Looking for a great way to bring the kids together this school year? Look no further.
Well, that went quickly. Only a few weeks ago the summer holidays stretched before us filled with promise. The promise of idyllic sunny days spent in the great outdoors, foraging for wild strawberries, or exploring hidden coves. Of adventures by bike, barbeques, Pimms, perhaps even one last cheeky escape to foreign climes before the world as we know it implodes on 31 October. Suddenly you find yourself back at your desk, wondering why you didn’t do any of those things and how did you let holidays pass you by so carelessly? Gone is the blissfully light traffic, there’s a slight but unmistakable chill in the morning air and you’re already looking forward to the Christmas break. Or maybe that’s just me.
More importantly though, the kids are now back at school, ready to face new challenges and old routines. Whether starting a new school, or simply trying to slip back into the old routine, the first few weeks back at school can be daunting for kids. New classes, new sets, bands, subjects, faces and friends – it’s a lot to take in.
Of course, there are also exams to contend with, from GCSE and A-level to SATs and whatever other meaningless acronyms the central bureaucracy has concocted this year to shift the educational goalposts, fudge the statistics and generally heap more pressure on kids.
As we adjust to the shock of school routines, getting kids to be active and finding ways to bond with their classmates can be a real struggle. In this busy period, the appeal of phones, video games and social media is apparently much more diverting than spending time outside getting active in the fresh air. Last Sunday I was informed by my daughters that they wouldn’t be leaving the house that day as it was their last day before school and they didn’t want to waste it walking into town to get things that they might actually need such as shirts, shoes, tights etc.
So it was that they were left with ill-fitting and unbroken-in shoes and tights with more holes than a Swiss cheese (Has anyone ever tried to buy burgundy tights before? It’s next to impossible, especially now the school has decided to stop selling them as they gradually phase in an entirely new uniform).
The result of all this was the following conversation after the first day back at school: Daughter: “Dad, I’m in agony. These stupid shoes have given me blisters.” Me: “Put some plasters on then.” Daughter: “No, that means I’d have to take my tights off again.”
My eldest daughter is in her GCSE year, so obviously can’t have the additional pressure of spending an hour a week doing an activity or an after-school sports club, lest it impact negatively on her results. Although she does apparently have time to spend endless hours watching repeats of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Either way, I’m not seeing a lot of additional studying going on during the precious time she’s clawed back by not doing an activity.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that here at Dorset Adventure Park, throughout the remainder of September and into October, we’re running school group team bonding sessions on the water and in the mud. These initial few weeks are so important to get to know each other, to forge new friendships and learn the value of teamwork.
The kids work together to help each other overcome obstacles, crawl through mud, and generally have a lot of fun. Our school bonding days out could be a perfect way to forget about the stress of impending exams, and just offer a refreshing antidote to the online world and the usual routine of the classroom.
It also helps that we’re located in one of the loveliest parts of the country, so it’s a great excuse for the children (and their teachers) to de-stress, spend a day in the great outdoors, surrounded by stunning scenery and trying something new, active, and just rather silly. It’s a day out that’s sure to be remembered with laughter and fondness. Sometimes the best lessons are those learned away from the confines of the classroom.