For those who grew up before the onset of the new millennium, summer holidays used to be a glorious period of enjoyment with grand parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Running wild on paddy fields, climbing trees and slipping more often, diving into the village pond and more often than not pampered by grandparents …holidays are no longer the same. Those carefree days returned us re-energised to take on another year of academics while yearning for the next holidays to come soon.

But what is happening now? What makes us send our children to summer camps these days? Who opts for it – working parents or housewives and for what reason? Do children really enjoy at these camps? What are their expectations? There is no dearth of such questions and the debate goes on. Yet the summer camps have come to stay, going by their increasing numbers each year. The reason is not too difficult to fathom -- disappearance of joint family structure, increased migration from village to cities and the added pressures on children to do well in school and competitions. Summer camps seem to be filling in with the right kind of approach and combination of activities which contributes to overall development of a confident child.

“Working mothers want theirs wards to be in a safer place and learn something fruitful. Housewives too want their children to excel. While working women perhaps have no other choice, mothers who stay at home believe the experts at summer camp can teach more and better. But this may not really be true,” says Salai Selvam, educational researcher, who also runs an exclusive children’s library ‘Koolangal.’

A challenge

“Nurturing children is a real challenge. Today’s mothers are not able to handle properly and are willing to shell out any amount of money to keep their children engaged,” she adds. But M. Kavitha, at-home mother of two feels happy sending her two girls to a camp. “At least, they are learning something new the fun way. It is also safe. The courses offered are simply mind-boggling from dance to karate, swimming to cricket, yoga to mehendi application, Vedic mathematics to spoken Hindi and English.”

“Today’s children prefer to spend time in front of the TV, computer and video games. If I do not send them to camps, they will sit here like couch potatoes,” opines, Karthi Selvam, another housewife.

On the other hand, Latha, a working consultant, does not believe in summer camps. “It is not possible for kids to learn in a shorter period and secondly children need some breathing space that allows them to be on their own. Children know more about pizzas and burgers. They talk about cinema and technology but they do not know how paddy is grown. They ignorantly ask is it a plant or a tree? What are we heading for?” she rues.

Committed

Mothers like Sowmya are cool as they prefer to take up part time jobs for sake of their kids. Her 10-year-old son plays in the neighbourhood under supervision.

Sheeba too is happy that her 10-year-old son J. Jerome is under the care of his grand parents. She bought him a new cycle, taught him to make kites, in the evenings, she plays snake and ladder and the day ends with bedtime stories.

Subbu, a housemaid, says she would be happy to send her children to camps but she can not afford. Her daughter is glued to TV 24X7 while her son is always on the street moving around with elder boys which is not safe for his age, she feels.

Though camps organised by Gandhi Museum, Jawahar Bal Bhavan and Tourism department charge less, the distance becomes a hindrance.

S. Sangeeth, a VI Standard student, is unhappy because his mother is not sending him to camps.

“We can make new friends and also learn some new activity. But I spend my time alone because most of my friends have joined summer camps. It is lot of fun there and no mention of studies,” he argues.

From schools to hotels, private art academies and sports coaches, all are in the rat race conducting summer camps.

They may or may not have put an end to the idyllic mode of enjoyment. But when there is a flush of such activities, children too tend to develop an inclination. After all, change is the only constant and when times change so do the avenues of enjoyment.