Looking for calmer, less structured camps in Berkeley/Oakland

I have found that most summer camps are not a good fit for my child, who is a high anxiety, high functioning autistic kiddo.

They do not like camps that are very loud or overenthusiastic - too overstimulating and overwhelming. They can have some structure, but do not love a highly structured camp - they love free play, nature, arts and crafts, and creativity. They do not like sports. They love math and science but not in a structured environment.

I know it's early to be thinking about camps for next summer, but maybe people have some recommendations fresh on their minds from this past summer? We are looking for mid-late elementary age (~8-10), and ideally in Berkeley or Oakland. Thank you!

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Our child and her friends have enjoyed Aurora School Summer Camp. They offer structure but are also flexible and not overly structured. The staff are warm, experienced and supportive. They get a plenty of outdoor time. Full disclosure — we attend Aurora School. We feel that the summer camp embodies the school’s philosophy of meeting each child where they are. The summer camp is very popular and gets filled up quickly. You should act as soon as it opens. They offer different types of camps, but the Creator/Explorer camp may be the best fit for your kid. 

Monkey Business Camp! Both my kids are on the non-sporty/introvert side and very much enjoyed it, although they aged out during the pandemic so I think only went one or two summers. It seemed quite chill.

Monkey Business, seconded. A really positive experience for our kids, one autistic with no cognitive impairments. 

The Wagner Ranch Nature Area in Orinda offers an outdoor nature camp that includes things like hikes, acorn gathering, gardening, pond science and the like. Led by very calm Naturalists with like-minded high school counselors. The camp was cancelled summer 2023 because the Nature Area was brutalized from the harsh winter storms, fallen trees, washed out trails. But we are doing work on the area now & both hope and expect to offer the camps summer 2024. Keep an eye on our website for updates: 


Look into Steve and Kate’s camp. It might be too overwhelming for your kiddo as there are lots of kids running around which by itself can be overstimulating, but it’s unstructured in a way my kid loved. There are different stations/rooms/areas — everything from sports to crafting to building with blocks to coding to quiet board games — and the kids choose which stations they go to and how long they spend d there. They basically do whatever they want in the context of various camp activities. I thought my kid would need more structure but he loved the freedom and options.

Hello, my son attended Wild Ones Art camp a few summers ago and really enjoyed it. Arts and crafts with donated/found/natural art supplies, lots of time walking/noodling in East Bay parks. They also offer school break camps to check out prior to next summer! Good luck! 

We really love Outside School for Heather's summer camp.  It's 4 weeks in the summer, and most kids attend all 4 weeks.  It's a small group, so the kids really get to know each other and Heather gets to know them.  She does a fantastic job of following the kids interests and inserting her own ideas and structure, but because it's child-led, I think it likely feels less structured.  It's in a park in Richmond, which is outside the area you asked about, but it's a quick jaunt off the highway and I've found it easy to get to.

Our child, also autistic, has been going and enjoying Trackers camps for years now. Some are more active than others: the LARP ones were great hit, the more sporty ones less so. But we found all to have great staff, and very accomodating to neurodivergent. They're in the Albany hills, which I guess is close enough to Berkeley to count