Are you looking forward to your family holiday this year?
Or is part of you longing for the days when you could lie on a beach for more than two minutes without a small person poking you with a stick? Perhaps you have older children complaining about having to hang out with their parents for an entire week and longing for the company of children their own age? Or maybe your kids are the type who whine "I'm bored!" despite you having taken them half way across the world to enjoy their holiday.
The solution can be simple – kids' clubs.
Activities on offer vary hugely from club to club. Typically there will be quiet room for babies and very little ones with a selection of toys and staff may take the children out for short walks or perhaps to a playground.
Older children may be doing anything from arts and crafts to scavenger hunts, learning circus skills, indoor and outdoor games, sports tournaments, nature trails or water-based activities depending on the location.
Many clubs also offer programmes for teenagers – a good example is First Choice Holiday's clubs which include archery, fencing, snorkelling, cheerleading and even "Water Walkerz" – giant human hamster balls which roll about on the water.
Mother of one Vicki Hughes is a great fan of kids' clubs. She says: "Usually when we go on holiday my son Louis, aged 5, goes for a couple of hours each morning. I like to play tennis and obviously need to do that uninterrupted.
"Some are fantastic, some are mediocre. The problem is you can't tell until you get there and all too many are staffed by bored 18 year olds. That said, I used to go to kids' clubs when I was little and loved it. My brothers were older and used to go off alone and I would have no-one to hang out with it."
Child psychologist Dr Richard Woolfson helped design the programme for Rex Resorts' newly relaunched kids club at Halcyon Grove, Antigua. He says: "We found that what parents want is a safe club where the child is having fun and spending time outdoors. Children want excitement, something different to what they do at home and something purposeful.
"Some holiday clubs are excellent while others are little more than drawing or painting in a basement room – a shame when you have paid lots of money to go somewhere nice!
"A kids' club can make or break a holiday for the whole family. If you are looking forward to two hours lying on the beach but your child refuses to go to the kids' club, that's very disappointing. Try to find out as much as you can about the kids' club before you book."
Here are some tips for choosing and using a kids' club.
• Ages. Before booking your holiday, check which ages are catered for and if there are any extra charges.
• How long? Some kids' clubs run for just a few hours a week, others offer full day care and some even offer evening or overnight sessions. Check it will cater for your needs.
• Ask about the ratio of adults to child. You should expect around 1:3 for under ones, 1:5 for under threes, 1: 8 for under 8s and 1:10 for older children but what is actually offered will vary widely.
• Ask who will be looking after your children and what kind of training they have had. Check how signing in and out procedures work and ask about what would happen in an emergency.
• Visit the club. Does it look safe? Do the activities seem well-organised? Do the children seem happy and interested? Is anyone who is upset being comforted? Go with your instinct – if you don't like the look of it, don't use it.
• Settling in. If your children are unsure about going, leave them for a short session for the first time with a clear statement in terms they can understand about when you will be back eg "After lunch" rather than "two o'clock" for small children.
• Leave quickly. Be brief when you drop them off. If you linger or look unsure, your child is more likely to cling.
• Be on time. Make sure you pick them up on time. Chances are the next day your children will be desperate to go back and you can enjoy some peace!
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