Holidays Travel

Why a Haven holiday park is perfect for a trip with a toddler

Haven has installed new facilities at its Kent Coast holiday park (Haven/PA)
Haven has installed new facilities at its Kent Coast holiday park (Haven/PA) Haven has installed new facilities at its Kent Coast holiday park (Haven/PA)

“Cheers,” my wife and I say as we clink wine glasses before gazing out at the wide expanse of the Thames Estuary.

Our eyes are drawn across the water to a dazzling display of neon lights in the Essex resort town of Southend, where large crowds are probably enjoying a wild Friday night out.

After a long day spent running around with our two-year-old daughter Penny while she discovered a world of new activities, watching cargo ships sailing under a glorious red sky is enough entertainment for us.

We are spending a long weekend at Haven Kent Coast holiday park, which recently changed its name from Allhallows. It is one of the company’s Parks of the Future following a multimillion pound investment in facilities.

The Jump at Haven Kent Coast
The Jump at Haven Kent Coast The Jump at Haven Kent Coast (Haven/PA)

The highlight is a new outdoor Adventure Village, which presents us with a range of options. There is new play equipment, a stage, a bar and sports courts, all of which look enticing.

Some people are jumping off a six-metre high platform onto a giant air bag, while others are racing each other up brightly-coloured climbing walls. Penny is drawn towards the low ropes course named Mini Aerial, so we book her a place on the next session. This involves youngsters holding onto ropes while walking along wobbly wooden bridges.

Penny on the low ropes course
Penny on the low ropes course Tackling the Mini Aerial low ropes course (Hayley Lancefield/PA)

Participants wear a harness attached to cables above them in case they fall. Penny is the youngest child taking part and needs my wife and I to help support her over some of the crossings and move the attachment to her harness.

This involves us both spending most of the time on our hands and knees either clambering over the bridges and crawling under them when Penny reaches a new section.

She is having a great time, but it doesn’t take long before I stand up too quickly and bang my head on a wooden plank. Ouch. I thought holidays were relaxing?

Neil and his family at the Mini Aerial course
Neil and his family at the Mini Aerial course Neil and his family at the Mini Aerial course (Neil Lancefield/PA)

Before we became parents, my wife and I often enjoyed trips involving restaurants, spas and laying on beaches, leaving us feeling fully refreshed when we came home.

Holidaying with a toddler is a very different experience.

There seems zero chance we will feel rejuvenated at the end of this break but – as is often the case with parenthood – if our daughter is having fun then we’ll all have a good time.

Haven Kent Coast holiday park is tailor-made for keeping children entertained, which is perfect when you have a daughter who loves to be active.

We sign up to a sports programme named Activitots, which has separate sessions for children aged between two and four, and those from five to 10.

Our first experience is on an outside court with artificial grass, where Penny is able to try hockey, tennis and cricket. As a someone who has played hockey since I was a teenager I am filled with joy to see her pick up one of the small plastic sticks and pass a ball towards me.

A toddler playing tennis
A toddler playing tennis Penny tries tennis (Hayley Lancefield/PA)

Tennis is equally successful, with Penny letting out of squeal of delight when her third attempt at hitting a ball over the net is successful. While I’m kneeling behind her she swings her racquet back for another shot and I have to swiftly duck to avoid another blow to the head. Young children and large metal objects can be a dangerous combination.

Another Activitots session features football, rugby and basketball, while the third focuses on balance and coordination. Both are a big hit with Penny, who particularly enjoys jumping on air-filled rubber contraptions to make them fire out plastic balls.

When we need to go back our accommodation it’s just a 10-minute walk away from the main facilities. We are staying in one of Haven’s gold caravans, which are a world away from most of the ones you may see parked on driveways outside houses.

It has a stylishly furnished lounge area with soft carpet, a fully fitted kitchen, two bathrooms with powerful showers and three bedrooms. Decking outside the caravan enables Penny to burn off excess energy by running laps while we prepare meals.

Caravans at Haven Kent Coast
Caravans at Haven Kent Coast Many of the caravans at Haven Kent Coast have a picturesque view (Haven/PA)

It feels like all three of us would benefit from having some quiet time, so we book ourselves in for half an hour of crafting back at the central hub. In a bid to ensure Penny is as engaged as possible, we opt against relatively civilised options such as painting pottery or filling glass bottles with sand, and choose slime making.

An instructor hands her a slime kit, which consists of glue, paint and a special solution on a plastic plate. Penny determinedly stirs the contents, and stares in fascination as the orange goo hangs from her spoon.

When the slime reaches the right consistency, my wife rolls it into a ball and puts it in a plastic pot, just as I’m thinking how bad it would look on the beige carpet in our caravan.

Penny choosing her teddy
Penny choosing her teddy Penny chooses what teddy she will make (Neil Lancefield/PA)

A hands-on activity which does not create any fear of extra cleaning is the make-a-bear party. This is held at the Marina Bar and Stage, a new 1,200-seater entertainment venue which has more than triple the capacity of the previous show bar here.

It’s a very smart venue, with shutters enabling it to be split into several smaller areas or opened up into one large space. The soft toy making party is hosted by Jaz, one of Haven’s four characters known collectively as the Seaside Squad. She plays games with the children before explaining how to fill their teddies with stuffing and design a T-shirt for them.

The session ends with a singalong, and a delighted Penny clutches her cuddly giraffe as we head back to our caravan one last time.

The Marina Bar and Stage
The Marina Bar and Stage The Marina Bar and Stage (Haven/PA)

When her bedtime arrives we have clearly worn her out, as she falls asleep within seconds of us putting her down. Out of our windows we see a few families with older children walking towards the central hub, where restaurants, bars and music will keep them entertained long into the night.

After three full-on days, we seek nothing more exciting than a return to our patio chairs to gaze across the water as the sun sets. Our holiday may not have left us feeling refreshed, but Penny was thoroughly entertained so we’ll leave with fun memories.

How to plan your trip


A four-night stay in a Bronze caravan (sleeps six) costs from £89 in September. Visit haven.com