Twenty hours. This, according to TED speaker Josh Kaufman, is all it takes to become proficient at a new skill which makes half term an ideal time to take up something new.
Forget 10,000 hours; people get good at things with just a little bit of focused and deliberate practice, says Kaufman, who became good at the ukulele in just 20 hours.
The benefit of intensive learning over a week or two is clear: Children really recognise an improvement by the end, says Simon Yeo of Ninja Kids, which runs marital arts camps in London. They try the same challenges multiple times until they succeed, and when they do, they walk away with heads held higher, he says.
Plus, the resources required to learn a new skill, match those required in the modern workplace: adaptability, communication, presentation and innerconfidence.
We call it invisible learning, says Walter Kerr of Oppidan Education, which runs one-to-one mentoring and group workshops for children. Theyre focusing on things theyre not learning at school and picking up new social skills and confidence.
He adds that if you can provide a positive educational experience outside school, youll make their school life better.
For Kaufman, the biggest question is not whether to learn a new skill, but which one to choose. Its working out what lights you up, he says.
At a half-term pony camp, your child will master the arts of holding the reins, mucking out and grooming, while improving their balance and motor co-ordination, hand-eye co-ordination and core strength. Check your local stables for half-term availability; in London, Pony Weeks at Stag Lodge Stables are open to children aged five to 12, with two rides a day, stable management lessons and a gymkhana with rosettes (350 or 95 per day). Hoof Camp at Echo Equestrian in Buckinghamshire follows a similar format, with both indoor and outdoor pony-related fun (225).
If children learn the basics of cooking and preparing meals, they are likely to be more adventurous in what they eat, says Ruth Chubb, founder of the Three Bears Cookery Club in Derbyshire. This half term, shes running two-hourcookery workshops for budding chefs on Feb 17 and 20 (15), while at Abbey School in Reading, eight- to 14-year-olds will spend the week learning to cook a variety of sweet and savoury dishes (199.20). For those with deep pockets, Raymond Blanc is hosting a half-day Young Chefs Academy for youngsters aged 10 to 16 years on Feb 18 (185 per person) at Le Manoir aux QuatSaisons in Oxfordshire, plus anadult and child cookery day on Feb22 for seven to 12 years (555 per adult and child).
Sewing has fallen off the curriculum atschool, yet its a sustainable and incredibly useful skill that might alsoinspire a career in fashion (or surgery).The Village Haberdashery in north London is running half-term classes (40 per session including materials) where children can learn tosew hair accessories and pencil cases and screen-print cushions, while the Fashion School in Chelsea has a range of classes for children and teens, from a four-day dressmaking course, to pattern cutting, pyjama making anda dolls clothes workshop.
First aid is an essential life skill that can also bump up your teens CV. St John Ambulance runs regular first aid courses for 12 and overs if your child is under 16 you will need to go along with them. The course covers emergency life support procedures for babies, children and adults, including CPR and dealing with bleeding. Meanwhile, Daisy First Aid, founded by former police officer JenniDunman, is running courses for families and teenagers in Northampton, Tyneside, Bromley, Elstree, Croydon and Dulwich during this half term.
Or at least a climbing wall.Climbing builds physical strength and confidence and is a great opportunity for children to socialise through sport outside school. The Pinnacle Centre in Northamptonshire is running a climbing, caving and abseiling campthis half term for children aged six and up (from 31.50 per day), and Boulders in Cardiff is hosting a holiday club from 29 per day including lunch. For keen climbers who want to take their skills to the next level, centres including Glasgow Climbing Centreand Quay Climbingin Exeter are running National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme courses during half term.
In five days, your child could be playing a new musical instrument in a concert. The Strings Club is running half-term camps for children from reception age to year six in Islington (ukulele), Leamington Spa (ukulele), Tooting (violin), and Harborne, Birmingham (violin). Each camp includes expert tuition and interactive workshops and ends with a grand concert. For older children keen on a career in music, the Roundhouse, in Camden, is running drop-in sessions throughout half term for those aged 11 to 25 looking to explore DJing, music production, and podcasting.
A French camp sounds a little swotty but, according to former lawyer Caroline Eugenie, who founded Et Patati Patata language school in Hammersmith, learning a second language encourages cognitive, physical and emotional development and builds self-esteem. At her week-long, half-term French school, four- to 15-year-olds are immersed in French for 30 hours of counting, reading, acting, singing and football (400). The Little Language Academy in Gerrards Cross is running a two-day French camp where children aged three to 10 take part in baking, forest school and kungfu with a French twist (Feb 19 and 20, from 42 per day).
Martial arts require agility, co-ordination, determination and strength, and promote anti-bullying skills and courage, according to Simon Yeo, the jiu jitsu and ninjutsu black belt who runs Ninja Kids half-term camps in south-west London (35 per session). Children are encouraged to be brave and take risks, he says. Outside London, Fighting Fitness Judo Camp in Pyrford, Surrey, combines technical instruction with games and other sporting activities (185 for five days), while Blaze Martial Arts near Windsor is running a three-day high-energy martial arts camp (35 per day or 70 for three).
Self-motivation can be learnt, according to Walter Kerr and Henry Faber, the co-founders of mentoring organisation Oppidan Education. This half term theyre running a workshop series for children aged eight to 13 in London to help them understand how their brains work and develop pro-social skills, positive self-belief, cognitive creativity and flexibility of mind. If they learn these things now, they wont sleepwalk through school, points out Kerr. Workshops by sport stars and Cambridge academics focus on time management practice, debating, interview practice, podcast making and a Dragons Den. The company also offers one-to-one mentoring and summer residential courses in Henley and Hertfordshire.
Parents might not see skating as the most useful of skills, but it improves balance and fitness, builds confidence and takes a childs mind away from the pressures of school. Core Skate in Hereford is running a quad skate camp (quads are old-style roller skates) where kids aged seven and over will learn artistic, speed, hockey, jam and recreational skating and take part in a roller derby and roller disco each day (Feb 18-19 from 23, beginners welcome). In London, Baysixty6 is hosting a five-day skateboarding camp for beginners and intermediates aged seven and over (from 30 per day).
If your children are anything like mine, they will be obsessed with Bear Grylls and the idea of surviving on bugs in the wild. There are plenty of opportunities for young survivalists this half term; Bear Grylls Survival Academy, where children learn the basics to survive in the wild, is open to those eight and over staying at Park Dean resorts (12 for one session or 40 for four). Wild Thyme & Embers is hosting holiday bushcraft clubs at Milton Country Park and Wandlebury Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire (38 per day). In Staffordshire, Trueways Survival is running a two-day Young Survivalist course for children aged seven and over with an adult (Feb 29, 195).
Playing chess is thought to improve childrens concentration, memory, creative thinking and problem-solving abilities and make them better at maths. Chess Entries for All is running a three-day holiday chess course with a chess master in Esher, Surrey, for players aged six to 15 years of any ability (30 per day). Wallace Chess is hosting four-day chess camps in Pimlico and Swiss Cottage for four- to 16-year-olds (230). The children will solve chess puzzles, listen to short lectures, learn about end games, strategies and tactics and explore clocks and notations.
For an animal-loving child, few things are more memorable than going behind the scenes at a local safari park. Close-up VIP experiences are now available at many parks and zoos. Woburn Safari Park is running half-day junior keeper experiences where youngsters aged eight to 15 help the keeperswith their daily routines, including mucking out, feeding and caring for the animals (229), and Edinburgh Zoo has some spaces available for its zookeeper experience. Longleat in Wiltshire also has a number of VIP opportunities for children to get closer to the animals, including a new koala experience, where they get to feed the bears breakfast (195,children aged eight to 15 must be accompanied by an adult).
Half term is the perfect time to ditch the stabilisers and learn to ride independently. Pop Cycle is running beginner courses across London (150 for four sessions), as is Betteshanger Park in Kent (17.50 per session), while Pop Cycle and Watford Cycle Hubare also running improver courses to teach more advanced riders to follow safely, negotiate obstacles and commute safely. Meanwhile, Cycle Experience inBerkshireand Better by Bike in Bristolare running the Bikeability training programme for olderchildren.
Alas, the National Youth Theatres celebrated start-up course for 11- to 14-year-olds is already sold out for thishalf term (hurry and book it up for May half term instead). Likewise, Globe Theatres As You Like It and A Midsummer Nights Dream workshops for five- to 12-year-olds, where children will learn about the characters through participation and play, are sold out so look for future dates, too. Sylvia Young Theatre School still has some places on its half-term camp. Young actors aged seven to 18 will work on audition techniques, singing, street dance, and drama (250). Perform, which runs camps across the country for children aged from four, is running three- to five-day courses culminating in a show on the final day (from 225).
If your child cant yet swim, a half-term crash course is a great use of time. Better Leisure Centresand Virgin Active gyms both run beginner and improver courses. Better Leisure Centres are also running week-long gymnastics and tennis camps for five- to 16-year-olds, while a five-day Paul Delgado tennis camp for six- to 12-year-olds is being held at The Royal Masonic School forGirls in Hertfordshire (204) and Power League is hosting week-long footballcamps across the country, with FA-accredited coaches, for children aged five to 14 (from 10 per day).
Paint Box Studios in Ravenscourt Park is hosting a week-long art camp for seven-and-overs, where children will work on their own projects, expanding their range of artistic techniques using acrylics, oils, charcoal, graphite pencils, pastels and collage (from 65 per day). In Cambridge, St Albans and Tonbridge, Central St Martins is running Future Creatives, a five-day course covering painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, printmaking and book arts (from 200).
Everyone should learn to program, as it teaches you how to think, Steve Jobs once reasoned. Code Kids courses teach children aged seven and over key programming and engineering concepts through Lego robotics, stop-motion animation, Minecraft coding and augmented/ virtual reality. No prior coding is necessary; the course takes place in Blackheath, Sevenoaks, Canterbury, and Wimbledon (from 49.50 per day). Meanwhile, in north-west London, Code Today is running three half days to five full days for those aged seven to 17 (from170).
Its not the best time of year to plant out your own garden, but all four RHS gardens are running Whatever the Weather half-term gardening clubs, with forest school sessions, tomato planting, and making weather wheels and wind socks. Dobbies Garden Centres are also running free workshops for children aged four to 10 at 67 branches across the country. Young gardeners will learn basic gardening skills and take part in games and activities.
Children are natural builders, which is why family workshops at the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) in Marylebone have proved a hit. This half term there is a Space Base workshop, where children aged six to 10 will research, design and build a place to live on the moon, plus a Home of Architecture workshop, where they will be asked to design a new Riba building. Both have sold out, but plan ahead for future events, including creative architecture workshops for secondary school children.
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School's out, but the learning needn't stop: teach your kids a new skill this half-term - Telegraph.co.uk