Top ten UK children’s summer courses

How on earth do you juggle childcare and work over the seemingly endless summer holidays?   With some schools granting the dubious privilege of eight or even nine weeks of ‘freedom’, it’s enough to cause parents sleepless nights and the odd tantrum.

In the US of course, the answer is simple – pack off the kids to summer camp.  Here in Britain, it’s taken us a while to catch on but now there are positively hordes of camps and courses around the UK.  Whether your child prefers zip wires or zip files; likes building dens or creating drama, there should be something that ticks the right boxes.

Some are fully residential; some work on a day basis.  Unless specific dates are specified, courses run throughout the holidays.

 Best for daredevils

If your child’s bible is The Dangerous Book for Boys, then Raw Adventure Camps will appeal. This Benedict Allen endorsed course teaches young explorers how to build fires and bivouacs; how to navigate through the woods and construct a radio. Parents look away.

South and Midlands.  Non-residential. 8-14 years www.rawadventurecamps.co.uk

Best for geeks and wild inventors 

Supercamps’ “Passion For” programme is tailor-made for single-minded children.  A Passion for Invention is aimed at budding scientists while A Passion for Cyberspace gives techies free rein to build their own website or develop their own computer game.

South-East and Oxfordshire.  Extended hours available. Non-residential. 6-16 years.  www.apassion for.co.uk

Best for petrol heads

PGL run an absolutely huge range of courses but if your child worships at the altar of Top Gear, they’ll beg for the Motorsports camp, learning to ride go-karts, motorbikes, quad bikes and ATVs.  Time behind the wheel is limited to half the day (presumably so they don’t faint from petrol fumes) the remainder is spent on less carbon-unfriendly pursuits.

Various locations in England and Scotland.  Residential.   7-16 years.  www.pgl.co.uk

Best for all-round action kids

Mill on the Brue has a pretty peerless reputation for fun with a good mix of action and art.  A week camp includes canoeing, zip wire, raft building, archery, high ropes, Crazy Olympics and air rifle shooting.  For quieter times there are crafts, video making and, um, drumming.

Somerset.  Residential. 8-15 years. www.millonthebrue.co.uk

Best for squabbling siblings

If one child is all-action while the other is all-arty crafty, KG could be your salvation.  While one is off raft-building or abseiling, the other could be making bracelets or doing dance and drama.  As an added bonus the camps are all set in stunning ex-stately home boarding schools with gorgeous grounds.

Midlands, East Anglia.  6-16 years. www.kgadventure.com

Best for budding Eco-warriors

Camp Wild is based at the brand-new yurt village on the 1,100 acre Escot estate – perfect for exploring the great outdoors. Children plunge into nature safaris in the woods and head off fossil-hunting and beach-combing at the coast nearby.  Falconry and the forest drop slide provide plenty to discuss around the evening campfire.

Devon.  Residential (2-5 nights) or non-residential. 6-12 years. www.escotcampwild.co.uk

Best for cool kids and teens

Camp Beaumont is aiming for the Holy Grail – courses that appeal to kids too cool for camp.  Their All American Summer camp offers Total Wipeout and fireworks parties while The House! invites older teens to hang out at a country manor – a bit of surfing, the odd movie?  There are plenty of ‘normal’ options too and they’re strong on sport.

Around the UK (residential).  London and South-East (non-residential).  3-17 years. www.campbeaumont.co.uk

Best for wannabe Masterchefs

Munchkins’ aim is ‘getting kids excited about cooking and eating fresh, healthy food.’  It offers four different week long cookery schools over the summer – baking, healthy food, food from around the world and funky fruit and veg.

London.  Non-residential.  4-11 years.  www.munchkinskidscooking.co.uk

Best for drama queens (and kings)  

Kilve Court’s performing arts weeks are hugely popular (the movie one has already sold out).  Build a Musical in a Week is heaven for budding Andrew Lloyd Webbers, singers and backstage guys – the week starts with auditions and ends with a final performance.

West Somerset coast.   Residential. 25-30 July (13-17 years); 15-20 August ( 9-13 years)  www.kilvecourt.org

Best for overstretched parents

King’s Camps really do seem to understand just how tough summer can be for parents.  Their camps are based in schools, universities and sports centres and offer very flexible packages for busy parents.  Particularly strong on sport, their cricket camps and soccer schools are very popular.

Around the UK.   Non-residential. 4-14 years. www.kingscamps.org