With schools closed for two months, summer in the UAE can become pretty monotonous for both children and parents, who really don’t want to spend their time haranguing their offspring.
In the absence of any regular activities, children all too often end up spending their holidays glued to the television set, playing video games or browsing social networking sites.
Australian Katy Jason, Dubai-based mum to eight-year-old Jane, is truly worried about how to keep her daughter busy during summer, when she cannot allow her to play outside because of the soaring temperatures. Having no plans to travel abroad this year, she wants her daughter to get involved in activities that not only keep her productively busy for hours but also help her develop new skills.
Parents can of course, organise activities at home, but if they plan to send their children to an organised summer camp they must ensure that they will get to experience something new, preferably activities that they have not already done at school.
Parenting counsellors say that a carefully chosen summer camp can have an immense impact on the child’s education: it can help the child enhance existing knowledge while helping develop new interests.
“Get children involved in activities that allow them to build non-academic skills,” says Devika Singh, Psychologist and Learning Enrichment Specialist, Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre. This can contribute to their overall development and help strengthen their alternative intelligence — abilities that are not IQ-based.
“Children get the chance to form new friendships at summer camps, learn social skills and challenge themselves physically and mentally when they learn a new skill or work on existing ones. This sense of achievement boosts their confidence,” adds Singh.
Focus on age-related fun
To make summer holidays memorable for children, parents should select activities that are varied, engaging and fun. “While deciding on a summer camp, always ensure that activities offered are age-appropriate and suitable to the ability of your child so that she can fully enjoy them,” says Lynn Nolan, Founder and Managing Partner, Rentacrib, a Dubai based company that specialises in child-proofing products.
“It is also important for a parent to make sure that the camp is adequately supervised, employs instructors who are qualified in first aid and other life-saving techniques, and only allows experienced staff to conduct activities such as swimming, rock climbing, trampoline and gymnastics,” adds Nolan.
Summer camps in the UAE are thankfully not just about fun and frolic. Most have been carefully designed to keep children entertained, while helping them nurture creativity and inculcate good habits. My Gym in Dubai, for instance, designs programmes specifically to meet the physical, emotional and cognitive needs of children between six months to 13 years.
“Our summer camp programme retains activities of our weekly classes, but it is slightly less structured and incorporates more games to enhance the fun element of the camp,” says Pia Bahri, Managing Partner, My Gym.“We also incorporate arts and crafts, where children work on both simple and complex projects that help them refine their fine motor skills and explore creativity.”
Engaging children in hands-on real life activities, cooking and housekeeping, for instance, can also be a fun learning experience for them. The summer camp at the Millennium Hotel, Abu Dhabi allows children to visit its kitchen with a chef and learn how to prepare few simple dishes such as cookies, pizza and fresh fruit juices.
“We try to involve children in activities that they enjoy and at the same time, help them discover their hidden talents,” says Nevine Albert, Director, Public Relations and Communications, Millennium Hotel, Abu Dhabi.
Strike a balance
To ensure a truly enriching experience for your children, try striking a balance between your children’s current and new interests. “One way to do this is to make a list of things they want to pursue, and then add a few new ones that you think they might enjoy. If they are old enough, do this in discussion with them,” advises Singh.