City of Berkeley and Y Summer Camps

Can anyone comment about the summer camp options offered by the City of Berkeley? We will need a full day and AM and PM care so the options are the Day Camp at Willard, the Explorers' Club at James Kenney Community Center, and the Arts Discovery Camp at the Frances Albrier Community Center. We have a rising 2nd grader who likes being outside, cooking, drawing, and sports. Could anyone comment about their child's experience,the attention by the counselors, pick up/drop off, and overall impressions? We are also considering so time at the Berkeley Y so any insights are welcome too! Thank you so much!

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Last year with a rising kindergartener we did Berkeley Day Camp and the Frances Albrier Art's Camp. We won't be doing Berkeley Day Camp this year. His reviews on the staff at BDC were mixed and the AM and PM aftercare was lack luster, plus I witnessed some poor supervision around pick-up and drop-off that made me wonder about safety. That said he loved all the cool places BDC went and I think for older kids the issues we had would not be a big deal.

At Frances Albrier's Art camp, the staff are the same week-to-week (and mostly the same staff as their school year after school program) the group is smaller than BDC. They do a walking field trip each week (to swim or go to a different park), they cook, do science, garden, art time, play games, dance, play on the playground, do light sports, and goof around. Lots of time outside and just the right amount of lightly supervised free play plus organized activities for mine. He choose on his own to go only to FA this summer. 

I'm not sure if your reference to Day Camp at Willard is JUST that, or in conjunction with Berkeley Day Camp, which is a City of Berkeley Summer Camp that our kids went to for years, and which has a before and after care option at Willard.  We never did the before or after care, but I wanted to recommend Berkeley Day Camp because both our kids loved it.  It's very traditional -- think hikes, capture the flag, cookouts, lanyards -- with a school bus taking the kids to either the Berkeley Marina or Tilden every day with lots of adventures including swim day every Friday at either Lake Anza or Crab Cove in Alameda.  It's really a great, and very affordable, camp with super nice counselors and a lot of creativity.

My son loved Explorers Camp at James Kenney last summer, and he’ll be spending most of this summer there again. It’s a classic summer camp - lots of sports, running, playing, art, etc. It’s not very structured or rigid which was great for my kid who doesn’t mind a little chaos and prefers to choose his own activity vs being forced to do what the group is doing, but it is not as good for kids who need a lot of structure and organized activities. A couple of other perks are that the kids go swimming once a week, and it’s a site for the free summer lunch program, so food is provided all summer long. It’s also very affordable and as a result extremely diverse - it truly reflects the population of the city unlike other pricier camps that my son has attended. The down side of the camp is that it can be a little chaotic and there’s not a lot of hand-holding going on. For children who advocate for themselves, this works fine, but I can see where a quieter less assertive child could struggle. Kids who attend this camp tend to go all summer, so I think it’s socially easier to start the first week of the summer than to start mid summer when the friend groups have formed. The City of Berkeley camps usually don’t fill up, so you could try just a couple of weeks and move on to something else if it doesn’t work out.