Plan your summer fun

Plan your summer fun
Hannah Harn discusses summer holiday options for kids of all ages


Now that young people are at the cusp of surviving another school year, they’ll have three months off to relax and recharge before kicking back into gear in autumn. However, nobody wants to run out of things to do after a week, and many parents are apprehensive about leaving their kids and teens to their own devices while they go off to work.

A natural solution is summer camp. Some run for a few days, others assign you a bunk for a month. There is a wide range of summer camps and day programmes for kids and parents to choose from, including sports, art, technology and Irish language. Whether families are looking at something based in faith or adventure, there are endless options for young people to go out and be engaged with their peers this summer.

One option for young women is The Michaela Foundation, which offers week-long summer day camps for girls ages 11-13 years old. They will spend their week engaging in a variety of activities with girls their age while learning about faith, the Irish language, mental and physical health, and personal creativity. Young adults 17 years or older can also apply to volunteer at the camps. The Michaela Foundation has locations in 10 different counties across Ireland.

The foundation, inspired by the life of Michaela McAreavey, is based around lifting up young women to be better for themselves and others. The programming of their week-long summer day camps covers five areas: fun, faith, fashion, culture, and well-being. The camp is built around increasing and encouraging confidence in young women and introducing them to new aspects of faith and culture while with their peers.

“The activities we do and that the girls take part in are important, but they come secondary to the interaction with the young girls involved,” says Orla McIntyre, Operations Manager of the Michaela Foundation. “They’re the driving force behind the lessons we try to teach the girls. We want to see them being confident in who they are.”

Volunteers and attendees, called campettes, have said they grew in confidence and became more comfortable challenging themselves while and after working with the programme. According to Orla, volunteers at camps return with the same sense of growth as kids, and have added a valuable item to their curriculum vitae or resume in the process.

If your child has a love for adventure and the outdoors, the Killary Adventure Company offers longer residential camps for ages 8-17. From daily programmes to 14-day multi-activity summer camps and wilderness journeys, everybody can find the programme that suits them.

Residential camp should not make parents nervous, even if it would be their child’s first time away from home without their parents.

“Most parents are happy to send their kids away for a bit,” jokes Shane Young, General Manager of Killary Adventure. He reminds parents that the young people who come to camp are both well taken care of and happy to be there, too.

“It’s up to the kids how long they want to go,” says Shane. “Kids are so resilient, and it’s really valuable life experience.”

“There’s always someone there for kids to talk to,” he continues. “We get that we’re like surrogate parents while they’re here.”

But one of the biggest benefits is the opportunity to meet, live with, and become friends with other children from Ireland and the rest of Europe.

But one of the biggest benefits is the opportunity to meet, live with, and become friends with other children from Ireland and the rest of Europe.

“It’s an international camp,” Shane explains. “We have kids from Spain, from Ukraine, even. They may separate themselves at first, but soon they turn to each other, start interacting. They don’t even need a language to interact.”

If language is something of interest, there’s also the option of heading to the Gaeltacht for some Irish language immersion. Comhchoiste Náisiúnta na gColáistí Samhraidh (CONCOS), also known as the Irish Language Summer Colleges, offers summer programmes from one to three weeks in length across the island. However, the western counties, including Cork and Kerry, are usually more popular.

One option for teens and young adults is a domestic or an international volunteer programme. Global Vision International offers a variety of two-week volunteering trips around the world, including marine conservation in Greece and rainforest preservation in Costa Rica.

Projects Abroad also has programmes for secondary school students, such as volunteer building in Nepal and medical internships in Sri Lanka. There are volunteer programmes and internships available for almost any field of interest, so young people can turn a hobby or pastime into a potential career goal.

If your child is looking to try something a little out of the ordinary, check out the School of Irish Archaeology, which runs The Big Dig camp. Featuring hands-on education and field trips, this five-day programme is perfect for future scientists. Meanwhile, kids and teenagers with their eyes on the skies may enjoy enrolling in the Atlantic Air Adventures Summer Aviation Camp, which teaches flight planning and flight science and gives kids the chance to try a real flight simulator.

There are even Church-led summer programmes, as well. Scripture Union offers a series of shorter camps, many of which are all-inclusive, for younger children as well as teens and young adults.

According to Emma Fawcett, Camps and Volunteer Manager at Scripture Union, faith-based youth camps are a great way to reassure young people of their faith. They offer paid, week-long residential camps as well as free programmes for all ages and families.

“It’s really encouraging to children,” says Emma. “They may be the only person of faith in their school or class, so it’s good to be in a like-minded community. And teens get some added encouragement to continue pursuing their faith.”

She also points out the importance of that community as a support system. “It gives them something else to live for,” she says. “There are other people who believe what you believe. It helps them stick to their faith.

“There’s also not a lot of reception, so it’s a kind of holistic approach,” she adds. “It’s a lot of people-time and it’s a lot of off-screen time, which is good.”

Summer is also a great time for young adults and teenagers to think about earning some money.

Summer is also a great time for young adults and teenagers to think about earning some money. Summer jobs, even just part-time, can be great opportunities for young people to take on new responsibilities and make some extra money toward more expensive activities they might be looking at.

If they’re too old to attend camp, teenagers should also think about volunteering or working for one of the many camps in their area, whether it’s teaching young children to play football or helping a child finish a mural. Returning to camp as a helper or staff member is also a great way to help teach some extra responsibility while still getting to engage in the fun side of work.