maths Camps
For the little Einstein in your life, the Anyone 4 Science (anyone4science.com) summer camps this year might just be the answer. With 24 venues from Cork to Dundalk, and running each weekday from 10am-2pm, the camps this summer are about states of matter, viscosity, solar energy, light and sound, forensics and rocket science. The children will become forensic scientists for a day and investigate a whodunnit crime using CSI experimental materials.
For the maths-savvy teenager, the Connemara Maths Academy (connemaramathsacademy.com) may be a good bet, although not a cheap one: upwards of €800 for one week, albeit include full-board and all expenses covered. With camps on throughout the summer in Killary, Delphi and Glenstal Abbey (Yes! Co Limerick is hardly Connemara), participating teens will engage in aviation adventure, creative technology and adventure sports, all while enhancing their knowledge of maths.
Computer and Technology Camps
Whizzkids Summer Camps (whizzkids.ie) are high-tech camps that cover a range of IT subjects, including web design, app development, game making, 3D design, graphic design and animation. They’re held through the summer in UCD, DCU, Cork IT, University of Limerick and NUI Galway, and cater for children of all abilities. Better still, the camps mix indoor and outdoor action, while offering a choice of half-day, full day and residential camps for eight-17 year olds.
Techkids (techkidz.ie) run multi-activity technology camps for seven-14 year olds in Tipperary, Kerry, Waterford, Limerick and Cork. Camp activities include Minecraft, Coding, Scratch, Word, Robotics, Windows, Raspberry Pi, Internet, HTML, Animation, Game Development, 3D Design, Web Design, T Shirt Design and more. Children will also discover how to stay safe online and develop social and personal skills.