Frazzled parents looking for a winter sun destination where their children can find fun and frolics should be turning to the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba where youngsters go top of the class. Across the sun-drenched island, hotels and resorts make great efforts to ensure their smaller guests are given a big welcome. Sandcastle-building, shell hunting tours, art classes and sessions in the local language, Papiamento, and merengue dancing are just some of the ingredients of special kids' programmes, deals and all-day camps.
But this is just the beginning. Families seeking something more than a traditional Caribbean experience will discover countless child-friendly attraction and activities dotted around Aruba.
Families who want to take a break from the more popular beaches but still aim to soak up the sun often opt for a day trip to the all-inclusive destination of De Palm Island, a short boat journey from capital Oranjestad. Enjoying exclusive island access and a perfect dose of action, visitors can plunge headfirst into activities, like Sea Trek underwater helmet walking, SNUBA (a cross between snorkelling and scuba), snorkelling, banana boat rides and water parks.
Adults kick back in a sun lounger on the private beach or relax with a massage overlooking the Caribbean Sea, while children splash around or indulge in De Palm Island's unlimited food and drink menus.
Staying with the water, remember that Aruba is the windsurfing capital of the world, thanks to favourable wind and water conditions, plus year-round sunshine. Watersports operators and instructors are plentiful, providing equipment and lessons to everyone from youthful and older beginners to advanced sailors.
Back on shore, there is still plenty for the family to enjoy. Helping out at the donkey sanctuary is one of the most popular stops. Located closed to Aruba's intriguing Ayo Rock formation, the sanctuary feeds and provides medical care to around 90 animals. Children gain a great educational experience by helping with such daily tasks as feeding and caring for the donkeys.
Similarly, at the Aruba Ostrich Farm, there are guided tours every 30 minutes, providing memorable experiences, educating visitors on mating, rearing and feeding habits of the world's largest living bird.
More than 80 species of migratory birds find an oasis of lush vegetation within Aruba's Bubali Bird Sanctuary. Its observation deck is perfect for families to spot herons, egrets, gulls, skimmers, cormorants and numerous species of duck.
There's nature spotting, too, at Aruba's butterfly farm, located on Palm Beach, close to a number of major hotels. This tropical garden is filled with butterflies from around the world and children delight in discovering at first hand the miracle of metamorphosis. Experts give 15 to 20-minute guided tours all day, every day.
Sprawling across nearly 20 per cent of Aruba's land mass, the government-protected Arikok National Park is a playground for the whole family seeking a break from the beach. All ages thrill as they venture across the 20 miles of rugged and wild, desert-like terrain via ATV, Jeep safari, horseback or on foot.
Tucked along the northern shore, the park also boasts a number of hidden beaches, cacti, natural bridges and pools, ancient cave paintings and indigenous flora and fauna, including the Aruba rattlesnake and burrowing owls. The park's visitor centre offers an enriching overview of Aruba's culture, history and conservation efforts.
Back on the water, an array of sailing charters offer family-friendly catamaran sailing and snorkel excursions, including lively music, open bars and snacks or light lunches. Families equip themselves with snorkel gear and plunge headfirst into turquoise waters to see an array of colourful marine life. Among the most popular snorkel spots is the wreck of the Antilla which, at 400 feet, is the largest shipwreck dive in the Caribbean.