Downtown Berkeley YMCA

All Ages
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Parent Reviews

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RE: Gyms that offer childcare ()

I go to the YMCA - and I’ve been told that the do plan to re-open childcare once they have additional staff.  They also recommended I keep checking in/emailing so that there continues to be proof of demand/desire on the pet of patrons.  Good luck!! I also want my gym childcare options again

Check the schedule at the Downtown Berkeley YMCA. We did a parent/child basketball class with our daughter a few years ago and she really enjoyed it!

I went to the Berkeley Y for many years, and the first few years after becoming a parent. Then realized the Albany Y was much closer to my house, and switched to that as my home Y about 5 years ago. We now go regularly on Saturday and my kids go to the childwatch down the street (but in the same building as the yoga classes on weekends). It really just depends on what's more convenient for you personally, because that will get you there. Parking is easier in Albany for sure, except maybe at Cornell School pickup time. I now go to the Berkeley Y maybe once a month, because one of my kids really likes the big-kid childwatch there, because it has foosball and a wii. The other one hates it, because the helpers aren't very warm, unlike her favorite at the Albany Y childwatch. Personal preference.

My sessions at the Berkeley Y are once or twice a week, swimming or upstairs weight room There is no waiting. Women come and go from the machine room (elliptical, stairmaster, etc.) which seems to have plenty of empty machines. I just added my grandtwins (five) to my membership and looked in on the child care facilities. i was impressed. Also there are family swim times almost every day.  There is also a room where kids can play while parents watch. There are always lots of little children around, and once a month or so they have "Kids Night OUt."

Hi, I’ve been going to the Berkeley Y and using child watch for my toddler for about a year and a half. We go weekday mornings.  The caregivers are all really great and the kid’s area is very spacious and plenty stimulating for the kids. I’ve never had to wait for a space for my toddler (though I’ve seen a waitlist for under 2s now and again). I usually exercise in the women’s fitness area and I’ve never had to wait for cardio or strength training equipment (although it’s older equipment compared to the co-ed exercise areas, it works fine). I highly recommend the berk Y because there is also the large kindergym play area. The only issues I’ve run into are parents sending their sick kids to childcare - I’m not sure how strongly they enforce any rules about sick children attending child watch.

I've only used the Berkeley YMCA but I've very rarely had any problems with needing to wait for weights or other equipment. I haven't tried the drop off childcare but I hope to when my baby is a little bigger.

We have used the downtown Berkeley Y for childcare and I really like them.  I’ve been using the care there since my daughter was a baby and it’s great.  I love the women’s only floor, and the access to the pools.  The locker rooms are great too!  
The Albany Y doesn’t have towel service which is a pain for me when I’m trying to multitask exercise showering and I forget my towel.

I haven’t used their child watch at Albany, but FYI depending on the day of the week it is either held at the gym or up the street at their other facility, which doesn’t work for my new baby or my toddler as she wouldn’t like to be that far away from (& neither would I).

i guess I prefer the downtown Y!

RE: Non-competitive sport for teen ()

The Berkeley YMCA has a structured program they do for kids wanting PE credit at Berkeley High, but they might do the same for any kid - it's fitness, so not competitive. Martial arts are also good, most aren't competitive, certainly for a while.

The Berkeley Y was a great resource when my daughter was a baby and toddler. We went several times per week. They have childwatch, a really cool kindergym, and back then they had a music circle. I still have friends and acquaintances from that scene.

I'm currently trying to see if a treadmill in my living room is the solution that will work for me, but I wanted to recommend the Berkeley y's women's gym. They have a whole area that is no men allowed and the vibe is amazing, friendly and inclusive. 

The Berkeley ymca is full of all shapes, ages, and fitness levels. I like it because you can pick an exercise you like (for me it is dancing and the occasional “body sculpt” class) and participate at your level. 

I entered as a super out of shape mom and am now a mildly in shape one. 

I look at the 80 year olds in my class and think “if they can do it so can I”.

once you find a class you like, other members or the instructors are generally able to point you to similar classes at that level. 

Parking is ok— 1$ with validation after 4 pm and sometimes on the weekend. 

Good luck getting moving.

I can’t help with equinox but I will say that I have been happy with the childcare at the ymca in Berkeley. My daughter started there at 8 weeks old and we go most days. 

The YMCA in Berkeley has a children's play room. I've only been there once but my 2-year old daughter loved it and we saw kids as old as 6 or 7 playing in it.

RE: Yoga class for kids? ()

The Downtown Berkeley YMCA has a child yoga class (I think they're offering 2 different ones this Fall, one for smaller kids, and one for bigger kids).  They also have lots of other great family programs!

Berkeley Y Fan

Archived Q&A and Reviews



General Reviews of the Berkeley Y

Nov 2015

RE: Yoga class for Plus Sized people

The Berkeley/Albany YMCA has all ages and shapes of people in its classes, in my experience.It is a welcoming place with so much to offer; you could try classes there as well. Plus, there is a women's fitness center and weight room. There are so many great options in east bay- good luck! yoga fan

I don't know how you feel about water exercise but many larger women participate in the water exercise classes at the Berkeley Y, and at the Albany Pool. In general, a very diverse group of people exercise at the Berkeley Y. I'm plus-sized and always feel comfortable at the Y's Women's Fitness Center. The Albany Pool also has a private group of women over 200 pounds that meets on Sundays around 11:30 after the water exercise class. I've never tried it, but the women seem friendly. You pay for it separately from the regular pool fee. anon

Sept 2007

Re: Gyms or Exercise Clubs for the whole family
Well, we love the Berkeley YMCA, but I can't say that we've compared to other places. We just moved here from San Luis Obispo, so EVERYTHING is better around here for a family with kids, but this place is especially nice. When we joined, while we are essentially paying for just two adults, it was clear that our children were members too, and the developmental and physical programs are really nice for them. I love it there, including the childcare. Jenn

Childcare at the Berkeley Y

Feb 2008

I'm hoping to go back to working out at the downtown Y and am considering taking my 3-month old twin girls to the childcare program. Does anyone have any recent experience and/or advice on this? How safe does it seem for little babies? What is the cost? Any times better than others? Thanks! Nika

I started taking my daughter to the Y when she was 8 weeks old and loved it. I only went for a few months (I went back to work and couldn't go anymore) and I haven't been since 05/07 so my info may be out-of-date. At the time you could pay by the hour or sign up for a monthly unlimited rate. The staff is caring and attentive and I never felt worried leaving her there. If my daughter was really fussy they would come and get me rather than letting her cry the whole time I was gone. It was so nice to be able to have a few moments to myself and to take a shower in peace! melissalev [at]

i have taken both of my kids there, beginning as infants. they are now 5 yrs old & 7 mo. i've been using it for the past 4-5 years. my kids really like it, even the baby. the staff is consistent and caring. they keep the under 2 group in a separate area from the older kids. if you go during really busy times, like on weekday evenings, it may appear a bit chaotic, but it is really ok. as far as cost, they just raised their prices & i think this is the only thing i don't like about childwatch as the fees are more than my monthly membership! i believe it is now $2.50 per 1/2 hr or you can pay a monthly flat rate of $45 and bring them as much as you want. (the fees are per child.) if you are going to bring the kids at least 3-4 times a week it is better to do the flat rate. love the berkeley Y

I started my kids in the Y's childcare when they were 9 weeks old. The staff there is great. I feel very secure leaving my kids there. They tend to hold the babies a lot, which I like. Every time I have come to fetch my kids, the babies are being given one-on-one attention. I do recommend that, if your children take bottles, that you bring one for the staff to use.

As for the best times...well, I find that it gets packed immediately after the weekday babygym gets out around 10 am. A lot of moms come to babygym and then immediately take their kids to childwatch. I'd probably avoid those times if I wanted to be sure there was space. Feeling Guilty That I Don't Work Out More

I've been bringing my baby to the Berkeley Y childwatch since she was 8 weeks old. Overall, I am really pleased--all the staff are responsible and seem to genuinely care about all of the children. I would suggest specifying if you have any concerns or requests--for example, if your baby can't yet support his/her head, make sure to tell them not to put him/her in the swing, and leave your carseat there as an alternative. The first few times you bring your baby, I would suggest checking on him/her every 30 minutes or so, depending on how comfortable your baby is to new environments with lots of noise. The busiest time is 10 a.m. -12 p.m., especially on weekends. Y mom

I took my daughter to the downtown Berkeley Y childwatch starting when she was about 3 months old (she's now two). I felt it was a very safe and attentive environment (and I was a nervous new mom). The nice thing is that if your child is crying a lot and not settling in, the staff will come get you. And the cost is very reasonable - only a few dollars per hour per child. I recommend that you give it a try! eve

One thing I'd like to mention about the Berkeley Y Child Watch. I used to love dropping my 2 year old off there. Until unforeseen circumstances caused us to miss the entire month of December and part of January. Then I realized that for 6 weeks, my child had not been sick at all. I would have appreciated child watch a little better had they been more of a follower of their own rules about not allowing kids in when they were sick. My son, before December, was often sporting a cough or runny nose. And sure, I took him to the gym because hey, he's not THAT sick, and they never turned me away. When I was finally slapped in the face with the fact that it was indeed the gym causing him to be sick, I stopped taking him. He's happier and I don't have to constantly drag him around with a cold. Me? If I'm able to, I will go in the morning before hubby goes to work. It's just not worth the germs. And please, I'm not saying the Y is any worse than any other kid place. It just frustrates me that people drop off their sick kids because they are paying for it, and the Y takes the sick kids because they are getting paid for it. tired of the snot

Oct 2006

The messages on this topic on the website aren't recent. I wanted to find out from parents of infants who are using the Oakland YMCA childwatch and/or the Berkeley YMCA childwatch what their experience has been. I have a 4 month old and have been thinking about joining. What have you liked/disliked? In particular, how have you seen staff respond to babies who are crying or experiencing separation anxiety? Can someone explain the role of volunteers in the childwatch and whether that's at both Oakland and Berkeley. Thanks in advance Julie

I recently joined the Berkeley Y and have left my 8-month old at Childwatch on four different occasions over the last week and a half. I was quite anxious about leaving my daughter with people she doesn't know and how she would do without me there. We haven't left her with anyone other than family. So far, we have had a great experience at Childwatch. The staff and volunteers in the infant area are very hands on. They are right there on the floor with the babies playing with them. I have gradually extended my workouts to give my daughter (and me) a chance to get adjusted. My daughter has only cried once toward the end of her time when another baby got to close to her and scared her. I guess she was crying for a few minutes. (They come and get you if your baby cries for more than 5 minutes and cannot be consoled). I am getting more and more comfortable leaving her. It makes me feel good that she gets excited when we get to the Y. I cannot say that there's anything that I don't like about the place (I wouldn't leave my daughter if I did). I hope this helps. I know its anxiety provoking, but just remember, your health is important too. I can tell you that its really been great to get back to working out on a regular basis. I have more energy to play with my very active baby. Shauna

I left my daughter at the Berkeley Y childwatch a few times, and I thought they did a great job. She was a pretty anxious kid, and wasn't in daycare yet, but they engaged her really well, and they've got lots of activities for the full range of ages. The only thing that I didn't like (and the reason I didn't leave her there regularly) is something they may have changed by now, since I noticed the director is different than when I first went there: I had asked what they do if they see a kid is sick, and the director at the time said, ''Well, we encourage them not to bring in their kids sick, and they're not supposed to, but we do have to be nice to the members too.'' Hopefully the person who is the director now would give the right answer to that question (i.e., sick kids are not allowed, and if we find out that kids are sick after they've been dropped off, we call the parents back). I had considered the Oakland Y, but it's really small and really boring for the kids. Club One also has a child care option. It looked pretty good, and friends of mine said their kids liked it, but the Berkeley Y looked like the most fun for the kids. They even take the kids into their kindergym area too

I have been using the Berkeley Y childwatch for 4 years and it rocks!! There are many things I find challenging about the Y in general (parking, 'cave' like building that isn't particularly inspiring a space for me), but the childwatch keeps me coming back. The staff and volunteers are attentive and caring and do a great job. I began brining my younger son when he was a newborn, and he was held and cuddled, and it seemed to be a treat for the person who got to hold him the whole time. I can tell, now that he is almost 2, and will soon move to the 'big kids' section of the room, that the infant staff are quite bonded to him, and one even asked me recently ''how much longer do we get him for?'' We go often enough that the staff know my kids, and they're greeted by name when we arrive. The one thing I would say is that when it is very crowded, it can be a little over-stimulating in the room, but as a whole I think the Childwatch is phenomenal and very affordable. Also, the security is great. I recently went to the El Camino Y in Mountain View, which I LOVE as a facility, but I found that compared the Berkeley, the childwatch was really sub-par in terms of staf quality, attentiveness, and check-in/check-out security Love Berkeley Y Childwatch

Hello, as the family director of the Berkeley YMCA, I love it when people ask for feedback about our programs. It really helps us improve our services. Especially since most members are more willing to give honest feedback in an anonymous fashion. So thank you for asking the question. If you ever want to speak to me directly, never hesitate to email or call. A couple of things I can tell you from a policy standpoint for the Berkeley YMCA (Oakland is a different organization):
1) our staff:infant ratio is very low - 1 staff for every 2 infants, and if an infant is requiring 1 on 1 care that is taken into consideration before signing in more children
2) our staff are trained to deal with separation anxiety and especially why it happens (the reasons vary for different developmental stages). One important fact about separation anxiety is that even very young children can sense if their parents are uncomfortable or nervous, so we encourage new parents to come visit with their child first so that they are confident and ready before dropping off. We always come get the parent if the child is not easily consolable.
3) we tend to have about 25% volunteers and 75% paid staff on each shift. So, about 1 volunteer with every 3 staff. Both volunteers and paid staff receive a background check, fingerprinting, etc. No staff or volunteers are ever left alone with children, and volunteers must always have staff supervision as paid staff have CPR and First Aid training as well as other mandatory trainings. I am happy to provide more information if you would like. Just let me know. Thanks again, Eden 510-665-3238 Eden O'Brien-Brenner

Sept 2006

Re: Pool and gym with childcare

We've been very happy with the Kidwatch program at the downtown Berkeley Y. Lots of other good programs for kids, too. Only complaint I've heard is that sometimes there are too many kids and you have to wait for someone to leave before your kid can go it. But mine are older and that's never been a problem for us. We're huge fans of the Y and its youth programs. Dad

The downtown Berkeley YMCA's childcare is great! It's always staffed by great people, my son always has a good time there, and at $3.00/hr, you can't beat the price. Anon

May 2006

The most recent posting about the childcare at the Berkeley YMCA is dated 2003. I am curious about more recent experiences as I consider joining to take advantage of the child care for my ten month old son while I go to yoga classes. My son is very social, and might enjoy being around other babies/toddlers in a social setting, but I am not totally comfortable with the idea of leaving him there. How have you found the child care for babies/toddlers 10-15 months? Any differences between weekdays and weekends? Jenny

hi i have left my daughter at the Berkeley Ymca chidwatch since she was about 4mo old and she is now 22mo....i definetely recommend their service...emma loves it there now...she,s had periods where she was not happy to be left there butthe staff really tried to make her happy and comfortable being there, it,s a great service.....i have experienced the staff to be very caring and it has been my only way of getting some time for myself so i am very thankful the childwatch i,d say...go for it...we love it!! astrid

We have liked the Berkeley YMCA childcare since our son was 8 weeks old. He is now 11 months and still goes. The place is always clean - there are usually plenty of workers (usually the ratio is 1:1 or 2:1 for the little ones except at some really high demand times). There are some great activities for kids of all ages there - and I was surprised at how big the childwatch rooms are. They take the older kids to kindergym sometimes for some more activities.

They also have a policy that if your baby cries for more than 7 minutes (i think 7) they come and get you. This really comforted me when we first started going.

I also think it is great to join the Y because you can take your child swimming just about any day (they have the little kid time, ''tiny waves,'' in the shallow heated pool 6 days a week). And using the kindergym when the weather is bad was great to get my son some exercise nisha

I can't comment on weekend vs. weekday, but my husband brings our son almost every Tuesday to the childwatch at the Berkeley Y, and my son loves it. I haven't in a while, but I used to bring him there while I worked out. I think there was one time that I brought him, when he cried so much they had to come get me, but that was when he was having lots of separation anxiety in general, so it wasn't specific to the childwatch. When you bring your child in, you have to write where in the gym they can find you and when you will be back - it's a very organized system. And from what I can tell, most kids there are happy and they have plenty of volunteers in there to hug and care for anyone that's unhappy. If they simply can't get a kid to stop crying, they come get you.

They also have a nice big space, well-thought-out rules and suggestions, lots of good toys, and sometimes they take toddlers and older into the Kindergym area where they can run around and bounce off the walls to their hearts' content.

By the way - I highly recommend joining the Y. It's a fabulous gym (the Women's Fitness Center is SO great). I have often taken advantage of the classes for myself and for my son, and almost never been disappointed - and my son has loved every single class I've signed him up for Jen

The Berkeley YMCA Childwatch is great. I've been using it for 7 years for my 7 year old son and my two year old daughter. I don't know what I would without it being an on and off again stay-at-home-mom. It is very organized and the people there are attentive and engaged with the kids. Some have been there the whole time that I have been using it. I can't recommend it enough! >From a YMCA Junkie

We've been using it for our 5-year-old 3x a week including weekends. It has always been well-staffed and is very well organized. Nice big space with something for every kid. I highly recommend it.

Nov 2003

Re: Gym with Infant Care

I would give the Berkeley Y another look. I have put both of my children in Childwatch since the first was four months old and have been very happy with it. They have a low staff to child ratio and if you go regularly you will get to know someone who really relates to your baby. The Y has so many classes and a great facility for you. I would recommend a visit so that you can see for yourself. Also, if you do decide to use Childwatch, go out of your way to get to know the staff, I think that makes all the difference. Joan

Hello! I am the Family Director for the Berkeley YMCA. I'd love to speak with you or encourage you or anyone with questions to come down for a tour. We have done extensive remodeling of both our physical space, drop-off procedures, staff training and more. We did have ''growing pains'' a few years ago, and some of those posts were written shortly before the pains prompted the remodel and additional infant room. You can reach me at 665- 3238 or the email below. Thanks! Eden O'Brien-Brenner

I love the childcare facility at the Berkeley YMCA... it is an amazing place with an incredible staff and an amazing selection of toys. My daughter loves it there and I've been going there since she was 8 weeks old. (She's 18 months now.) Definitely check it out! I'm sure you could spend an hour hanging out in there before deciding to join. The women's fitness center is wonderful, and supportive and friendly and I really enjoy the pilates and Yoga classes. Not to mention all the free kindergym classes and tiny waves open swim for young kids. They also give out financial aid which helps moms who are home with their kids and not making extra money.... -- Love the Berkeley Y

Hello, I'm a member of the downtown Berkeley YMCA and there are many mommy & baby classes offered each week, but I believe your child has to be under one. I've taken several of the classes there and I highly recommend the Karuna class that's from 11 to noon every Friday. anon

Dec 2002

I'm thinking about joining the Berkeley YMCA mainly because of the child watch service they have. I'm concerned, though, because my child has severe food allergies (dairy and peanut are the worst)and I'm pretty sure I will not have THAT peace of mind leaving my child there while I do my classes. Do any of you have any experience with this, any advice? Can you recommend an alternative to the Y? I'm mostly interested in taking yoga classes, but since a monthly pass to yoga class aroud here is about $80, I thought it would be better to join the Y and get some other benefits from it. Thanks anon.

We use the Y Child Watch regularly for our 4yo and have never had a problem. I've found that if you approach whoever is on duty and give them your specific requests, they are very good about it. For example, they will often take a group of kids to the kindergym, we prefer our son stay in childwatch and they have always respected this. Once when we picked him up, we were told he wanted a snack that one of the staffers had, but would not give him anything without clearing it with us first. I think if you emphasize the severity of your child's allergies (EVERYTIME YOU VISIT), there shouldn't be a problem. Teresa

I really want to recommend Berkeley Y Childwatch for your child with severe food allergies. My son has gone to their program for over three years and the staff is sensitive and knowledgable about food allergies. When you first bring your child in, bring a list of foods that they should be careful of - and make sure to send safe snacks with your child. Happy Mom

I have spent a fair amount of time in Childwatch (trying to get my girl to stay) and have not seen issues with snacks. There are clearly posted signs that forbid ''problem'' foods, i.e. peanuts, raisins, etc. Also, any food that is left for the children is clearly marked with their names. A friend of mine once put grapes in her daughter's snack and she was told when she came back not to bring them again. All that points to a pretty good awareness for food allergies/safety.

Overall, I think that Childwatch is a nice service and a good value. As stated in earlier messages, spend the time up front to get to know the staff and let them know specifically what your child needs. There is a tendency to leave the children that seem OK until they are crying, but if you make sure that someone engages with your child before you leave that seems to help. Joan

I had similar concerns with the Child Watch Center and eventually stopped using them as a result. Once I came into the center to see my child under the plastic picnic table eating crumbs off the not-too-clean carpet. Not only had I informed a staff person but had also place a tape sign on my son's front and back saying ''no wheat''. Plus he had his own food. The excuse I got was, ''We tried several times to keep him from the crumbs.'' Mind you, the people who volunteer to work with children love them and wish to do their best. Too often, I thought, their skills were inadequate for the tasks at hand. My experience was 2+ years ago, however, and I trust that Eden (who runs the place) has taken to heart the many suggestions parents have made. Another mom

Go to the berkeley YMCA child watch location & talk to the people that work there. Tell them you are concerned because of food allergies, and that you won't have peace of mind leaving your child there while you do classes. I bet they would be willing to pay special attention that your child doesn't get into anyone elses food. Maybe your child can have super cool blue colored masking tape on his back with his name on it (instead of the regular tan masking tape they use for all the kids right now). Something simple like that would surely work. The Y is a great place, and great people work there, especially in the child watch area. Good luck - anon

I am a member of the Berkeley Y. In child watch, peanuts are not allowed. There was a boy with severe peanut allergies whose mom used to put a piece of tape on him saying, ''No peanuts.'' I recommend that you call the head director of Child Watch, Eden O'Brien-Brenner and talk over your concerns with her. One of my children also has a very bad reaction to dairy products, and he has never had a problem at the Y. The most risky time is when they are toddlers and then to want to ''graze'' on any food in sight. You could request that a toddler be kept in the 2 and under room, which is away from the snack area. You could also ask about less busy times and try to go then. Good luck! Happy Y Member

I have been using the Y's childwatch for 4 years and have been volunteering there for the last few months as well. I have to say I have always been very impressed with the staff's vigilance about snacks. They always tell first time parents what not to bring and are especially strong about peanut products. Just as an example of their caution, the other day, when the Y was giving out granola bars as some kind of promotion, the staff of Childwatch posted a big sign just inside the doors saying the free bars were not allowed as they contained peanut products.

That said, the problem isn't with the staff but with parents. I often see people sending their kids with snacks that are on the ''verboten'' list, but we can't always catch it because they are often inside lunch bags, etc. However, the staff is also very good about not letting kids eat outside of the designated snack area so even if they do manage to bring some kind of offending snack, it doesn't get out of the snack area.

Here's my recommendation: go to the Y, use Childwatch, give your kid a snack before she goes or after she leaves, when you put a nametag on your child put another tag on her that says ''HIGHLY ALLERGIC TO PEANUTS AND DAIRY,'' then inform two of the staff members that she should not go into the snack area under any circumstances. If you do this, I think you can feel confident that she will have a safe and happy time at Childwatch. elisabeth

I wanted to thank everyone for their positive comments, and reinforce the message that we are always open to feedback. Our staff and volunteer team is always working to improve. Our goal is to provide a safe and fun environment for children and parents. Please feel free to contact me directly if you wish. Eden O'Brien-Brenner, Family Program Director, Berkeley YMCA. 510-665-3238. You may also visit our website at

Feb 2002

I'm interested in hearing from those of you who have recently taken your infants to ChildWatch at the Berkeley YMCA. I took my sleepoing 4 month old to ChildWatch the other day and I was a little alarmed. I wasn't acknowledged by staff. I finally had to ask where I should put my son. I was told that I could put my infant in the infant toddler room but that no one was in there right now -- all the staff were in the front room -- so it was suggested that it might be better to leave my son in the main room. That should have been a no brainer. Then one of the staff finally said s/he would sit in the infant toddler room. The whole experience felt very odd to me. It did not inspire a lot of confidence in the service and I spent my workout feeling uneasy about whether my son was being well cared for. I cut my workout short and went to pick up my son. When I arrived, he was awake, seemed content, and was being held by a staff member who hadn't been there when I came in. I used to take my oldest boy (now 2.5 yrs) to childwatch when he was a year or so old -- previous to the expansion-- I felt okay about ChildWatch at the time. Does anyone have any experience they can share about their infants (12 months or less) and ChildWatch. I want to figure out if I want to leave my child there while I work out or make alternate arrangements until he is older. Thanks. Signed: W.R.

I know the post asked for recent experiences, but I want to share a BAD experience my child had at Berkeley YMCA child watch 3 years ago. My daughter asked to go to the bathroom, and one of the adults opened the heavy door for her. There was a baby crying continuously, so the employee childcare person left to take the baby back to his mom, leaving a volunteer in charge of 3 other kids. She FORGOT about my 4-year old, until 5-10 minutes later (or longer?) - by which time she was hysterically crying. Although they fixed the door so this exact thing could not happen again, it was symptomatic of the lack of training and careful attention to each child on the part of some volunteers. Needless to say that was our last visit. The staff were very defensive and dismissing of my daughter's obvious upset - her eyes looked like she had been crying for an hour. I recommend that you only consider leaving a child there after connecting with a particular person, and getting assurances that this specific person would be responsible for your kid the whole time you will be gone. Just leaving your child in what can easily become a very crowded and stressful situation without enough trained staff is in my view dangerous, or at least asking for an upsetting experience. Anonymous

My son is a little older now, but I did take him to childwatch before his first birthday. I have mixed feelings about the Y childwatch program--you really do have to find someone and personally talk with them. I usually spend a few minutes with both my child and the caregiver. Still, I often found my son in someone else's care when i get back, although he was supervised. Once, however, he was in a corner out of view of the caregiver--I did not like that. FYI, I have boycott the Y childwatch and Kindergym since December, because as colds and flu season approached, every time we went there, my son would get sick the next day: colds, pink eye, roseola. It just wasn't worth it. I wish there was something that the Y childwatch staff could do to keep the germ level lower (having parents regularly help clean the toys; have a box of wipes to clean hands going in and out; actually enforcing the no fever rule), but it just doesn't seem a priority to them. Carolyn

I have always heard good things about the ymca childwatch but was not overly impressed when I tried leaving my son there. I was also not greeted or made to feel secure when leaving. The hardest part for him was that the person I spoke with would finish her shift or have a break and he would fall to pieces. When the new staff member would come to get me from my workout the information I had given regarding my son would not have been passed on. I tried going and staying with my son a couple of times but decided instead to work out when my husband could be at home. christine

I had a similar feeling that there was no-one in charge when i started taking my daughter to childwatch when she was about 4 mo. old. It's true that the staff includes volunteers and parents who don't work long hours there and thus there is some turn over during the day. I think it's also true that there are always some more senior people in charge there at any given time. Overall I like the people who work there and think they do a caring and competent job.

After a few uneasy visits it finally began to work for me when I started bringing my daughter in regularly (1-2x/wk) and at the same time of day/week. I got to know the staffthat worked those shifts and there were specific people who took a special interest in my child who I would seek out to leave her with, and who she became attached to. I think it helps to be assertive and ask ''who's the senior person in charge here?'' and then to clearly communicate to that person or whoever is taking your child any specific directions: he especially likes to be held, he should have this bottle at 1 pm, please find me immediately if he cries, etc.

Dance Classes

Re: Informal dance/movement class for 3-year-old (March 2004)
Check out the Berkeley YMCA for ballet, tumbling, and hip hop classes for toddlers and preschoolers. My 3 yr old son is currently enjoying his hip hop class with Ms. Nancy. Mama on the move

Friday Night at the Berkeley Y

Nov 2000

In response to the parent whose son is Hanging Out with Free Time --- and who use to express interest in the Y. While he may be into activities with friends that now may make the Y of no interest to him, for other parents the Friday night program is a great program. The Downtown Berkeley YMCA is starting the 2000-20001 Waves of the Future program with some new counselors and still has openings. An application must be submitted by the student and it is very easy to do. The program is volunteer orientated.

The older teens/middle school youth meet from 5pm to 7pm. Then the younger kids (such as 4th, 5th grades) meet from 7pm to 9pm. If you or your child is interested, call the YMCA for more information and arrange to come see what is going on.

My 8th grader's participation for the last year and a half has been an extremely positive influence in his life. He has been around adults who are superb role models and he makes friends from all over town. It keeps him focused on positive experiences and in his case is he is developing his people and leadership skills. It has also kept him busy on Friday evenings so other boring or troublesome activities have not taken up his time. This year his 4th grade sister is able to join the younger group and she is making new friends while helping as a volunteer.

The Downtown YMCA has the most diverse membership of any community organization in the Berkeley area!!! I highly recommend its youth activities---even for nonmembers. The Friday Family Night events are a nominal cost and are great for the elementary and preschool children accompanied by parents (family swims, kindergym, arts and crafts, etc.). Even if you are not prepared for a full individual or family membership, stop by and pick up a program to see what programs are available with an inexpensive Community Membership for your child or children. Individual Teen memberships are available when they are 13 years old and then they can use the facilities to work out before about 5pm. Again, I highly recommend the Y.



March 2009

I'm trying to get some more information about the Berkeley YMCA Babygym for babies 6 months plus. I've checked out gymboree lately and wondering if the class is similar to it. Do you think younger babies would enjoy, my son is almost 5 months. any information about the class would be helpful. Lily

I would strongly recommend putting your hard-earned money in the Y instead of Gymboree. For about the same price as Gymboree, you can have full membership in the Y (which will include your baby). I have been taking my baby to the baby gym since she was about 5 months old. Every morning from 9:30 to 10:00, a teacher leads the groups in songs, bubbles, movement, scarves, parachutes, etc. It's mostly designed for toddlers, but once my daughter started walking, she wasn't into participating in the circle, and instead just wanted to play on the mats, slide, ball-pit etc. There are also open times where you can bring your child. There isn't much for a non-crawler to do but watch, but that seemed to work for us. There is also a bouncy-house and a climbing wall, for when they get older. If you join the Y, you can also bring your child (free) to the open swim sessions Monday, Wed. and Fri. in the warm pool, from 11-12. I started bringing my baby at 4 months, although I think the ''official'' age might be 6 months. In addition, your Y membership lets you use the adult facilities and the child care while you work out (2.50 per half hour for childcare. It just seems like a better deal, AND you're supporting a very cool organization! Happy Y member

Kids' Club Afterschool Programs

August 2002

I'm looking for opinions on the Kids Club after school program sponsored by the Albany YMCA. My daughter will be going to Malcolm X and Kids Club is at the school site. What do they do with the kids? I would appreciate anything you can tell me about it. Thank you. Berkeley mom

My son currently attends the YMCA Kids Club at Malcolm X. He has participated since kindergarten and he is now in 3rd grade. The program has a fun, caring staff. While we are still adjusting to the losss of one of the teachers due to retirement, the remaining staff members are all very enthusiastic and creative. The teacher/student ratio is wonderful, and the mixed age setting works well there. I think the kids that attend are all just wonderful, and no one thinks twice about playing with younger/older kids. Every day the kids have art activities, physical play (great games such as ga-ga ball, and Star Wars), board games and story times. The kids learn cooperative play, and a homework time is available daily. In the past, the kids put on wonderful plays written and directed by Nancy, and I think that may continue. My son is still raving about the program, and he thinks of it as the highlight of his day. I would like to see a more diverse environment, but I don;t have the answer to that. I think the program is excellent, especially for younger children. My son has made some of his best friends in the program, and he is NEVER bored. Bennett


My son attended after-school programs sponsored by the Albany-Berkeley YMCA Kids Club from 1st-5th grades (1992-1996). The cost in 1996 for 5 days/wk. (2PM-6PM) was around $340.00 per month. This was pro-rated for shorter months (December, Spring Break, etc.). I'm not sure if YMCA operates Kids Clubs at every public school. My son's school (Emerson in Berkeley) had one, but I think that there were some kids who were bussed to Emerson after school from other schools. I was very happy with the programs. The staff was very good and there was a wide variety of activities available to the kids. The Kids Club office was run out of the Albany YMCA, but the only time I ever had to go there was to register him at the beginning of each school year. Randal

Yoga Classes

Re: Yoga Class in El Cerrito (May 2004)
I'm 40 and I take a seniors yoga class with B.K. Bose at the Berkeley YMCA. The class is a good mix -- people between 40-70, half of the students men, and half of them women. Very comfortable for those of us who arent so comfortable with our bodies. New yoga fan

Re: Preschooler Yoga Class (2001)
The YMCA in downtown Berkeley has a great family yoga class for parents and kids but I'm unsure if it's weekly. Ann

Re: Preschooler Yoga Class (2001)
The Berkeley YMCA was planning to offer family yoga that included small children too. Call them at 848-9622. Community membership is possible if you are not a full service member. Nori

Re: Prenatal Yoga (1999)
Throughout my pregnancy I went to the prenatal swim class at the Berkeley Y.