How to improve holidays with children

Hey mum, let's sign up for a culture club
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The Independent Travel

Kids' clubs are often a priority for families looking for a holiday, but in my experience finding a decent one can be a bit of a minefield. It's no good plumping for a hotel that says it offers childcare: if you want your little treasures to be happy for more than five minutes, you need to find something that will keep them fully occupied.

I know this because I've learnt from my mistakes. I can still remember Stanley's howls as I dropped him off at one particular hotel crèche; his pitiful cries were transported all the way to the aromatherapy spa next door, which took all the joy out of my fragrant frangipani body scrub. I had to throw the towel in half way through and go and get him.

So what's the best way to find a club that will keep your sprogs content enough to forget about you for an hour or two? My advice is to do some thorough investigations - it's important to find out exactly what your little angels will be doing once you've handed them over. These days, decent kids' clubs engage their mini-members in all sorts of exciting and even cultural stuff; as well as sports, there are arts and crafts, painting, theatre and dance workshops, to name but a few.

Which is why La Manga Club (00 34 96 81 75 00; lamangaclub.com), a luxury resort on the south-east coast of Spain, may well be worth a second glance. It's great if your kids are sporty (there are football, golf and tennis clubs on site), but there's lots more on the agenda besides. Staff here will attempt to cultivate your little ones with craft activities such as mosaic making and papier-mâché modelling, theatre and music classes, drama, storytelling and puppet shows. They even run a dance academy, where the resident choreographer promises to turn your tots into stars fit for the West End stage.

Imaginative, sophisticated activities such as these are becoming an increasing priority for child-friendly companies, and Powder Byrne (020-8246 5300; powderbyrne. co.uk) is no exception. This lot put on some very decent activities for kids in most of their resorts on the Med, as well as the luxurious Carlisle Bay in Antigua.

Staff at the Scallywags Clubs will lay on crafty things to do as well as art projects, and best of all, the children get to prepare, rehearse and take part in a stage show, which they then put on for parents at the end of the holiday.

If you fancy steeping your treasures in some Mexican culture, meanwhile, look no further than the brand new Fairmont Mayakoba (00 52 984 206 3000; fairmont. com/mayakoba), which offers some rather original kids' clubs. Activities include Mayan treasure hunts and sessions where stories of ancient legends are told and acted out, as well as "how to make Pinata" classes. Parents won't be disappointed, either: the Mayakoba is set within a beautiful natural lagoon and provides plenty of pampering facilities, which all sounds rather promising. If you're lucky, you may even get to find out what a whole fragrant frangipani body scrub feels like.

Katy's top tip

The Peninsula Hotel group offers culture for kids, encouraging them to learn about local traditions wherever they are in the world. Children staying at the Peninsula Bangkok (00 66 28 61 28 88; bangkok.peninsula.com), for example, will be treated to classical storytelling and even get to dance in traditional costumes.

Katy Holland ( k.holland@independent.co.uk) is associate editor of 'Mother and baby' and 'Pregnancy and birth' magazines

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