Summer Lovin' - Beijing Summer Camps

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

School will soon be out for another year, and unless you’re escaping Beijing, the advancing days of kid-boredom are probably already giving you heat rash. Happily, the city’s summer camps are offering an even greater variety for families trapped in a long, clammy headlock.

But with so many options around Beijing, how do you choose the right camp for your child?

For PRE-SCHOOLERS, there are more choices in Beijing this summer, with several camps catering to kids as young as eighteen months. Kindermusik’s Sarah Peel Li believes Beijing’s heat and pollution are real issues to consider for littlies. “We find families with young children are looking for indoor options to help them beat the heat, rather than more traditional outdoor summer activities,” says Peel Li.

Another factor is distance. With options in both Shunyi and Downtown, registering with a nearby camp cuts down on travel time.

Also look for half-day sessions, currently offered by Camp Beanstalk, Eton International Summer camp and Sarah Peel Li’s ABC Music & Me Half-Day camp. These hours are ideal for wee ones. Nap time is offered by most pre-school camps and Beanstalk offer an early drop-off/late pick-up.

MIDDLE AND HIGH-SCHOOLERS will also be covered with a glut of events around Beijing for those aged 16 to 18. At this age, kids can become more involved in choosing a camp, although the main focus would probably be variety.

An ideal schedule would combine physical activity with indoor pursuits

Australian mom Maxine Hewitt, says her choice depends on activities that keep ten-year-old James and seven-year-old Bethany engaged for longer than one week. “Not only does a camp have to be supervised and well-organised, it must have variety,” says Hewitt, “It’s their holiday break – they should have fun and be happy.” An ideal schedule would combine physical activity with indoor pursuits like craft or science experiments; schedules similar to the long-running Camp Adventure and BISS Summer Camp.

Many camps offer this set-up, however bear in mind it’s often repeated each week, albeit under a differing theme. “We are actually considering enrolling the kids in several different camps around Beijing for a week at a time, so they don’t get bored,” says Hewitt.

Kids may also prefer to attend camp with friends from school; talk to other parents about how you can coordinate this.

Other things to consider when choosing a camp include transport, languages spoken, hours, dietary requirements and timing.

Many Beijing parents believe in giving kids a break after school finishes, then sending them to camp in the second or third week. Breaking camp into manageable portions is an appealing option, especially if you plan to get out of Beijing during the summer.

One last thing to factor into your choice is definitely cost. If you plan to enrol more than one child, look for a camp that offers discounts for siblings or multiple enrolments. Many camps such as Beijing Playhouse Summer Camp and Kids Chinese Summer Camp offer discounts for early registration, and TLC Summer Enrichment Programs discount when you book multiple weeks.

If you’re still in doubt as to which Beijing summer camp will best suit your child, talk to other expat parents for their recommendations and speak to a camp counsellor to better understand the facilities available to your child.

Summer time is, after all, a time for fun – and knowing your child will be happy makes the summer camp decision a whole lot easier.

First published, in part, in City Weekend Beijing magazine. Photograph by Tania McCartney. Information on current camps can be found on the City Weekend website.

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