I was a shy child and hated being away from my Mum
Until I was 13 or 14 I hated being away from my Mum. I never stayed at holiday clubs or classes because no matter how brave I thought I was going to be, I couldn't bear to see my Mum walk out of the door. Fifteen years later I am an outgoing and sociable person who people will be surprised to learn was every shy. It's funny that I am now running my own business which provides classes, workshops, parties and holiday clubs- all the things I couldn't go to as a child because of my separation anxiety.
It wasn't an intentional choice to do this- I started this business to introduce people to 3D printing but as we have grown and developed I realise how much my experiences as a child impact the way I run my sessions. They are very much tailored to suit a child like I was.
Holiday clubs are overwhelming places
I have been a guest workshop facilitator at literally hundreds of holiday clubs and some of them are so busy. I have seen so many shy children become overwhelmed by the chaos around them. When there are that many children, even with a good staff to child ratio it is impossible for the child to get encouragement or focused attention. Children get told off so easily and staff can't possibly treat the children in the way I'm sure they intend to. A child cries and the staff sigh and say "stop crying, you're fine". Often these cries are a signal telling those around them that they are overwhelmed and no longer in control of their emotions and they need some extra support. In the busy holiday clubs that support simply isn't available and a child will likely end up acting out of character, misbehave and get told off, which just exacerbates the problem even more. This of course isn't a judgement on the holiday clubs, they are low cost childcare options and because they're low cost the company has to fill as many positions as possible to earn their money. However, if you have a shy child or one prone to being overwhelmed please try and find some alternative to these clubs- your child's mental health will be so much better off for it. Of course, these big holiday clubs are great for children who are outgoing and enjoy being surrounded by an endless variety of new playmates. Shy children thrive much better in quieter environments where they can engage and play with new children in a less chaotic manner.
What we do differently
My classes and workshops are capped at 8 children to ensure they get plenty of attention and encouragement. All the activities we offer are child-led and if a child is really unsettled parents can stay until we build up the confidence and independence necessary to go it alone. We also keep the costs down as much as we can to stay around the same price as the big holiday clubs- as long as we can cover rent and staff wages we are happy. Additionally, I have learned from years of working in all different settings including mental health institutions that a child doesn't need to be chatting to be happy. If a child is shy I'll check in and say hi but I'll never force a conversation, usually after a few classes they will start to join in discussions but it is never forced. I hope I am providing fun classes that as a child I would have thrived in.