Come summer and the biggest question is how to keep your child occupied. JAYASHREE ARUNACHALAM finds out more
The options are endless and the choices tempting. If you have a school-going child and your main priority is keeping them occupied during the long summer months, the city is littered with summer camps. Drawing, painting, swimming, karate, elocution, aerobics, yoga, meditation, theatre, and even river crossing and trekking: clearly there is something to suit every juvenile palette at different venues. Or, if you can gather a large enough group, from the comfort of your own home.
“My son gets very restless at home and it's difficult to find enough ways to keep him occupied,” says Vimala Mukherjee, whose eight-year-old studies at Hyderabad Public School. “By sending him to a summer camp for a few weeks, I make sure that he's engaged in something productive and also getting the chance to work off his energy through different activities.”
Let them play
However, sometimes the convenience of organising similar-lined programmes in one's own area trumps the multitude of benefits offered by summer camps. Manya Chowdhary tells a different tale. As a working parent with two daughters studying in IV std and II std at NASR school, she would send her girls to a clutch of summer camps every year simply to keep them occupied for a few hours a day. However this year, she categorically states that she is doing the sensible thing and sending them nowhere. “While school went on, my girls would get up at 6.30 a.m. and return only at 1.30 p.m., and then they'd have tuitions. There was no time to play,” she says. “Why should I send them out again in the beating heat everyday for a camp?”
She chose the easier alternative. There were enough kids in the apartment complex she stayed in, and so she had a dance master coming in and training all the children in the building together as a group. Vimala also tried this out one year: she and the other parents got a teacher to come in for arts and crafts classes for a group of kids in the locality. “Not only does this veto the necessity to travel long distances to another venue, but there's an additional element of security, since the classes happened in the building itself with kids who knew each other,” she says.
Finding a teacher to come in might be the sole deterrent to this plan, but R. Sujata, whose daughter Nisha studies in Niraj Public School, raises other questions. “For me, it isn't only about the skill that my kid learns, whether it's drawing or painting or gymnastics, even though most camps and classes are geared towards that,” she says. “I want Nisha to meet more kids and interact with them. That's something that only an organised summer camp can give.”
Summer camp or not, parents like Manya are also doing what every kid would want from their parents: she's allowing them to sleep in till 10.30 a.m. instead of the usual routine of forcing them out of bed at 7, and she's allowing them to watch television, play games and go for movies. She says that she doesn't have too much of an opinion of summer camps in general. “Most camps charge exorbitant amounts for nothing,” Manya says. “Most teachers aren't even qualified and have no training, so the kind of activities on offer can easily be done at home.”
Ultimately, the logic is simple. If summer camps are what they prefer, then go for it. However, if all your child wants is to relax at home, that shouldn't be an issue either. “Let them be indisciplined, even if it's just for a few months,” says Manya. “They deserve it.”