Summer childcare: children's activity holidays

Child learning to canoe
Summer camps not only offer brilliant and unusual activities for the kids to enjoy, they can provide a break (or much-needed childcare!) for you as well. We take a look at the different camp options.

Day camps

These offer week-day courses for children and teenagers living locally and provision usually starts from as young as four.

Sports and activity courses usually run for two or three hours per day, over anything from a single day to four or five consecutive days. Sports courses are usually led by qualified instructors or coaches and national governing body awards may be achieved, subject to the length of course.

Multi-activity programmes

These involve a combination of activities with four to six different activity sessions per day being typical. Usually each activity session lasts between an hour to one and a half hours.

The good thing about these programmes is that they usually focus on taster or introductory sessions in a range of activities, such as sports, adventure, creative and performing arts activities, giving children a chance to find something they may wish to follow in greater depth.

Residential camps

Residential camps are independent activity holidays for children usually aged from seven years and above. They can last for seven or 14 days and take place in a secure residential environment, such as a boarding school or an activity centre, where children are supervised around the clock.

There will normally be a group leader to take care of children's pastoral and welfare needs while instructors provide a programme of courses and activities during the day. Evening entertainment is geared to help children ‘wind down' for a good night's rest.

Our guide to summer camps offers a list of nationwide UK summer camp providers, as well as a checklist to read before you book.