Advice about City of Berkeley Day Camps

Parent Q&A

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  • Has anyone had a recent experience in the last couple of years with one of the community center day camps in Berkeley, either Frances Albrier, James Kenney or the Live Oak camp? They look great on paper for the price. I'm looking for a 5 year old who is pretty confident and flexible and likes many types of activities, including swimming. I'm mostly hoping that the staff are competent and help the kids engage with each other and have fun. 

    We didn't do them last year, but have many other years, starting at age 5, and will again this year (age 10). My outgoing kiddo has been fine. He has formed several long term relationships with the staff and happily chats with them when he sees them out in the community and at other city run events. The camps are less structured than some other camps (e.g., less structured than Blue Camp up at Cal), but my kid has enjoyed the extra freedom of choice and still never complained about being bored or not making friends. The staff tend to be part year round staff and part hired for summer older teens and college kids. Far more diversity in the staff and kiddos than we have seen in other camps, which we prefer. 

    My 10yo has happily attended two locations of the CoB “summer fun camps” for the past four years. They’re great for kids who are social and generally down for any activity. They do a variety of crafts, games, and free play. Once a week they go swimming, and many weeks they have a field trip somewhere. Definitely recommended.

    As a bonus, my child has formed casual friendship with kids outside his school community. We love running into camp friends at playgrounds or city events. 

    The Berkeley Day camp (at Shorebird) is also excellent, although a bit more expensive. They do canoeing!

    Sometimes these camps haven’t been as fun for kids who are shy, inflexible, or picky about their activities. Even then, attending with a friend often helps. 

  • City of Berkeley and Y Summer Camps

    (3 replies)

    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!

    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. 

  • Have anyone ever signed up your kid for the summer Playground Program through the city of Berkeley? Held at various BUSD and city park locations in the summer (such as Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Grove Park, and so on). It's only $5 for a week of "fun and games" from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. I am considering signing up my kid but I only know of one person who's done it before, so I would like to hear more feedback first. Why isn't this program well attended? (There are lots of spaces available but many of the other city-run camps are sold out.)

    Low-income families have priority registration but it is open to everyone in the city. 

    Note: This is not the same as the "Super Fun Camps" as the Berkeley Community Centers (like Frances Albrier, James Kenney, and Live Oak). 

    No responses received.

Parent Reviews

RE: All-outdoor camps for 2022? ()

There are a lot! Here's our list: Trackers, Sees the Day, Cal Explorers, Berkeley City Camps, Kids for the Bay, A World of Peace, Wild Ones Art Camp, One Generation, Monkey Business. Some of these are on our list of camps we want to try but haven't yet. We've done:

- Trackers: focus on outdoor skills, all outdoors, they do a great job teaching how to be responsible in the outdoors including leave no trace principles, how to be safe about things like knives. They throw in some cool fantasy stuff, like there was a dragon theme day over winter break where the kids searched for "dragons" (actually birds), and that makes it really fun for younger kids. This is the one I'd recommend the most for nature and hikes.

- Cal explorers: they had a little bit of indoor time but mostly outdoors with a huge range of activities - sports, arts and crafts, science/nature projects, dance, usually they have swim lessons but they canceled last year because of COVID. 

- Berkeley camps: they have a few different ones, with a range of activities and prices. We did one of the playground-based ones and it was simple but fun - lots of free play on the playground with some arts and crafts and sports activities mixed in. Some of their camps go to more nature spots like the marina and tilden, we want to try one of those this year.

Most don't have registration open, except for Trackers which is already full for most weeks!

Your boys might enjoy the Berkeley Marina camps. They vary from Marin biology to boating or kayaking. They are affordable and very well run. You need to monitor the city’s website under the Berkeley Marina tab to find out when the sign up is going to be. Usually the “sporty” camps fill the same day. When my kids were that age they also liked the UC village half day camps like LEGO building, chess or gymnastics. Good luck!