School’s out: Get your kids involved in these summer activities
There are still spots left in many children’s day camps and workshops across Flanders and Brussels. Check out these suggestions to get started
A treasure trove of creativity
But for parents, especially those with a job, the myth of the summer holidays can quickly turn into a challenge: how to keep your little ones occupied and supervised during the eight long weeks until the start of the new school year?
Fortunately, unlike in many other countries, there is an abundant offer of summer workshops for kids available in Flanders and Brussels. “I think it’s because people here work a lot,” says German expat Christoph Schiebold. “Whereas in other countries, you would have to find child care or take time off, the camp system here was built to accommodate that.”
Schiebold is not only a teacher himself but also runs Treasure Trove, a charming, colourfully decorated bookstore in Tervuren. The shop offers not only an extremely well-selected English-language book collection tailored to many age groups, it also sells school supplies and toys, sports a cute courtyard, and provides sofas to lounge away in.
Make yourself at home
It’s the perfect setting for the popular summer workshops, which Schiebold and his team have been offering for many years: “It was an obvious choice because I knew that children need a place to go to during the holidays,” he explains.
Not all activities are directly related to reading and writing, but all of them aim to foster creativity and help kids unleash their imagination. On offer are creative writing workshops, which include activities such as interactive storytelling, but also pottery courses, singing and songwriting, drawing and illustration.
“Books are full of creativity, and we want to help bring this out in children,” says Schiebold. “Being constantly surrounded by books here definitely has an impact on the kids as well. We want them to feel at home, and if they just want to grab a book and read it, they are free to do so.”
The conversations with artists can really open their minds, which works the other way round as well
Creativity is also at the centre of the yearly summer camps proposed by Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, albeit with a focus on the arts. The museum mainly shows modern and contemporary art and is located in a beautiful modernist building in the countryside not far from Ghent.
Here, children get to not only see art, meet artists in their studios and create their own works, they also help with cooking, go swimming, take photos or act in plays. They even sleep over in tents on the museum site.
“It’s really idyllic, almost like its own little festival,” says Rick Vannevel of the museum. “These wonderful, isolated surroundings pretty much ask for these kinds of activities.”
A playground was recently built on the site in an attempt to connect more with the local community. Although there is a little exhibition at the end of the camp, this is not the focus of the camp.
“What we hope the kids take away from this is a feeling, a mindset,” explains Vannevel. “School is rigid, they have to fulfil certain criteria, but here they can just ‘be’ and get in touch with their creativity. The conversations with artists can in particular really open their minds, which works the other way round as well.”
While the children’s summer workshops at Civa Brussels, an association dedicated to architecture, landscape and urban planning, tackle completely different themes, creativity is key here, too. “The methods we use are about giving the kids room to set their imagination free,” says Civa’s Laureline Tissot.
There’s one camp evolving around gardening, another where you build your dream house in a shoebox or out of sweets, and one that takes kids to the streets to introduce them to the world of Art Nouveau and street art. “Children maybe don’t know the term ‘architecture’ and all the vocabulary attached to it, but it is something very easily accessible to them. Every child has built houses with Lego.”
For those whose kids are more interested in sporty activities, there’s Leuven’s Cirkus in Beweging, which introduces children to classic circus techniques, like juggling and acrobatics, but also to acting and percussion. The overall intention: fostering children’s creative, social, and motor skills while promoting trust and respect.
“It’s all very free and playful,” staff member Tobias Verlinde explains. “Kids get to know their bodies better in a safe space. There is always someone there to catch you during exercises. Plus, every child is expected to help with the build-up and the cleaning up at the end of the day.”