Activity camps for children with health problems

Children with long-term medical conditions are often told they can’t do adventurous activities like abseiling, horse-riding and rock climbing. But is that true? We take a look at some activity camps specially designed for children with health problems.

Over the Wall 

Over the Wall is a charity which runs residential activity camps across the UK for children with any chronic or serious illness – from blood disorders and epilepsy to neurological and oncology problems.

“The idea is to let children have an adventurous experience away from home, and give parents a much-needed break,” says Camp Director Mark Dwyer.

“These children have often spent months, even years, going in and out of hospital and might have missed out on lots of childhood experiences. At camp we help them rebuild their confidence through an exciting range of activities which include arts and crafts, drama, horse riding, archery and lots more.

“They are supported by a team of paediatric doctors and nurses who kindly volunteer their time – and who join in all the activities with the children!”

Going to a camp can offer the opportunity to meet other children in the same situation and make new friends. It can also be a chance for children to explore feelings through drama and role play and talk about their experiences. 

As well as organising camps for children with medical conditions, Over The Wall also runs residential camps for siblings. Siblings can often feel left out when a brother or sister is ill, and they can really gain lots of confidence and self-esteem by going along to the camp.

Kick Asthma

Another charity that runs a well-established programme of summer activity camps is Asthma UK.

Kick Asthma holidays combine physical and social activities such as abseiling, kayaking, discos and quizzes, with educational sessions that teach the youngsters more about how to control their asthma.

The camp strives to change attitudes from "I can’t" to "I can as long as I remember my inhalers".

Check with your doctor

Rosa Schmale, Head of Physiotherapy at Great Ormond Street Hospital, reckons it’s a fantastic idea for any child – including those with serious or long-term health problems – to be as active as they possibly can.

“These camps offer children the opportunity of taking part in some really adventurous activities that they might not normally get the chance to do,” says Rosa. “Not only will this be helping them build muscle strength and density, it will be boosting their confidence and self-esteem.

“Before you sign your child up though, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first about whether there are any activities on offer that might not be advisable,” she adds.

Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: 20 May 2009