x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

School’s out for winter: boredom-busting UAE holiday camps

The school holidays don’t need to mean a lack of things to do for children. Hala Khalaf checks out one UAE company that runs holiday camps offering a wide range of fun sports and activities for children of all ages.

Gulf Star Sports' holiday camps feature a variety of sports and activities to occupy children during the school holidays. Courtesy Gulf Star Sports
Gulf Star Sports' holiday camps feature a variety of sports and activities to occupy children during the school holidays. Courtesy Gulf Star Sports

Parents who hold down a nine-to-five job and normally leave their kids at home with either a nanny or a babysitter can dread the forthcoming end-of-year holidays, especially if there are no travel plans to fall back on. What to do with children stuck in the house and eager to burn some energy?

Something for everyone

Enter Gulf Star Sports, a provider of sports activities and holiday camps in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with a special focus on parental needs.

“We set up Gulf Star Sports for many reasons – for the health aspects and to keep kids healthy and active, but essentially, it’s a service for working parents,” explains the managing director, Matt Doran, 39, from the UK. “We cater to the parents who continue to work when their kids are off from school and need a fun, healthy, active option for their kids during the break.”

This month, Gulf Star Sports will host a five-day holiday camp as well as two three-day holiday camps in Abu Dhabi, for kids between the ages of 2 and 17. For older kids, the camps, which run from 9am to 2.30pm, are mostly sports-centric: football, gymnastics, martial arts, swimming, basketball, dodgeball, cricket and water polo feature heavily throughout the day. The younger kids get to partake in a variety of sports, as well as arts and crafts, music, dance and drama classes.

Fun while they learn

Holiday camp is a little different from a child’s regular school day. The activities are taught by specialists in their field; a professional football coach from the ProActive Soccer School in Abu Dhabi will coach the kids, a professional gymnast will lead the gymnastic classes and a dancer from the Royal Academy will give lessons. The swimming classes are focused; over five days, kids learn how to swim or quickly improve their technique.

“We set up the camps in schools and nurseries that the kids are comfortable with; these are known environments. But we bring our own instructors, our own specialists, our own activities and supplies, and we make it different,” says Doran.

The day is rife with tournaments, team adventures and a holiday ­atmosphere.

“It’s not like sending the kids to school during the holidays. It’s a really good, fun time,” stresses Doran.

There’s little risk of exhausting a child with too many activities during a time when they should be enjoying a well-deserved break from school, because the focus is on having fun while learning skills like teamwork and making new friends, says Doran.

Keep them busy

For the UAE-based Dr Erica Serrano, a child psychologist, believes that the idea is brilliant.

“Working parents certainly need a fun, creative outlet for their children, and these sorts of camps are just as beneficial as a ‘break’ from school as any travel plan,” she says. Dr Serrano, who works part-time as a school counsellor in Abu Dhabi, stresses that structured activity is a form of guidance for a child. While it’s important to teach kids to amuse themselves and use their creativity and imagination to learn how to play and work independently, it’s also imperative that they’re kept active and are provided with ample opportunity to stay healthy while having fun.

“All the kids run around an awful lot and burn a lot of energy; we hand them back to their parents very tired,” says Doran, laughing. After all, that’s what camp is all about.

• Gulf Star Sports camps start at Dh750 per child. Reference this article when registering your child and enjoy an early bird discounted price – Dh600 per child or Dh1,100 for two siblings. The dates are December 15 to 19, 22 to 24, and 29 to 31, from 9am to 2.30pm

Gulf Star Sports camps will take place in five schools across Abu Dhabi: The American International School; Repton Foundation School on Reem Island; Diyafah International School in Mohammed Bin Zayed City; Humpty Dumpty Nursery in Al Bateen and Khalifa City A. Visit Parent’s Corner on www.gulfstarsports.com to register your child