Many of you will be thinking about how best to keep the kids occupied until September comes round again.
This special ni4kids feature will help you decide if a summer scheme would be right for your kids this year. It will also give you some idea of the variety of schemes currently available across the province.
Residential summer schemes are becoming increasingly popular here and there’s an endless variety of programmes to choose from at venues across Northern Ireland.
As a parent, it’s often a struggle to keep the kids occupied over the long stretch of holidays in the summer. Summer schemes are a great way to beat the boredom 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 summer schemes across Northern Ireland is growing all the time and the advertising on the following pages gives you a good idea of what your child could get involved in. One of the biggest things to consider is what the scheme has to offer with its programmes and activities. Some may emphasise one particular area such as speciality programmes, while others will have an extensive of range of things to see and do. Speciality schemes are geared towards providing an intensive course of learning for your enthusiast, whether their passion is sports, like football or rugby, or educational that has fun day trips or interesting workshops.
Rest assured that most camps are run by seasoned professionals that know how to provide an enjoyable and enriching experience for children.
It’s important to ask yourself what do you and your child want from the summer scheme experience? Regardless of his or her age, the ideal programme for you will accommodate the needs, interests, goals and expectations of both the parent and the child.
1. What do you want your child to gain from the experience – new skills, develop more self-confidence, become more independent?
2. What are the special interests that your child wants to explore?
3. Are there any physical, intellectual or social limitations that have to be considered? Allergies or behavioural needs to consider?
4. What sort of learning does your child benefit from? Do they prefer to work at their own pace or is an educational structure needed?
5. Any other concerns?
In choosing a location for your summer scheme you may want to think about the time it would take to visit if there was to be some sort of emergency at home or if a longer distance will make your child more anxious. Keep in mind that there are plenty of great programmes to choose from and if your son or daughter is having the time of their life, distance is not going to make a great deal of difference.
Bear in mind that most 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. Do pick somewhere within easy reach of home.
You are the best person to judge to know if your child is ready for a summer scheme experience. Age, personality and experience will be big factors in making your decision. You’ll also want to find out more information about the schemes themselves. Here are some questions to ask to find out more.
Questions to ask
Are the instructors qualified?
What is the ratio of staff to children?
Are there trained first aiders on site?
Is there supervision at all times?
What does a typical daily schedule look like?
If it’s an outdoor scheme, what are the plans if there is bad weather?
Are children supervised until they are collected?
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. We took a closer look at some of the most popular schemes across Northern Ireland.
Discovery Company summer camps have been running for several years now and have grown in popularity each summer, according to representative Amy Arlow.
Kids create and discover with a range of programmes and activities guaranteed to appeal to the most curious minds. Weekly themes differ and include fun, hands-on projects that combine a unique mix of arts, science, nature and history.
Camps run daily between July 19-August 13 with a range of opportunities including weekly, daily and half day options.
Camps this year include Outdoor adventures/Spy school where agents will be trained in identifying clues, creating identities and camouflage and Super Science and Kitchen Chemistry, which is described as an adventure that captures the essence of invention, investigating exciting discoveries and combining it with creative kitchen concoctions to create yummy projects.
Down District Council are planning a summer scheme bursting with activities for children aged six to 12 years. There will be workshops including crafts and cookery, as well as a variety of indoor and outdoor activities and games to suit all ages and abilities. There will also be opportunities to go swimming and some great trips are planned, both educational and exciting.
W5 has always been a popular choice for a summer scheme day out. This summer, summer schemes visiting W5 can also come and explore nature and discover where our animals and plants live in Nature Quest, W5’s brand new exhibition sponsored by NIEA and UTV.
Nature Quest invites children to discover the beauty of the natural world and discover a whole new world of wildlife on your doorstep. As part of a summer scheme visit, groups can also book into one of the specially themed 30 minute summer workshops.
With Big Bug Build, which is suitable for four to eight-year-olds, you can join W5’s team of bug experts and make your own six-legged friend. W5 provides the material so that you can create your very own creepy-crawly to take home and scare your friends!
Or there’s the Wild Tracks workshops, which is suitable for children aged eight plus. It explores the wonderful worlds of animal tracks. The team will show you examples of the footprints left by animals, and then help you make your very own animal track stamp from wood and foam.
Lisa Erskine who works for Leisure Ards, encompassing the leisure centres at Ards and Portaferry, told ni4kids about the forthcoming summer schemes in her area.
“This summer we are planning a wide variety of activities to entertain and exercise children from four years and upwards.
“At Ards we have added many new activities to the scheme. The younger children will enjoy doing arts and crafts and a mini magic session whilst the older children can take part in a wide variety of sport activities from handball and water polo to exercise classes such as circuits and spinning. We are also teaming up with Eddie Irvines in Bangor to offer a karting session.
“The popular trampolining crash course will return to Portaferry along with arts and crafts and games for younger children,” she said.
Keep your kids fit and active this summer with days of endless fun on the summer schemes at Castlereagh Leisure and their wide selection of energetic sports courses.
Children aged from three plus years can enjoy a range of fun-tastic leisure and craft activities throughout the summer.
If you are looking for that little something extra, why not enrol on one of the many sports courses and camps. Activities include swimming, canoeing, trampolining, gymnastics, dance, soccer, badminton, netball and much more. Children from the age of five are welcome to enrol.
Classes run throughout July and August across the three leisure centres – Belvoir Activity Centre, Robinson Centre and Lough Moss Leisure Centre.
Share Holiday Village near Lisnaskea in Fermanagh are running a residential summer adventure camp for kids between the ages of 10 – 18 from August 15-22. With two camps available tailored by age group there is something for every young person to avail of. Sample programmes and booking forms can be downloaded from the website www.sharevillage.org under upcoming courses and events.
Adventure Camp spaces are limited and offered on a first come first served basis. The camp runs from Sunday, August 15 – Sunday, August 22. Share is also running a number of week long (Mon-Fri) non residential summer schemes throughout the summer in a range of different arts land and water activities. The schemes run from 9.30am - 4.30pm every day and participants will receive a recognised certificate / qualification on completion of the course. Activities include sailing, canoeing and windsurfing.
The Paul Acheson Summer Sports Weeks are extremely popular and well established - this summer being their 18th year in business.
The sports weeks run at different locations – six weeks at Campbell College, Belfast and two weeks at Friends School in Lisburn and two weeks in Victoria College in Belfast.
The core programme for seven to 14-year-olds includes all sports, one of the most popular schemes, where up to 14 different sports can be experienced. For those who want to try other activities, arts and crafts and drama can be combined with a sports programme.
Schemes run for four, five and six-year-olds with separate groups for each age. Activities include an introduction into ball skills, outdoor sports, football, rounders, skipping, tennis and parachute games. Children can also learn to swim at the Campbell College and Victoria College sites.
Indoors, kids can enjoy arts and crafts, games, storytelling and nature walks with all activities aimed at a pace and at a level which suits each group.
All schemes are in the care of a qualified teacher with assistants and the privacy of all three sites means that parents are confident in the knowledge that their children are safe and being well looked after.
Also at the Campbell College site, there is the option to try a climbing wall, laserquest or the popular ‘Living in the Wild’ scheme, which teaches basic survival skills, how to set up a camp, camouflage and SOS.
The summer rock school scheme at Victoria and Campbell Colleges, requires some experience in the keyboard, guitar or drums, but is the perfect chance to develop further skills and take part in the end of week concert organised by the Ossia School of Music.
Ards Arts is hosting another year of summer schemes promising to entertain and educate seven to 11 year olds throughout the Ards Borough.
Taken by professional artists, enjoy a fun filled week of arts and crafts workshops. The workshops will be held in Donaghadee Community Centre, Ards Arts Centre, Ballygowan Community Centre and the Market House, Portaferry.
The artists cover various art forms such as painting and 3D art and children can take a new artwork home every day. This year's theme is Rubbish! Children will be given the opportunity to make a wonderful piece of art from recyclable materials and disused items.
The workshops cost £30 per child (£24 for Donaghadee scheme) for the week with family discounts available.