School’s out for the summer – but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning. The summer holidays are the perfect time to acquire or hone some of life’s most important skills.
Whether you’re looking forward to a fortnight abroad or enjoying a staycation, over the next pages our experts will tell you how to help your children get the most out of the next five weeks – so they’ll end August better equipped for life.
Did you know that summer holidays are the best time to learn to swim? Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Adlington, OBE, says this essential life skill is easiest to acquire in intensive summer courses.
And while long breaks are a great time to escape from our tech-dominated lives, if you nominate your child as chronicler of your summer, it will keep them engaged and challenged. Follow top tips on capturing the best footage from Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp, who is also a film-maker.
And if you’ve already mastered the art of the butterfly and the selfie, we’ve got 10 other life skills your child can hone this summer – including an invitation to enter Telegraph Travel’s first ever children’s photography competition.
Finally, consider this: two-thirds of conversations between parent and child are about the daily routine. Summer is the time to break that pattern by exploring something together.
10 skills your child can acquire this summer
1. In the swim
Intensive summer courses are the best way to learn to swim. Find a week-long intensive programme near your home or holiday cottage.
2. On the ball
Whether tennis, football or golf, intensive sports camps at hotels or at local schools will kick-start a love of sport in your child. Week-long taster sessions are the way to go with young children.
3. Get it mapped
Scale your ambitions based on age. Put older children in charge of map reading while you’re en route (they may be retro, but maps are still useful) or head to a museum for a scavenger hunt with younger kids (many museums offer their own; the ones at the British Museum are excellent).
Diehard techies should try geocaching.com, which uses GPS tracking to find trinket-filled containers in locations around the world.
4. Food for thought
Home or away, put your children in charge of the family’s healthy eating and you may find that the vegetable intake actually goes up. Make a chart with young children; choose a new cookbook with your teen to steer the family in the right direction.
5. Money matters
Involve your children in conversations about your entertainment and food kitty, and see how their priorities may differ; intervene as necessary. For guidelines on financial responsibility for children, see Ron Lieber’s excellent The Opposite of Spoiled.
6. Set sail
The Royal Yachting Association (rya.org.uk) is the national body for all forms of boating and has an excellent youth sailing scheme, as well as courses for people of all ages who have disabilities.
7. Back to nature
Wildchild outdoor.com supplies gear for bushcraft trips –- and it also has a good directory of courses around the country, where your child can learn how to start a fire or build a den. Check out thebushcraft company.com or nationaltrust. org.uk for courses or themed days near you.
8. Draw it out
Buy a sketch pad and good pencils for willing family members and ask them to draw what they see on holiday.
9. Sleep tight
Teenagers should get an average of nine hours’ sleep a night. Younger children need 10-11 hours. Most fall short of this. Although a little bit of leeway on bedtime is to be expected over the summer, it is important to develop good sleeping patterns for life.
Common mistakes for children (and adults) include watching television right up until going to sleep and using mobile devices in bed.
10. In the frame
Document your holiday with video, as above, or get your child to focus on still photography and enter our Child’s Eye View competition for the chance to win a camera.
Email your child’s photo capturing the best of family summer holidays to [email protected] with the subject line “The Little Picture”. Please add description of the scene and your child’s name, plus parent’s name, address and telephone number. Photos must be at least 1Mb. Follow this link for full details.
The prize for the winner of the under-8s competition is a Vtech Kidizoom Duo (vtech.co.uk), worth £52.99
The winner of the under-18s competition will be given a Nikon D3400 digital camera (nikon.co.uk) worth £519.
The closing date for this competition is midnight on Friday September 1. We are unable to accept postal entries.