During the summer holidays, while I’ve worked mid-week, for a few weeks Little Chap has enjoyed a couple of days at two local day camps. He went to one for a couple of weeks last year and had enough fun to want to go back again. We were also recommended another camp at a group discount, thanks to a vigilant school mum, so this year he’s tried that one too.
Day camp is not every child or every parent’s cup of tea and there are plenty of other options. The day can be exhausting for them, especially if the child has to be there for extended hours of a parent working 9-5 with commute. We are extremely lucky in our area to have a few reputable providers to choose from in easy to get to locations, although my preference has always been for one that a major day camp operator runs in the grounds of the school I went to from 8-18. For the few weeks he attends, Little Chap gets a lot out of it and this particular camp ticks many boxes for us:
- extended hours – I need to commute to my office in the West End for a 9-5 day,
- flexibility – I only need him to be there on the three days a week I’m in the office,
- they take payment in childcare vouchers,
- a safe and familiar location – I can relax and get on with my day,
- a programme offering a balance between activity and quieter, more creative pursuits
- enthusiastic camp leaders who seem to be great with kids his age (can’t speak for 8+ yet but watch this space, I’m sure we’ll be there before we know it!)
- popularity with several kids he knows from school – it always helps even an outgoing child to see a familiar face.
By contrast, Mayfair Dad’s old school is the site of the other camp. This also happens to be the site of Little Chap’s nursery class and swimming lessons, so provides the same familiarity. Unfortunately, they don’t run the same extended day, which requires me to juggle support for drop off and pick up from kind local friends whose kids are also attending and thanks to an understanding and flexible boss, my hours.
Both camps offer a wide-ranging variety of activities tailored to kids his age. Little Chap has enjoyed making choices, trying new things (e.g. archery, trampolining, tag rugby and rounders), getting creative, dressing-up, competing, singing and dancing, catching up with school friends and making new ones.
All in all, day camp is, in many ways, a life saver for me and many other working parents, especially those with sociable, energetic little ones like mine.
There is one thing I have come to LOATH about camp already and that is the face painting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of wiping vast amounts of brightly coloured greasy goo from my less than willing son’s face any day of the week, but after 6pm when he’s hot and tired and desperately in need of food? NB: Camp doesn’t feed them tea like after school club does and he’s only had a packed lunch and a healthy snack since breakfast, if I’m lucky! Really? I’d rather stick pins in my eyes!
Seriously – How.exactly.does.this.help.the.working.parent?!
I can’t feed the tired and irritable one first because he has hands and face covered in highly colourful grease (usually black or red with his penchant for super heroes!) which I have no intention of finding on my soft furnishings, bedding, work suit, towels etc. So having frog marched him to the bathroom, I then have to use half a pack of baby wipes or more because they are the only thing I have found to quickly, painlessly and effectively remove the darned stuff!
To be fair, he’s been a lot more co-operative about it this year, but the whole process leaves him with a sore, red face. I’m not 100% sure if this is from the excessive rubbing and wiping required to remove the face paint or a sensitivity to the face paint itself, so I’ve devised a solution.
Next year, I’m listing face paint as an allergy on his medical form!
Does your child attend camp? Do they enjoy it? Does it go swimmingly or do you have a pet hate too? Please share in the comments below!