The top summer camps in Ireland that won't cost the bank
John Cradden looks at great summer activity programmes for kids that won't break the bank
If you haven't already started to check out summer camps for your kids, then now is the time to get your skates on. But it can be very frustrating finding a camp that manages that magical combination of being suitable for your child and not too far away, not to mention reasonably priced.
A survey last year by the Consumers' Association of Ireland found that families with two children, where both parents work, face having to spend up to €3,000 if they need to keep kids in camps for the whole school break.
Some camps are great value at around €50-€60 a week, particularly single-activity sports camps, but many other courses cost €100 to €200 per week.
On the plus side, there are a huge range of camps focusing not just on sports and activities, but technology, science, cooking, arts and drama. So if you look hard enough you can find not just something that your child is likely to enjoy, but also something they've never done before.
Single-activity sports camps are among the most popular summer camps thanks to the efforts of bodies like the FAI, GAA, Parks Tennis and Athletics Ireland, and are available nationwide.
These camps are also among the best value because they are often sponsored by companies and other bodies. The GAA Cúl Camps, sponsored by Kelloggs, cost €60 a week, with the SportsDirect.com-backed FAI Summer Soccer Schools costing €65 a week.
Parks Tennis charges €30 for one week of two-hour classes, rising to €65 for four weeks, while Athletics Ireland's camps are priced at €60 a week.
Also check out camps by Astroparks in Dublin, the Kilkenny Rugby academy, National Sports Campus in Blanchardstown, Power Soccer in Galway and the Irish National Sailing School in Dublin.
Adventure and activity
There's no shortage of adventure-focused camps, although these can be at the more expensive end of the scale. Galway-based Killary Adventures offers camps at €49 per day or €195 for five days.
Also check out camps organised by the Delphi Resort and Brigit's Garden in Connemara, the Carlingford Adventure Centre, Horizon Ireland in Westport, Blackwater Outdoor Activities in Cork, the Nore Valley Park in Kilkenny and Dunmore East Adventure Centre in Waterford. A cheaper option is the Let's Go multi-activity camps, which are aimed at five to 12-year-olds and run in practically every big town in Ireland. A four-day activity camp costs around €100 per child, with reduced rates for any siblings. Children can also choose to do an iPad camp, where eight to 12-year-olds can spend 70pc of their time on iPad stuff and the rest on sporting activities.
Science and STEM
It's a reflection of the rising interest in STEM subjects at school that there are a host of camps for children keen on science or technology.
Probably the best-known is the Learn IT Lego-themed camps available throughout the country for kids aged eight and upwards, but also check out Designer Minds, Junior Einstein, Colman Robotics, Techkidz and Anyone4Science, all of which run camps nationwide and with prices ranging from €100 to €150 for five days. Although they are slightly more expensive, Whizzkids camps are also worth a look as they are held in top class facilities at universities across the country.
Dublin-based families can check out camps by Imaginosity in Sandyford and the Columbus Club. If your child is fascinated by lost treasure, the School of Irish Archaeology is running camps in Dublin and Kerry for €125 a week, while animal lovers could check out the Dublin Zoo Summer Camps for €140 a week.
Arts, cooking and languages
Children with an artistic, linguistic or culinary bent have plenty of options too, with some camps quite reasonably priced. But if you register your interest now, you might win your child a place on the free camp provided by Fighting Words, the creative writing initiative set up by Irish author Roddy Doyle and sponsored by a range of corporations and individuals. Such is the demand for places, the organisation runs a lottery system.
Artzone, which is run by fully qualified art teachers, offers camps in a variety of Dublin locations, while families in Limerick or Clare can check out Inspireland for summer camps that cram in a host of activities from creative writing to model-building to shadow theatre.
Those with a penchant for performing arts can choose from providers like the well-known Starcamp (nationwide), which offers week-long places from €95 per child, with discounts for siblings. Camps run by the Dublin Stage School and Gaiety School of Acting start at €120, while for a similar fee, the Helix Summer Musical Camp at DCU is another option.
For the budding bilinguals, there are loads of camps as Gaeilge, such as those run by Ogras for seven to 11-year-olds nationwide for just €60 a week.
There's lots of reasonably priced options too for budding masterchefs.
The Cookery Cottage in Cork and Kater4kids in Waterford are running week-long summer camps for just €100, while the Lismullen Cookery School in Meath is doing the same for €120.
Also check out Kids Cook and the Fairyhouse Cookery School in Meath, Just Cooking in Killarney, Brennan's Cook Shop in Cork, Kalbarri Cookery in Kildare and Junior Chef in Blackrock, Co Dublin.