Summer camps are a great way to keep kids busy – and parents happy
Day camps offer nearly any activity you can think of – and they're affordable, says Aideen Sheehan
Summer's here and all over Ireland families are looking for ways to amuse their children and ensure they're looked after during the school holidays.
There are now thousands of day camps around the country, offering activities from soccer and camogie to web design and dance.
They're an essential part of the childminding equation for working families – but even where a parent is at home, thousands will sign their youngsters up for summer camps to help them develop new skills and stop boredom setting in.
In general, prices for week-long camps range from €50 to €150 – but there is huge variation in price and duration. Sibling discounts apply at most, typically of around €10-€20 per child, and some offer further reductions if more than one week is booked at a time.
While most camps run for part of a day, for example from 10am to 2.30pm, some offer early drop-offs and late collections, typically at a cost of around €5 per hour.
Despite the economic squeeze there is still huge demand for camps, and there is also a growing number of technology-based camps such as those involving filmmaking or iPad skills, said AnneMarie Wade, director of family website www.schooldays.ie.
"We've even noticed some places offering afternoon camps for teenagers – the Jamie Stafford tennis camps, for example. Which is clever, because teenagers often don't want to get up too early in the day! So this keeps everyone happy," she said.
We looked at some popular camp options. There are hundreds more listed on www.schooldays.ie, along with tips on how to choose one that will suit your child.
Dance, song and drama for children aged 4-12 at dozens of locations nationwide. 9.30am-2.30pm. €90.
eFlow FAI Soccer School camps
Nationwide one-week camps for children aged 6-14. 10.30am-3pm. €65. Goalkeeping camps, €50. www.summersoccerschools.ie
Kelloggs GAA Cúl Camps
One-week GAA camps for children aged 6-13. 10am-2.30pm. €55.
IRFU Rugby camps
Week-long camps for children aged 6-12. 9.30am-1.30pm. Munster, €85. Leinster, €89. Connaught, €65 (runs till 2pm). Ulster, stg£50 (€60). www.irishrugby.ie/camps
Let's Go Summer Camps
Nationwide multi-activity camps for children aged 5-6 and 7-13. iPad camps include sports and iPad skills. 9.30am-3.30pm. €90, iPad camps, €120. www.letsgo.ie
Various locations in Dublin, Meath and Kildare. For kids aged 5-7 and 8-12. 10am-2pm. €109. Early drop-off/late pick-up, €5/hour. www.artzone.ie/camps/summer
Technology-based camps offering activities such as web design and video game programming for children aged 8-15 in Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Galway, Maynooth and Tralee. 9.30am-1.30pm or 3.30pm. €80 half-day, €149 full day. www.whizzkids.ie
Tennis coaching in Dublin for children aged 6-17. One hour a day at various locations. €40 for a month.
Cork Parks Tennis
9.30-12.30pm or 1.30-3pm. €40 for four days, €50 for five days.
'My boys see camps as a real treat'
Planning childcare for the school holidays is "like running a small country", says Georgie McCormack.
She has three children – Tom (7) Charlie (5) and Neasa (2) – and works three days a week, so summer camps for the two boys are vital to help keep everyone happy and safely occupied.
While the family has an au pair, it would be too demanding for her to look after three children full-time during school holidays.
The boys will be doing camps for three weeks of the holidays – with the Columbus Camp in Dublin 2 a favoured option as it allows them choose from a range of activities including Lego, sports and cooking.
Georgie said that as a working mum, it was important to find a camp that had early drop-off – though you pay extra for this – as many had late starting times that were difficult to fit in with work.
Another key requirement was finding one that would take both boys as some only started from age six up.
Georgie said the costs of doing camps over several weeks were significant, adding up to around €700 for two children, but they were reasonable when you compared them to creche costs. "It's difficult to see how you would do it for much less and provide a quality service," she said.
"The boys love the camps because they only do them for part of the holidays, so they see them as a treat and they get to choose activities they like," she said.
Georgie added that she would like to see more flexibility for parents who want to put children into camps for a just a few days, but many didn't give that option, so parents had to pay for the full week.