This summer, the kids participated in a week-long building construction village “Bouwdorp” called MiniGestel – in nearby village, St. Michielsgestel. They happen all over the country around the same time of year (last week of summer vacation which varies depending on your region) and our kids LOVED it! Growing up in the US, I NEVER had anything like this – which I’m 100% sure due to liability and insurance reasons. The closes we had was a bit of woodworking at the local YMCA day camp. So thankful that my neighbour told me about this program.
Honestly the first couple hours, it took a bit of getting used to as kids (age 4-12) with hammers, nail, saws just left to themselves to build huts at first I was like umm – is this safe? Some are like 10 feet tall – I thought I hope it doesn’t collapse with a few kids inside but I guess you have trust your kids and hope they are not going to get hurt. Also, many parents help the kids get the base of their huts established day 1 so they were probably very confident in the structure and sturdiness of the huts. Small kids are a bit more supervised by the volunteers, but overall there were a few scrapes but no major injuries in our group! I made sure they wore hiking boots to protect their feet a bit from nails. But as I said, our kids loved it and unless we are away, there is no way they won’t force me to sign them up again next August. Hopefully I can convince my hubby to take the morning off on the first day as us moms could REALLY use his height and strength.
It’s only a 10 minute drive so not so bad. They did it with some kids from our neighborhood and school, but next year I think Soren will join his friends from his class. He wants to be with the “cool older boys – ages 11 & 12” and not with his 10 year old sister and younger kids as the oldest boy – but was a big help often found up on the roof!
Starting 1st of July, you can buy day tickets for €5.00 but we purchased a weekly ticket €20. per child for the construction village at the Albert Heijn, Hema, Oetelaar Schoenmode in St. Michielsgestel en Willy Schellekens (Gemonde) This includes a lunch – bread with a slice of meat or cheese and a drink. They get a bracelet with a barcode which you register and that is scanned in and out each day as your child enters and exits the village so security is tight. So no worries about them wandering off!
The gates open daily at 10 a.m. and close again at 4 p.m. Except on Friday, they open at 9 a.m. and close the gates at 12.30 p.m.
In addition to the construction activities, a daily newspaper, additional activities are also organized during the day like games so I won’t include those but generally this is how the Mini-Gestel week looks like – all in an out of space theme.
The gates will open at 10 a.m. with a ceremony. Once the gates open you immediately build your own huts until closing at 4 p.m. This day is sort of crazy – when the gates are open small kids go to the left and big kids to the right. We built out hut right by the pile of wood so no need to lug far – it was IDEAL!! There are two huge piles of wood and this is where you see kids and parents working together rather quickly. Adults can help out the kids at the start so you see big men grabbing the best wood pieces, doors and planks of plywood and start off the huts for the kids (no electric drills allowed). Parents need to leave by 11 am (I think) so it’s a real rush to get the base for the kids set up …. Kids bring their own hammers, work gloves (if they want) but they supply tubs of nails and of course, the piles and piles of wood which you see dwindle down over the course of the week until there is nothing left.
Do you want to become mayor or alderman of this village where nothing is too crazy? Then you can sign up today for the mayor election and you will have to campaign in the village to win as many votes as possible! Also today there is the ‘who does what race’ so that sweats are blown. The huts are being painted today. You supply your brushes and pots, they supply the paint.
This morning we have a farmer’s wedding in this year’s theme. Tonight the children of the primary school may, with the permission of their parents, finally stay the night in the hut or the big tent. That is why today the cabins have to be made rainproof and all cabins are inspected. This year it was way to wet so they cancelled the sleep over – but our kids didn’t want to stay over anyway so no disappointment there.
Today you can trade in flea market stuff with the cool Mini-Gestel euros. It is namely market day in Mini-Gestel. This was the BEST DAY EVER! The kids brought in toys from home to see and it was a giant kids car boot sale. They sold lots of stuff for great prices, but only issue was that at the end of the day, Soren had €15.50 Mini-Gestel bucks in his pocket as he didn’t spend his money on buying other peoples junk – great job saving! ha ha
This morning there will be an auction. Who offers? The site will be closed at 12.30 pm so that you can all come back in the evening with your parents for the smashing village party with a playback show and numerous activities. (You need a separate ticket for this and we didn’t come back for this part).
From a parents point of view, it was great as it was affordable and the kids loved it. We could also watch them on a live feed as our hut was right in the front. That is my daughter in the pink …
Hopefully the schedule works out next Summer (meaning we are not away on vacation) as they are really are looking forward to doing it next summer. I think the general rule is that it is the last week of summer vacation so I’ll look for sign up and hopefully it will work out again this year.
There is one in Esch and Den Dungen and the one in Vught has a lottery it’s pretty big. I heard Den Bosch Zuid has one and it’s small only 100 kids… but this was such a fantastically organized group, super volunteers and they are SO looking forward to doing it again next year here.