Now school’s out for summer it’s a good time to think about why children get such a long break over the summer holiday.  The old adage is that education is about attainment in the 3Rs: reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Clearly spelling was not such a big deal then!  Whilst views on education have changed over the years, extended summer holidays have long been a feature of the school year.  There are indications this may change, but whilst we still have these long holidays, we should appreciate the opportunity they provide children with to rest, relax and recuperate.

Summer Holiday Options for Working Parents

Families are working more hours than ever before and summer holiday childcare is a feature of many family’s lives.   The use of childcare can cause anxiety in some parents/carers who fear that their child is missing out on fun by spending their holidays in a school environment.  This blog is all about how a holiday club is the perfect place for children to recharge their engines over the summer in a fun and exciting environment.

Holiday Club –Is it Just Another Day At School?

The short answer to this question is a resounding no!  Our holiday clubs are child-centred environments.  Children have the choice of how they spend their time.  Either in one of the 8 well-resourced play zones or participating in the daily selection of adult-led activities.  Although holiday clubs are based in schools, we use the space in a very different way.  Halls that are normally used for PE and assemblies are suddenly places where we can get creative.  Time in the playground isn’t limited – want to play outside all day?  You can!

Playtime All Day!

Children love to play.  And, in today’s busy world, it is easy to overlook the benefits of play.  In a nutshell play supports children’s emotional, physical and mental wellbeing allowing them to rest, relax and recuperate.  Play comes in many forms and there is a huge body of evidence to support the view that children learn though play.  In fact, schools use play, especially when children are young, as a tool for learning.

Learning Through Play

The difference, indeed, the crucial difference, is that whilst play in school has a specific learning goal, play at a holiday club does not have a defined goal.  Children take and extend the play however they want to.  Any learning that takes place is as a result of children’s desire to participate.   As adults we feel a difference in our engagement with tasks when we have choice compared to things we ‘have’ to do.   This is the same for children.  Giving children the freedom of choice empowers them to develop their own outcomes.  If they learn something, that is an added bonus.  We don’t have expectations – but experience tells us that they probably will!

Child to Adult Ratios

One of the most noticeable differences between school and holiday club is the high adult to child ratios, and the relaxed ‘first name’ environment and the strong bonds that develop as a result.  The relationship between adults and children is more equal than that in a formal education environment.  Our team feel that they learn from the children as much as the children learn from them! Whilst the have a programme of planned activities, the flow of them is informed by the direction the children want to travel in.

Can there be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Keeping children engaged and providing them with the appropriate balance (to meet their individual needs) takes real skill.  When explaining this to our team, we use the analogy of being on holiday.  Your choice of holiday (possibly pre-children!) might involve sitting on a beach all day, or perhaps you are active and love nothing more than long bike rides.  Either way no matter how much you love sitting on a beach or riding your bike, people generally like the day mixed up.  That is what happens at holiday club.  Some of the time is free play and some of it is doing activities – by mixing it up, children get the best of both worlds!

Childhood Memories

The best way to understand play is to try and remember your personal experience.  Can you remember what it was like to play as a child?  Take a moment to think back about how you played.  Try and think of one specific memory of playing as a child.  Did you play inside or outside?  Were adults involved or were you playing with friends or alone?  Was there a purpose to your play or were you just having fun?  We have done this exercise with countless people.  By far and away the most common childhood memories involve playing outside – typically with other children – almost never with an adult involved and rarely with a specific purpose.  The perfect way to find rest, relaxation and recuperation!  It is these memorable experiences that we recreate in our holiday clubs every day.

This summer we have set up the hashtag #ExploringThroughPlay for people to communicate with us.  Get in touch,  we’d love to know how you played when you were a child!

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