This article provides information, ideas and tips on issues relating to running a holiday club or playscheme.
Make sure that you have adequate and appropriate insurance cover for your holiday club. Morton Michel offer their HolidayPlay and HolidayPlay Plus policies specifically for holiday clubs. However, if you already have their Out of School policy for your after-school club you will probably find it more cost-effective to upgrade your existing policy so that it covers you all year round rather than just for term time.
Whichever insurance product you use, check the policy carefully to see whether any activities are specifically excluded. This might affect not just obviously 'dangerous' activities such as horse-riding—some policies exclude fairly normal activities such as football and circuit training.
If you want to run activities which are not covered by your insurance you will need to get the parents to sign carefully worded disclaimers beforehand. Alternatively, if you are using an external organisation to deliver a particular activity (such as football coaching or rock climbing) they will usually be covered by their own insurance—but do check this.
Marketing your holiday club
When marketing your holiday club, you will often need to cast your net a little wider than just your local primary school. You might want to consider the following:
- Think carefully about which weeks you will open. Check on the dates for other local activities (eg: Cub camp, football academies, visits by peripatetic play services) so that you avoid clashes as far as possible. Canvass parents to find out what dates that they are likely to use the holiday club: you may find that it is not viable to run the club throughout holidays and that you can maximise your occupancy levels by only running for a couple of weeks.
- Offer discounts to parents who book early. Having confirmed bookings will help you to estimate likely numbers and plan staffing requirements.
- Promote your club to neighbouring schools and after-school clubs if they are not planning to run their own club over the holidays. Don't forget to include any private schools nearby.
- Notify your local authority's Family Information Service.
- Put up notices or leave leaflets in your local libraries, sports centres, health clubs, etc.
- Promote your club by distributing leaflets via other children's clubs or organisations: Cubs, Brownies, church groups, playgroups and nurseries (to catch older siblings), etc
- Publish an article or advert in the parish magazines for your area and neighbouring areas.
- If there is a single big employer nearby or a business park, think about advertising there; even if their staff don't live locally it might be convenient for them to drop their children off at your holiday club on their way to work.
The significant difference between running an after-school club and a holiday club is that you need to keep the children entertained for significantly longer than usual. As well as your usual mix of activities, you may want to add in some more 'structured' activities to help break up the day and to create more variety, such as theme days, outings, workshops by external providers and visits from other organisations (eg fire service).
In your planning don't forget to factor in some chill-out time each day when the children can just relax and do their own thing. Also remember the principle of 'freely chosen play' and allow children to opt out of any activity if they so wish.
With some children possibly attending your holiday club for weeks at a time, introducing a number of days based around a particular theme will help to keep everyone interested. For example you could have days based around themes such as:
- Pirates: children come dressed in pirate gear or use the club's own dressing up clothes; use large cardboard boxes etc to communally create a giant pirate ship; make pirate puppets; play treasure hunt game; create their own treasure maps; make individual pirate ships; colour in and bake pirate Shrinkles, etc etc
- Jungle: children make or colour in animal masks to wear; use camouflage netting and other props to create a jungle den; play crossing crocodile-infested river game; competition to make a giraffe out of newspaper and sticky tape; use Fimo to make animal face fridge magnets, etc etc
- Backyard beach: children come dressed in 'beach' clothes (bright t-shirts, shorts, flip flops, sunglasses, floppy hats etc); decorate flip-flops; make a frisbee; play volleyball with large soft ball; water play with sprinkler, water pistols etc; make, decorate and float paper boats in large container of water - blow through straws to race them around; ice cream factory with lots of toppings; experiment with making different smoothies; etc etc
Other themes you could try:
- Cops and robbers
- Harry Potter
- Camping trip
More activity ideas and factsheets >
Some good activity ideas from other sources:
Make a pirate ship from a milk carton
Make pirate stick-puppets
Pirate colouring sheets
Make a volcano!
Make a frisbee, decorate flip-flops and skipping ropes
Printable puzzles, dot-to-dots, wordsearches, etc
Buying in specialist activities from external providers is a great way to increase the variety of activities that you offer and will help to give focus to the week. Specialist activities that you might like to consider include:
- Hiring a climbing wall and instructor
- Football / tennis / basketball coaching etc
- Dance workshop (street dance is popular with boys as well as girls)
- Drumming workshop
- Drama workshop
- Wildlife encounter (eg visit from owl or bird of prey sanctuary, reptile or insect experience, bee-keepers association, local wildlife trust)
- Circus skills
- Visit by your local fire service - with fire engine!
Inevitably, buying in some of these external activities can be quite expensive, but you can balance them with activities which are free or cheap (eg visit by fire engine or local wildlife trust education officer). Also, look to your circle of friends, colleagues and parents: does anyone have a special skill or interest that they would be prepared to come and demonstrate for an hour or two?
Food at your holiday club
If the children will be with you all day it will greatly simplify your planning if you get the parents to provide a packed lunch for each child. You will then just need to provide morning and afternoon snacks, and drinks.
Remember that, strictly speaking, you should register with your local authority as a 'food business' if you serve any kind of food in your setting.
More about providing food at your club >