Katy Holland: The latest trend in family holidays is the skill-cation

Are we there yet? Who needs school for proper learning? All you need do is take 'em on holiday.

Forget the staycation; the latest trend in family holidays is the skill-cation. Yes, according to a recent Mintel poll, parents are keen to hothouse their kids even on holiday. It seems a holiday isn't a holiday unless your tots learn a thing or two, whether it's the tango or how to make perfect pasta.

Unlike boring old school, learning vacations are full of fun. Chalk and talk is definitely out; it's all about hands-on experience.

At the Mandarin Oriental in Chiang Mai, Thailand (00 66 53 888 888; mandarinoriental .com/changmai/leisure), they can train to be a zookeeper and devote a whole day to learning to care for elephants at the nearby zoo. They have their very own charge and tasks include feeding, watering and riding them, as well as the hefty job of mucking out. They learn all about their lives from the fully trained staff who award them a zookeeper's certificate at the end of the day.

Other new children's courses at the hotel include Thai boxing and Thai cooking, all available from October.

For parents who'd rather the lessons were closer to home, a weekend in Salcombe, Devon, could teach the kids that vital life skill: how to make chocolate truffles. The Chocolate Academy (01548 844811; salcombechocolateacademy .co.uk) runs regular workshops at weekends including all there is to know about the cocoa bean as well as how to roll truffles. For nearby self-catering, try Coast and Country Cottages (01548 843773; coast andcountry.co.uk).

Abercrombie and Kent (0845 6182200; abercrombie kent.co.uk) is really pushing the boat out with its brand new Young Explorers' Club, on its winter cruise to the Antarctic. The trip, which is currently being offered at a 50 per cent kids' cabin reduction, retraces Ernest Shackleton's expeditions on a three-week trip (departing 16 December). This programme is designed to give youngsters working lessons in marine biology, ecology and geology, with activities from fish dissection to digital photo workshops.

Go Learn To (0844 502 0445; golearnto.com) has an array of exciting learning holidays, from French A-level revision in Paris (boo) to pizza- making in Sorrento (hurrah).

Who needs school for proper learning? All you need do is take 'em on holiday.

k.holland@independent.co.uk

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