Holiday camps for children (colonies de vacances) are not unheard of in the UK but over in France they are something of a national institution. During school holidays, whilst their parents are at work, French children aged from four up to 18 are sent away from home to spend up to several activity filled weeks with others the same age.
Whilst the youngest children might stay somewhere relatively close to home, there’s a wide range of options available that could see children travelling from the north to the south of the country, crossing over the border to Spain, Italy or Germany, or going on an expedition to more far flung destinations like America.
The colonies de vacances offer children the opportunity to learn something new, such as how to swim, or give them the chance to spend more time practising one of their hobbies like horse riding. There are ‘camps’ that specialise in one particular activity and those that offer a range.
Some colonies have a more obvious educational element than others – children might be taken to visit a few museums for example, or if involved in an international scheme to improve a foreign language, could be required to attend a few classes in the morning before setting off to explore the major tourist attractions.
Boys and girls, no matter what their interests, will find something to suit them. On the sporty side, there are colonies for everything from water sports to quad biking. There are also colonies dedicated to dance, theatre and art. Those keen on more academic subjects; archaeology and astronomy, for instance, are catered for too.
Whilst colonies de vacances are an ideal way to give children more independence, they are still encouraged to keep in touch with their parents, who can at least expect a postcard! As many parents will already know, children make new friends so fast that they won’t sit around feeling homesick.
When choosing a colonie de vacances it is important to make sure that is it properly regulated and that you are aware of any extra costs that may be involved at the time of booking. In addition to experienced staff, you can also expect there to be a qualified first aider on hand, just in case.
Departure points for the colonies are conveniently located in major cities, so that parents can drop off their children without having to go too far out of their way. The colonie organiser should also be able to provide a comprehensive list of necessary clothes and essential kit, plus advice regarding cameras and mobile phones.
Although these holiday camps are more widespread in France than in the UK, sending children away does carry some extra expense when compared to keeping them at home and organising your own days out. Financial help is available and may be worth investigating for those struggling to cover costs.