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Ideas for low cost, high impact summer holiday childcare

Posted on 15 August 2017

With the school holidays in full swing the search is on for low cost, high impact childcare. We’ve done the legwork to provide you with a comprehensive guide to summer holiday childcare options to accommodate all budgets and age ranges from four to sixteen.

Every little helps when it comes to meeting the eye-watering cost of summer childcare. Many families now spend a significant portion of their July / August monthly salary on childcare.  You can soften the financial blow by choosing an OFSTED registered childcare provider, which you can pay for using your Childcare Vouchers.

Younger children

Holiday Play schemes (4-8 years old)

“I’m bored” is not a cry you’ll hear from children at these fun-filled, multi-activity camps.  They tend to be run in a “club” style, which will feel familiar to any child that attends a school club. 

Flexibility is a hallmark of play schemes.  Activities cater for all tastes including a mix of arts, drama, music, sport and outings.  Many camps let your child roam free, selecting those activities they best enjoy.  Most providers allow you to pre-book for the entire holiday, a week or day at a time.  Many offer, “wrap around hours” from 8.30 to 18.00.

Opportunities abound for children to develop new friendships, discover new interests and burn off energy.  At the same time, released from the strictures of a school routine, younger and shyer children may find the buzzy environment too much, preferring a more chilled environment possibly best provided by a childminder.

How to find a play scheme in your local area

Check with your school or council for local providers or pop your postcode into the Mumsnet local to you search engine, alternatively for outdoorsy children try a Forest School.

Holiday Day Camps for (8 to 14 year olds)

Many children past eight years old say they have outgrown play schemes and are ready for camps designed for older children or those that focus on a special interest such as sport, learning a foreign language, cooking or coding. For reasonably priced options check out the UK wide summerfun website. Londoners may find teamcamp a helpful resource.

Residential and teen camps

Residential camps are growing in popularity in the UK.  They tend to suit independently-minded, sociable children.  Prices start at about £450 for seven nights including accommodation, food and activities.  Insurance may cost extra. 

New this year, the National Citizen Service is a government backed programme for community minded teenagers. After a week of outdoor activities, the second week is spent listening to business leaders, MPs and charities about challenges facing their local community and working on a project to address some of those challenges.

The British Activity Providers Association accredits more than 100 summer camp providers in the UK and Europe ensuring their members meet high standards of safety and service.  Providers include:

Kingswood Camps which has five residential centres in the UK including a “teen only” camp in Norfolk and survival course on the Isle of Wight.

PGL has twelve centres spread across the UK for children aged seven to seventeen years.

The Outward Bound Trust offers bursary assisted outdoor learning for 11 to 19 year olds in Scotland, Wales, and the Lake District.

The YHA also run camps with themes targeting 10 to 19 year olds, at hostels in Shropshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire and Hertfordshire.        

Meanwhile xkeys keeps six to 17 year olds busy in East Anglia with quad biking, football, scuba diving and more. ATE offer residential “superweeks” for 8 to 16 year olds and 5 centres across the UK.

Adrenaline junkies can throw themselves off cliffs into the sea with the VentureCentre on the Isle of Man.  While those seeking a Bear Grylls style bush tracking and bivouacking experience should try the YMCA Lakeside day camp programme.

On a smaller scale family-run Mill on the Brue Outdoor Centre in Somerset offers action-packed summer camps to children aged from eight to fifteen years.

For younger children, Wickedly Wonderful  offers pony camps, sailing camps or multi-activity camps on the south coast for six to thirteen year olds.

Free ideas for all ages

These ideas won’t necessarily help with childcare but will help to keep costs down.   Take your budding thespian to see a free west end show in London during Kids week, which runs from 1 to 31 August, or get into the party spirit with a free festival or event.