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A guide to childcare options over the summer holidays

Posted on 28 May 2015

If I were a bonneted Victorian peasant, my heart would gladden at the thought of a long summer break from school during which my children would gladly assist with the harvest.  As a modern day working parent my shoulders slump at the thought of keeping my children entertained without breaking the bank or family good will. 

We’ve done the legwork to provide you with a comprehensive guide to summer holiday childcare options for children aged 3-16 years old. From cricket to coding, there's a camp for every child.

Book now and benefit from early bird discounts

Whatever your child’s age or the type of provision you are looking for book now! Holiday care providers tend to encourage early booking by offering discounts that expire at the end of May.

Eye watering childcare costs can see many families spend a significant portion of their monthly salary during the summer holidays on paying someone else to care for their child, enabling them to work. 

Soften the financial blow by choosing an OFSTED registered childcare provider, which you can then pay for using Childcare Vouchers

Holiday play schemes (3 to 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 free-range, 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 structures 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 or childminder in your local area

There are different ways to research play schemes:

-          Check with your school or council for local providers

-          Pop your postcode into the Mumsnet “local to you” search engine

-          Search here for registered childminders: www.pacey.org.uk/parents/finding_local_childcare.aspx

-          Camp Beaumont day camps in London and the Home Counties.  ‘Playtime’ for 3-4 year olds and ‘Multi-Activity Magic’ for 5-7 year olds. (Plus they take Childcare Vouchers as payment).

Holiday Camps for (8 to 17 year olds)

Many of us spent summer holidays roaming free, learning to extricate ourselves from self-induced trouble.  Today we tend to seek more improving activities for our children.  Holiday camps offer such activities in abundance.

Exotic options such as Mandarin, coding, scuba diving are available at a priceFire Tech does offer a small number of scholarship places where those aged nine to 14 can take mobile app design, video game development and robotics classes, while teens can learn programming.

For reasonably priced options check out the UK wide summerfun website, which covers all bases from local day camps and courses to residentials, special interest to sports and activity guides.   Londoners may find teamcamp a helpful resource.

Residential and teen camps

I hold the film “The Parent Trap” entirely responsible for my eleven year old daughter’s endless requests to “be sent away to an American camp”.   Residential camps are growing in popularity in the UK as British parents recognize what American parents have know for years, that such camps offer the opportunity for children to grow in independence and experience outdoor activities parents would love to offer but can’t due to work commitments.


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. 

The Outward Bound Trust is an educational charity offering 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 and ATE offer offers 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.

Camp Beaumont provides excellent multi-activity day camps for 3-16 year olds in London and the Home Counties.  They have been in business since 1980s and take Childcare Vouchers as payment. Their partner company, Kingswood Camps, specialise in residential camps for 8-17 year olds across the UK and France.  

For the sports enthusiasts Kings Camps offer football, cricket, dance, swimming and coaching camps for children aged 4-14 years old.