Weighing the options
Almost all holiday accommodations that sells themselves as family friendly have some sort of kids’ club offering, and since Master ATWWAH came along we’ve experienced quite a few.
I’m a little bit torn about kids’ clubs as I completely see the advantages of using one whilst on holiday – time to yourself, your little person can make some new friends – but I do also think that until a child is at a certain age where they can interact with the other children in the club, you won’t get much else but peace and quiet.
Master ATWWAH has been going to nursery three days a week since he was almost one year old, so he is used to not being with us all the time. But, on holiday he hates the idea of going to a kids’ club on his own. The first time we tried it was in Crete at a lovely kids’ club with English-speaking staff run by the hotel we were staying at – Domes of Elounda. It had a huge outdoor space with loads of toys. It was sheltered from the sun and was situated on a path just along the beach.
We paid for him to go in for one hour to see if he liked it, with the idea being he may go in for longer next time, but within 20 minuteswe had to collect him – he just wasn’t ready. If anything, we missed him anyway, as there was nobody to build sandcastles with or throw pebbles into the sea.
He was only sixteen months and we didn’t try to put him in there again that holiday, you have to know when your children are ready, and once he’s older and wants to make new friends, I’m sure he’ll delight at getting away from mum and dad for an hour or two.
Five of the best kids clubs
1/5 Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai – Sinbads
The kids’ club at the Jumeirah Beach is huge and situated next to the two kids’ pools. Guests of the hotel can use the facilities for free with their children or leave them there for up to three hours a day if they are over two years old. If children are younger than two then there is a fee, but they do get one-to-one attention.
The facilities include soft play, an indoor beach, a mini cinema and several staffed sessions a day including art and craft, music, dancing and a visit from Sinbad in person.
The kids’ club also stays open in the evening, usually to 8pm, with a disco or movie night.
2/5 Sani Beach Hotel, Halkidiki – Melissa’s
This hotel is known as a family favourite for its great kids’ club facilities. The Melissa Creche looks after children from 4 months to 3 years and runs to Ofsted standards.
From 4 years to 11 years children can enjoy the Melissa Mini Club, which is free of charge. Children can even eat there in the evenings for an additional cost.
Teenagers won’t get bored with the Sani Teenagers Club which welcomes 12 to 17 year olds and runs more daring activities. This operates in the high season only (June-September).
3/5 Royal Caribbean Cruises Adventure Ocean Programme
Cruise ships are now great options for family holidays and have also geared up their Kids’ Club offerings.
Royal Caribbean offers kids’ clubs from babies to teenagers with a range of activities. Royal Babies (6-18 mths) and Royal Tots (18-36 months) can enjoy interactive playgroup sessions with parents including music and toys developed by experts at Fisher Price. A nursery facility is available on some ships at an extra charge for children aged 6-36 months.
For kids aged 3-5 years there is Aquanauts which culminates in a Pirate Party Parade on the last day at sea and takes over the whole ship. Parents of three year olds are given pagers so they can stay in touch with the Adventure Ocean staff.
Explorers is aimed at children who are 6-8 years and they do lots of scientific experiments, art and theatre with free ice-cream every evening at the disco.
The 9-11 year olds can join Voyagers with the emphasis on science, backstage cruise tours and trying new sports like Gagaball.
Teenagers are split into two age groups, 12-14 year olds and 15-17 year olds with more adventurous activities like rock climbing, dodgeball, dancing, karaoke and DJ’ing. There is even a teen-only hangout with a lounge and nightclub.
4/5 Forte Village Resort, Sardinia
There is a reason why this hotel wins awards for its kids’ clubs and facilities. It has its own Children’s City complete with a spectacular pool just for them.
It is aimed at children from toddler age to twelve years old, with tailor-made activities which run daily for the different age groups including cooking, music, singing, painting, putting on a puppet show and creating sculptures. At the end of each week the children put on a show for everyone.
Sporty kids can learn acrobatics and there is a football academy run by Chelsea FC. Those who are more studious can take part in Italian lessons, and there is even a creative writing lab for any budding authors.
And, forget a kids’ menu, at this hotel there is a kids’ restaurant which serves lunch and dinner with no parents/carers allowed, just the children’s supervisors.
5/5 Butlin’s Kids’ Clubs
Butlin’s have been around for years and were the pioneers of offering family-friendly holiday accommodation and entertainment. They are still going strong and now have a bit of a retro revival going on.
Their kids’ clubs are free of charge and included in the cost of your holiday and are split into three age categories.
Get Busy is aimed at 5-8 year olds and encourages parents to stay and join in as the friendly Redcoats lead activities such as arts and crafts, circus skills and a pirate treasure hunt.
Club Red sessions are aimed at 9-12 year olds with the emphasis on group activities and making friends such as dancing, graffiti art and archery. Some of these activities have a small extra charge, from £2.50-£5 per session.
VIP is aimed at teens and includes activities such as Zorb Football, pool, Wii/Xbox challenge and a silent disco.