School and kindergarten summer holidays can be anything but one long vacation for parents whose work or circumstances prevent them escaping Hong Kong until the new term begins. Keeping young children entertained and stimulated can be a struggle without structured activities to fill their days. Luckily, there are many fun local programmes available that also aim to help youngsters develop. Parents seeking to keep their children's academic progress up during the holidays can check out Jolly Kingdom, which offers summer courses aimed at three to 12 year olds. "Our English courses are designed to enhance oral communication skills and the interest in learning English," says Dr Jeff Cheng, programme director at Jolly Kingdom English Learning Centre. "In our phonics programme, we ensure that a joint synthetic and analytic approach is adopted to optimise children's learning results." The organisation also has broader options available. "Travelling Around the World" aims to spur young students' interest in other countries and cultures, while "Living Art" is intended to foster participants' creativity. Jolly Kingdom's summer courses run from mid-July to the end of August and cost HK$748 to HK$980 per month of four lessons, with a 15 per cent discount for first-timers. Mums and dads who want a greater change of pace in their children's education during the summer could consider enrolling them at the Brandon Learning Centre. "We know that most students need a break from school during the summer," says Jennifer Lee, administrative and marketing officer at the centre. "We use the holidays to draw a line under schoolwork and exams, and work on building life-long skills. This is a great time to develop critical thinking and spend time on cultural enrichment." The centre runs a wide range of courses covering areas such as debate, art appreciation, public speaking and even history. For students who are heading off to UK schools, the centre helps introduce them to British classroom behaviour, while French immersion programmes are offered for students who are heading to Europe. The programmes offered at the Brandon Learning Centre are suitable for children from a wide range of backgrounds aged four and above. Courses run between July and August, with fees set at HK$420 per hour for a group lesson. Learning to play a musical instrument at a young age can provide children with a skill that will not only give them pleasure throughout their life, but can also give their CV a boost - especially in Hong Kong. Perfect Pitch Music Centre in Happy Valley runs courses for children of all ages throughout the summer, as well as the rest of the year. "To cope with the keen competition for school places, parents nowadays have higher and higher expectations of their children," says Brenda Wong, founder of Perfect Pitch. "However, we also stress the importance of stability and cognitive development. We aim to arouse student's interest in music, so music will be their life-long companion." Wong and the other tutors at the centre provide training in a wide range of instruments for children from pre-school ages upwards. "We also have tailor-made music classes for students aged over 14 who would like to play contemporary music on the piano, guitar or violin," she says. Fees start from HK$213 for a 45-minute beginner's lesson.