Summer Camps for ADHD Kids

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • Hello,

    I am interested in recommendations for East Bay structured summer camps for a 7 year old boy with ADHD.  Unfortunately, we have not had good experiences with unstructured camps.  Alas, while I’ve heard good things about the Cal Youth Summer camp, I seem to have already missed the boat on enrollment.  

    Thank you!

    At that age, we've had luck with my ADHD daughter with the following camps: Oakland zoo, Camp Footfire (soccer), Trackers, East Bay SPCA, Athletic Playground, Edmo, and Sienna Ranch. Good luck! 

    I second Trackers- it was an amazing experience for our kiddo with ADHD!

  • Hi,

    Wondering if folks have any suggestions for sleep away camps-- one week at a time, maybe two weeks max-- for this summer for boys age 13 with ADHD?

    We have heard great things about Camp Jack and our son loves Camp Winnarainbow but has only done their day camp.  This would be the first time doing sleep away and we are looking for fun, patient, kind camp with cabin for sleeping instead out under stars or in a tent as he's got fear of spiders.

    I don't know that ADHD is a big factor in camp enjoyment. Our son also has been diagnosed with ADHD and hasn't had any issues with that at camp. Sleepaway camp is a great experience, but if he hasn't been before, I'd look for a 1 week max. Maybe you mean Camp Jack Hazard? I believe that is all outdoors/tents but I'm not 100% sure of that. Many sleepaway camps do at least one night under the stars as a break from the cabin, so this is definitely something to investigate by calling the camp to ask, if it's a dealbreaker for him.

    I highly recommend Camp Winnarainbow sleep-away camp!  Our (adopted) child, who has ADHD and PTSD -- which has similar manifestations to the autistic spectrum -- spent two weeks each the summers after 7th and 8th grade, and it was a fantastic experience for her. 

    There's really "something for everyone" at Camp Winnarainbow -- and NO SPIDERS!

    Everyone sleeps in teepees, not tents. The floor of the teepee is completely covered.  One is *not* sleeping directly on the ground. So please don't let "imaginary spiders" be a deterrent to participating in this fabulous camp.

    She learned to juggle, which is an activity that suited her, and I would imagine would suit most kids with autism.  Their juggling instructors were the best!

    (She would have kept on going after 9th grade but at a certain age they expect you to become a junior counselor (with somewhat different wording) and since she was very immature for her age, she wasn't interested in taking responsibility for others.  Although she did spend her time with the younger campers... I met two nine year old girls were crazy about her!)

    Anyway, NOW is the time to sign up for Camp Winnarainbow!

    And you may know, they have a bus that picks up the kids at Live Oak Park.  Before they get on the bus, they need to present a medical certificate from their doctor, and their heads are examined thoroughly for lice before they are allowed to board the bus.  So not ony no spiders, but no lice either!  And she reported that the food was delicious.

    Finally, she went up on the bus, but I picked her up two weeks later, so I got to watch the amazing performances of the "circus"! 

    As Wavy Gravy says, "We're not training kids to be circus performers; we're training them to be *balanced in life." 

     I would highly recommend Camp Trinity sleep away camp.   My kids both have ADHD and thrived there.  Camp Trinity to a child's eye is unstructured fun.  But an adult can discern the daily structure (regular mealtimes, nightly campfire with singing camp songs, daily swim hole swim, weekly platform (ie cabin) chores) interspersed with a host of super fun kid activities that they can choose from daily like ceramics, photography, horseback riding, small animal care, hiking, gardening, cooking, crafts, rock climbing, wood and iron working or just hanging out under an apple tree with a book. The camp is set in a gorgeous setting along a tributary of the Trinity River, and has been in operation for years so the staff is well versed in how to keep kids engaged but also how to deal with kids with kindness and compassion.  Camp Trinity has a philosophy of community and they really foster that amongst this kids. Because it is located about 7 hours from the Bay Area, there are medical staff there to dispense your kid's meds if they need them there AND to treat any urgent medical issue that comes up.  They also have buses that bring kids up from the Bay Area and back.  My kids have had a wonderful experience at Camp Trinity over the years, have made lifelong friends, and I highly recommend it. 

    One of my kids has ADHD and loved Kennolyn (in Big Basin near Santa Cruz). It is GORGEOUS and there are kids there whose parents went as well. It's close enough so if you need to do a middle of the night pickup you can but far enough that it seems like a magical enchanted forest. It's pretty popular (and kind of pricey) but it was worth it for the joy my child experiences year after year there.

  • Hello,

    My 9 year old son has ADHD-combined type, anxiety, sensory and auditory processing issues, and emotional regulation challenges.  We are thinking of signing him up for 3 weeks of Quest camp this summer.  Because it is quite expensive and because the location is not particularly convenient, I want to make sure the experience is helpful and worthwhile.  Does anyone have any recent experience with the camp?  I've seen mixed reviews and would love to hear from you about your experience.

    Thank you.

    Not your question, but possibly another option:  my son has been taking a once a week mentor/tutoring session at Fusion Academy near 6th and University.  Actually, he's doing electric guitar for a 50 minute lesson once a week, is what it is.  Fusion is a really fun and welcoming place.  I don't know if this fits the bill for your son, but it would be a way to get a burst of acceptance and warmth in his week.  They also have "real" classes, which your son would not be the right age for, but maybe they would let him take a weekly music lesson.  Not inexpensive, but we look forward to going every week.  I think every positive interaction is a plus for my son.

  • My 10 yr old son is very interested in going to sleepaway camp this summer.  He is relatively active and outgoing but has some typical adhd struggles with social groups.  Does anyone have any recommendations for summer camps that have worked out particularly well (or not!) for your child with adhd, and also any experience with taking medication at camp?  Thanks!


    I sent my son to SOAR, which runs programs designed for kids with ADHD.  It was a great experience.  Not cheap, but great.  For more information, see 

    I recommend Camp Jack Hazard in the Sierras near the Sonora Pass. Their program is not specifically for kids with ADHD, but the program is great for these kids because of the high intensity, active, outdoor time. It is a traditional summer camp in many ways--campfires, songs, arts and crafts, hiking--but also has a focus on wilderness adventure, and kids all participate in backpacking and rock climbing (no prior knowledge necessary). Kids stay in cabins with 8 to 10 peers, which creates social bonds in a way that is much easier and more automatic than what kids often feel in other environments. But mostly, it is the active environment and intensity of running around with other kids, led by exuberant, loud young adult counselors, that seems to serve ADHD kids so well. Lots of stimulus, lots of opportunity to try new things, lots of fresh air. Kids get dirty and get tired and my kids love it. And it is very reasonably priced. It is a small organization so you can easily talk personally with the director, Jason Poisson, who is friendly and honest and direct with parents.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Recomendations for SOAR? Other camps for teens with ADHD?

April 2013

Hi, My son is almost 15. He has ADHD, depression, anxiety and who knows what else. We were lucky to receive a scholarship for him to attend a summer camp for kids with ADHD. I am waiting for a list with approved camps, but I think one of them is SOAR, Sucess Oriented Achievement Realized. They are based in North Carolina but have summer programs in CA. Does anyone have any experience with this camp? Was it good or not? Any other camps I should research? Camps to stay away from? I would appreciate any information. Thank you very, very much. Grateful Mom

My son went to Soar twice and I think that both times were very good for him. He loved it the first year. He didn't enjoy it as much the second time because he was less interested in the activities. So I would highly recommend the camp if you can find a session that is a good match for his interests. Ann

Hi, I have a client who went to SOAR and loved it so much he asked to stay the next semester. His parents are thrilled with the changes he has made and how happy he has become. S.

Highly Structured Camp for ADHD 6 year old

Feb 2013

Does anyone have a recommendations for a highly structured summer camp for an ADHD 6 year old boy in Oakland? I am worried because most camps seem to be run by 20 year olds with limited experience and have a lot of unstructured outdoor time. Recess and lunch are the most challenging parts of the school day for my son. He does best in a really structured environment where there are really clear rewards and consequences for behavior. He also needs to have a camp that is segregated by age and where he can get a lot of one on one attention, and where the camp counselors keep the kids engaged throughout the day. Thanks for any tips! Wishing for year round school

My son does not have ADHD but also really struggles with unstructured time. Cal's Explorer Camp was GREAT for him last summer. He loved it and was very successful there. The staff spoke with me in advance of camp about my concerns and made a point of placing my kid in a group with an additional counselor. The high level of structure and activity worked well for him, and he will definitely be back this summer. Loved Explorer Camp

I highly recommend the Cal Berkeley Youth Camps for your ADHD child. My son, now 11, has ADD Inattentive Type. We tried several summer camps starting when he was 5 before we figured out that structure was essential. At the less structured camps, he would space out and forget to eat lunch, or not go swimming because he forgot his swimsuit was in his backpack, or wander off and not participate in activities. He would have an OK time, but it was frustrating for me that the staff didn't seem to notice that he wasn't participating and wasn't eating lunch.

The Cal Youth Camps start with Explorer Camp for 5-6 year olds and continue to age 13 with Blue Camp and many specialized camps. These camps are well-organized and very structured, but in a child-friendly way. Camps are sports-oriented, but kids can choose which activities they want, including non-sporty ones like chess, hip-hop dance, frisbee, martial arts, and card tricks. There is no pressure on kids to throw themselves into a frenzy of activity -- while they are encouraged to participate in each chosen activity, reluctant kids are not required to. The camp's main goal is to make sure kids have fun, and they'll find an alternate approach for kids who need it. This has been really important for my shy, inattentive kid. He is not that in to sports, but he has fun at Blue Camp, and has been willing to try a big variety of activities.

Blue Camp staff have been great at letting me know when there's a problem. For example, my son has always enjoyed swim lessons at camp and had progressed to be a pretty good swimmer after five summers at Cal. But last summer he had a different reason every day for why he couldn't change in to his swimsuit. Was he too shy in the locker room? Was there a scratch on his arm that hurt when it got wet? Was he now afraid of the water? What??!! The aquatic director phoned me every afternoon to tell me what had happened in swim class that day, and to suggest a variety of strategies to help him feel more comfortable. For such a large camp, this level of personal attention impressed me.

A key reason why this is such a good camp is the counselors, who are mostly in their late teens and early 20s, who return to camp year after year (and often attended as kids themselves). They are uniformly friendly and enthusiastic, and often play the sports themselves that the teach. Each counselor is in charge of a small group of kids, and they really get to know them and look out for them. There are also lots of friendly high school aged CITs helping out, so there is a great staff-to-kid ratio. The camp does a great job selecting and training their counselors, and I think this is a reflection of the bigger picture - a well-run, well-organized camp. Ginger