The final exams for the academic year are coming to an end at last, and there is a palpable sense of excitement in the air. The summer vacation is tantalisingly close, beckoning with the prospect of long, homework-free hours for the children.

Trek through forests in Sharavati valley. Pic: Meera K

Over the years, summer holidays have lost their impromptu simplicity. Even as children gear up for the vacation, parents are at their wits’ end. Thanks to their busy schedules, working parents barely get to take some time off to visit their ancestral towns or even for a quick touristy outing. Keeping children blissfully occupied is no mean feat.

This is why the concept of summer camps has caught on like wildfire over the last few years. Such camps keep the children busy with various interesting activities, including lessons in painting, dance, swimming, calligraphy and even Mathematics. Some of the summer camps even offer tips on personality development and table manners. Parents view summer camps as an opportunity for their wards to gain that extra edge. Summer holidays are no longer about indulging in two months of indolence.

Some of the residential summer camps being organised this year:

Residential summer camps

What if you want to do something entirely different to encourage your children? This is where the concept of residential summer camps comes in. These out-of-town camps offer exciting getaways which not only entertain and educate, but also introduce kids to adventurous activities they may not have dabbled in earlier. Picture this: Instead of spending the entire vacation hanging out at malls or hunched over a computer, your child could go trekking in the beautiful, pristine hills outside Bangalore. It would be the perfect opportunity to be introduced to the wonders of nature for the kids who grow up in an age where there is a shortage of open spaces and play areas.

With many out-of-town summer camps, the stress is on adventures. Frolic Boonies offers exciting opportunities like kayaking, safari, trekking, horse riding and treasure hunts, along with the more traditional pursuits of arts and crafts.Educere Adventures Summer Camp offers adventure-based outings, evoking ruggedness through activities like rappelling, rock climbing, field cooking and tent pitching.

More than adventure

Some summer camps aim to stress on more than just adventures, by infusing a bit of learning into the programme. Sachin Sagar of Bamboo Rustles explains: “We aim to enable kids to appreciate nature. Though we run trips with schools throughout the year, we are now coming up with private camps where children are divided into smaller groups. We have certified naturalists with us who help them learn to identify various species of birds and animals.”

Not all residential summer camps are centred on adventure, though. If you seek to enable your adolescents with life skills, to help them get acquainted with their goals and challenges, then you could think of summer camps that focus on learning experiences. The Aastha Foundation organises programmes to facilitate holistic learning experiences. As teenagers prepare to go out into the world, getting a sense of what awaits them and being equipped to handle various situations could be valuable for them.

Safety is the primary concern

The organisers of such camps generally assure of unblemished safety records. However there are a few things parents want to be assured of. “My most important concerns would be food, health and safety,” says Shweta Sanjay, mother of a nine-year-old. “Since I would be sending her out on her own for the first time, I’d want to be sure that she will be properly taken care of. Extra precautions should be taken where water sports are involved.” She says she will send her daughter only to a summer camp that has been recommended personally by a friend or acquaintance.

Thanks to their busy schedules, working parents barely get to take some time off to visit their ancestral towns or even for a quick touristy outing. This is why the concept of summer camps has caught on like wildfire.

The primary concern revolves around safety: no wonder, perhaps, considering the 2009 bungee-jumping accident that claimed a life and brought safety issues in adventure camps to the fore. Parents want to be assured that proper medical care is at hand.

Sachin Sagar assures such parents: “We take absolute care to conform to all the safety norms.” Residential summer camps are equipped with first-aid boxes and have doctors on call for emergencies. Camp counsellors will also be present to address any fears or insecurities the children might have. Parents are very keen that their children should be properly looked after even when in groups, and they therefore want to know about the adult-to-child ratio before the enrolment.

However, apart from the natural concerns, the novelty factor of the surroundings and outdoor activities of such camps has proved attractive to both parents and children. “My daughter really enjoyed her stay at her summer camp. She got to try out activities like camping and trekking that she has never done before,” says Vara Santosh, whose 11-year-old daughter has been attending the camp organised by Frolic Boonies for the last two years.

Some summer camps also permit a parent to go along. So if you can get away for a short spell, this could make for some wonderful moments with your child.

Try to break away from rigid routines this summer and introduce your children to some spectacular landscape or adventure. Who knows, there might be a budding astronomer or ornithologist in your own backyard!

A quick list of matters to be taken care of before sending your child to a residential summer camp:

  • Talk to the organisers to gauge the credibility of the summer camp.
  • Ensure that proper medical facilities are available at the campsite.
  • Check with the camp organisers on the provisions for food and water. If your child has any allergies, be sure to inform them beforehand.
  • Keep contact numbers handy.
  • Prepare your child on the precautions to be taken while staying among strangers.
  • Provide your child with extra clothes, towels, toiletries and other essential items.
  • Importantly, make sure your child is interested in the trip and old enough to cope with its demands.