When the bell rings to signal the start of their summer holidays, the kids will be ecstatic with joy and bursting to get outside and play. And in an age where tablets and smartphones dominate leisure time, you should encourage them to get active as much as possible, especially when the weather is good.
An activity club is a great way for your child to learn something new, and it gives them (and you) the chance to meet new people as well. They’ll learn skills they can take with them into later life, such as being a good team player, which will be an advantage in many jobs. Perhaps they’ll even make a career out of their talent, such as being a professional sportsperson or coach.
Whether they want to try a particular sport, enjoy group activities or want to meet new friends, there’s something for everyone. And now the summer’s here, the outdoors is their oyster…
Over the years, the term ‘Camp America’ has become synonymous with hundreds of young people spending their summer holidays in the US. However, camps are now in full swing in the UK, for children as young as three years old.
Camps can be specific to one particular sport, such as football, dancing, horse riding or watersports. However, there are also multi-activity holidays and camps. Both kinds can be day camps, mini-breaks or programmes lasting a week or longer.
Usually suitable for all levels of expertise, both daily camps and those of longer duration are great for allowing your children to learn or improve their skills, meet kids of their own age, and have fun away from home. For some children, it’s their first trip away on their own.
Best for: Developing children’s skills in different sports, and building their confidence away from home. Being with other children will help them make new friends and improve their social skills.
Price: Varies depending on duration and activity; day camps are around £40, while four nights and week-long camps range from £300 to £1,000.
Find out more: Visit www.kingswood.co.uk/camps and www.fitforsport.co.uk/holiday-camps/
Football and rugby
Getting your child up to speed with their ball skills and improving their fitness, strength and coordination can only be a good thing. You can enrol kids as young as two years of age – some clubs will even take on pre-schoolers as young as 18 months.
Whether it’s football or rugby, classes are usually divided into different age groups so children can learn progressive skills as they get older, eventually leading to match play and tournaments.
Best for: As well as being a great place to make friends, football and rugby also help to improve balance, enhance hand-eye coordination, increase stamina and self confidence, and give children a positive outlook on fitness. They’re also good for team-building skills.
Price: Usually between £4 and £8 per session. Some courses require payment up front and/or a membership fee.
Find out more: For football classes in your area, visit www.littlekickers.co.uk; for football clubs, see www.thefa.com; for rugby clubs, visit www.barla.org.uk.
British tennis is on the up, with top national players coming up through the rankings and competing in Grand Slam tournaments. But even if your child just likes bashing a ball across a net, tennis is a great sport for improving hand-eye coordination and gives them a good cardiovascular workout. Plus, it’s fun and sociable for children of all ages.
Best for: Tennis teaches children how to compete as individuals. It will also improve your child’s all-round fitness levels and physical coordination, and teach them mental discipline as well. On top of all that, the sport provides plenty of opportunities for social interaction, and can encourage team work if your child gets into playing doubles. Suitable for all children from three years old.
Price: Around £5-£6 per lesson. Some clubs hold summer holiday courses costing around £12 for half a day, or from £65 for a 10-week course.
Find out more: There are tennis clubs up and down the UK, visit www.lta.org.uk or www.evotennis.com
Allow your little fighters to let off steam in a sensible way – by learning a martial art. There’s a wide array of disciplines to choose from, including aikido, kickboxing, jiu jitsu, capoeira, judo, karate, kung fu and taekwondo, and each one will help your child to develop self-esteem, self-defence, respect, discipline, social skills and, of course, fitness. If your child gets particularly interested in a martial art, they can go on to earn ‘belts’ and other achievements as they complete different levels of training.
Because everyone can get involved with martial arts, you can even do it together as a family activity.
Best for: Increasing children’s fitness levels by using muscles that are rarely exercised. Through martial arts, they’ll also learn how to practise self-defence in a safe and correct way, allowing them to protect themselves better if they’re ever in danger.
Price: Varies depending on where you live. Average price is from £4 per class.
Find out more: For local classes, visit www.getintomartialarts.com
Gone are the days when swimming lessons came as standard in schools. Even though it’s a skill on the national curriculum, an Amateur Swimming Association report says more than 1,000 primary schools don’t offer swimming lessons.
However, swimming is brilliant exercise and a vital life skill that’s best learned as young as possible – if you go on holiday, you want to know that your kids can enjoy swimming in the pool and the sea without being in danger.
Best for: Swimming is great aerobic exercise that doesn’t place stress on growing bones and joints, and helps develop stamina as children swim longer distances. Swimming is also a life-saving skill that should be learned from a young age. Kids can learn to swim very early, but if you leave it until they’re four or five, they’re better at listening and will have more strength.
Price: From £6 per group lesson (individual lessons cost more).
Find out more: For local swimming clubs, visit www.swimming.org/asa
'Our kids play outside all day'
Dahlia Cuby, 42, and her partner Jamie , 44, chose to lay AstroTurf so that their two children could play in the garden all year round. They are delighted with it
‘My partner and I laid a “real” lawn three years ago. It was fine for the first year or so but the winters took their toll and it became a complete mud bath with only a few blades of grass.
‘We have two young children – the oldest, Elijah, is nearly four and the youngest, Esme Pearl, is just two – but we couldn’t let them play outside very often, unless the weather was really fabulous so the ground had dried out.
‘To improve matters, we revamped the drainage and reseeded a few times but it felt like we’d always be fighting a losing battle keeping a decent lawn, so we looked at artificial alternatives. We knew of a couple of neighbours who had AstroTurf and couldn’t speak highly enough of it, so we looked into it.
‘After some online research, we contacted a few companies and EasiGrass (www.easigrass.com) was excellent in sending us some samples. We were impressed with how the turf felt and the experience and endorsements the company had on its website. EasiGrass seemed like the obvious choice, so we asked one of its sales people, Abid, to come round to quote us and he allayed any doubts we had.
‘The AstroTurf took just two days to be installed. Taking away lots of soil and prepping the ground was first on the agenda, and the new lawn was laid on the second day. I can’t tell you how lovely the people were who came to lay the lawn. The foreman was Brazilian and he was hilarious and immensely proud of his work. “Abid sold you the fish,” he said, “And my job is to make sure you get the whole fish”.
‘The benefits of our new turf are endless. We can be out there all the time. The kids want to be out morning, noon and night. At 7am, it might be chilly but the kids still want to go and run around. We’ve only had it a month or so, therefore we’ve only experienced it in the spring, but EasiGrass told us it will look the same every day of the year so, whatever the weather, the kids can be outside and enjoy themselves.
‘EasiGrass recommended we brush it every few weeks to keep the lawn looking its best. And suggests a leafblower to keep it tidy.
‘We used to have a garden that we hardly used because it was so muddy. Now we have a garden that we’ll be outside in almost every day of the year.’
Images: Will Ireland, Shutterstock