Imagine your kids are busy all day — not just doing a few relay races and making macaroni art — but examining sea cucumbers in tide pools, learning about the Hawaiian legend of how Maui got its name, making their own instrument, going fishing on the shore and on a scavenger hunt with other kids from all over the world. And you? You are scuba diving with your spouse, lounging on the sand with a picnic for two, reading a novel from cover to cover, enjoying a couple’s massage to the sounds of the undulating ocean.
That’s the idea behind Kids For All Seasons (KFAS), a complimentary recreational and educational programme for resort guests five to 12 years old. (Children under five can join with a nanny or parent, or resorts can arrange for babysitting.) It is open 9 to 5 every day of the year. Kids can go all day or just for an hour or two. Programming includes games, activities, arts and crafts. Not your average camp, the VIP offerings are pretty extraordinary—at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, for example, kids can help with coral reef restoration and earn a certificate for their efforts.
This month, HFWT is spotlighting the KFAS programme at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. We spoke with Beth Murtha, Assistant Kids For All Seasons Manager, about her programme.
HFWT: What’s your goal with KFAS?
Beth: We want to infuse some kind of educational component for sure, but number one is recreational activities and having fun. I was a preschool teacher and come into it with that background. We talk about saving resources and what it means to be living on an isolated island that’s different from living in L.A. or Texas. We like to teach about Hawaiian myths and legends. The name Maui, for instance, was named after the demigod: a little boy who lassoed the sun to slow it down and make the days last longer.
HFWT: Any unexpected outcomes?
Beth: Kids get to meet others from all over the world: this week, we had children here from the Philippines, Kuwait and China. They get to know each other, and get a more worldly experience. Afterwards, a lot of parents exchange e-mail addresses or keep in touch via Facebook, and families end up visiting each other later on.
HFWT: What kinds of things do the campers do at KFAS?
Beth: At least once a week, we take a five-minute walk on the beach path to the tide pools. One area has coral and the kids are allowed to collect one or two pieces. Counselors can grab sea creatures (there are often urchins clinging to rocks, hermit crabs, seas stars and sea cucumbers) and the kids get to touch them and let them creepy-crawl all over their hands. They look at a picture book beforehand to find out about what they will see.
We’ll go on gecko hunts. We also do nature scavenger hunts where they get to explore the resort grounds looking for items unique to Hawaii, such as red (ula ula) hibiscus, orange (akala) plumeria, birds of paradise, purple (poni) ti leafs, green (oma’o’mao) palm fronds. They sing Hawaiian songs and learn the words. At the end, they get a prize from a huge treasure box. We play Hawaiian bingo with pictures on the bingo card of hula, sun (la) and ipu (a historic instrument that’s a gourde hollowed out and shellacked). We yell “aloha” instead of bingo. They make their own ipu with milk jugs. In addition to camp, we always do Aloha Friday story time and fresh orchid and ti leaf lei making.
HFWT: What about evenings?
Beth: Seasonally, at holidays such as spring break and Christmas, we offer night events from 6 to 9 pm ($70/child, reservations required). It includes a movie, buffet dinner, make your own sundae and a theme, such as pirate night. Last week it was chef night. They decorated a chef hat and apron, and made their own pizza: they started with a dough ball, then put on sauce, cheese, pepperoni, etc. and toured the kitchen.
HFWT: What’s popular with the tween and teen crowd?
Beth: Music. We have 12 ukuleles and a teacher to give lessons. There’s a jam session for teens, who can join local musicians. A few ended up buying ukuleles and taking them home with them. We offer shoreline fishing, using old bamboo rods or the usual kind, where they learn about the environment and the sea. With stand-up paddle board, you get a lesson and learn about the area ecology. We do fish feeding where they get to see all sorts of native fish, such as puffer and unicorn fish.
HFWT: And the little kids?
Beth: The young ones love crafts: sea life puppets where you choose a seahorse or starfish, add glitter and googly eyes, and glue onto Popsicle sticks, then put on a show. The bigger kids love all the outdoor sports. We’ll play on our croquet lawn, then clear it out for games like Capture The Flag or kick ball. We have a putting green as well for putt-putt golf.
HFWT: It sounds fun to learn about the local culture.
Beth: Yes, we incorporate that wherever we can. Occasionally, we bring in poi (taro root pounded out) and campers get to try it in pudding. They also learned about Spam musubi, a local favorite that’s like sushi roll with white rice and a slice of Spam or ham, wrapped in seaweed. It’s sold everywhere here: at 7-11 or local restaurants.
HFWT: What do you love about your job?
Beth: Meeting all the families and children from all over world. Exceeding their expectations — in terms of creating a sense of place — unlike anywhere else. The whole idea of aloha, that’s what I love. It means caring for everything and everyone around you. Ohana means family. We bring that about as well. Here it’s important for families to stick together; often several generations all live in the same house. It’s a big part of the culture.
HFWT: Do the grown-ups get jealous?
Beth: Yes! We have this computer area with old Ataris from the 80s. Often times the dads will say, “That brings me back — that is so cool!” And they’ll want to stay and play, too.
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