Which Camp for 5 & 6 Year Olds?

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello I have a 5 year old and need to find care/camps in Berkeley or Albany for all of June and July. Thx for your advice!!

    My main recommendation is to pick one camp for as many of those weeks as possible. I think (with hindsight now as the parent of teens) it is very difficult on 5 and 6 year olds to switch camps every week even if the parents think it will be more "fun". I wish I'd been attuned to that when my kids were little.

    In terms of what I'd recommend for a 5 year old, I think Monkey Business is quite chill and welcoming, with also lots of movement and activity. The big city-run camps are always, always chaotic and staffer quality varies greatly. I consider them a better choice for 8+, who are signed up with existing friends.

    Monkey Business has 2 and 3-week sessions in Tilden Park and registration is open now. Lawrence Hall of Science has 2-week sessions, also open now. I found a cool camp that my art-obsessed 5 yo will be going to for a week, called Camp 510. That also opened for registration this week. Cal camps open next week, I believe, and I have heard from a few friends that their kids loved the Explorer camp at Strawberry Canyon. Good luck!

  • Hi Parents,

    I am looking for a summer camp for my 5-year old son. This will be his first time doing a summer camp and being outside of his preschool. I need something that's not too far from Richmond and most importantly a place where he'll be safe and have fun. A lot of room to roam around and take out his energy is the key. Also, something that won't cost an arm and a leg would be great!

    Please help! I am lost :)

    Thank you!

    The El Cerrito summer camps are highly regarded and reasonably priced. Registration opens March 29th and if you want to register I recommend you clear your schedule because the camps are popular and usually fill up quickly. I don't know if COVID will make it easier or harder to sign up.

    My daughter loved the City of El Cerrito camps when she was younger, http://el-cerrito.org/DocumentCenter/View/15423/Summer-Camp-2021-Guide-… She also liked the camps at the Albany Y but I don't see a web page for that so not sure if it is happening this year.

    We love Trackers Bay Area.  They're located in El Cerrito (at Camp Herms) this summer and my kids have been going there for the last 4 years.  They're outdoors and masked and are great with active boys!


  • We're starting to look for summer camp options for my 5-year old daughter this summer. I'm looking for feedback on the City of Oakland Town Camp and City of Berkeley Summer Fun camps. I'm specifically looking for feedback on the Oakland Town Camp at Montclair Community Center and the the Art Discovery Camp at the Francis Albrier Community Center in Berkeley. Thanks!

    My active, social 7-year-old did the Arts Discovery camp most of last summer and will do it again this summer. It's somewhat no-frills, but they do go on one field trip every week and swimming sessions on Fridays. They do art and dance projects and play field games. Because they mainly stay at San Pablo Park, there's not a lot of time spent on buses. My kid made new friends and got to spend time with a few kids he knew from school. He didn't always like every single activity-- who does?-- but he had fun every day and said it was the best camp.

    Since it's one of the least expensive full-day camps around, it does eventually fill up. However, there's probably still time to apply for scholarships right now.

    I think the Art Camp at Francis Albrier is just okay. Your kids will be safe, but it isn't as fun as other camps. I think it would be a little for a lot of weeks, but a few weeks would be okay.

    My daughter did the frances albrier camp when she was 5 last summer. They mostly stayed inside, arts programming was very limited, counselors were harsh and not warm, they watched movies that were not appropriate for 5 year olds, and did not supervise my daughter properly on a field trip to a water park. She was put in the older kids group bc she’s super tall even though I reminded the director and the staff the day before that she was only 5 and couldn’t swim.  She didn’t like this camp at all - except for the day she got to go with the big kids at the water park and do whatever she wanted. This was so exciting to her that she still brings it up :)

    Last year I enrolled my (then)  6-year old in the Incredibles Art Camp at Dimond Rec Center (Town Camp). I think it's perfect for children under seven because it's a smaller environment than the Dimond camp for the wider age-range. They do still intersect with the other camps at the Rec Center.  My daughter took home lots of art projects. She thought it was a "little boring," but my kid is super physical so I would expect that. She did still enjoy the camp for the two weeks she was there and I felt like the counselors really enjoyed being around the kids. We're going back to Dimond this year, just in the other camp this time (she's aged out of the art camp anyway). 

  • We are looking for summer camps for our 6 year old. We need extended care in the morning and afternoon. We live by the Albany El Cerrito border and are looking for some options not too far away. There seem to be a number of options but we would really appreciate personal recommendations! Thank you.


    Although this is further north I highly recommend Camp Ursa Major. They start with kids who just finished Kindergarten and have a group specifically for that age. The counselors associated with that group have a lot of support working with the little kids at camp. It’s fabulous and a lot of fun.  If you have any questions, reach out to owner Liz Kimmelman who is more than happy to answer anything you may want to know. https://www.campursamajor.com/

    You should try TG learning center on Washington Ave. My daughter is attending afterschool program there and she enjoys it.

    Our 6 year old daughter will be attending El Cerrito camps again this year for most of the summer (https://www.el-cerrito.org/838/Summer-Camps). She enjoyed Adventure Camp last year and will be trying Discovery Camp this summer. Both of these camps run from 7am to 6pm (you can add "early bird" or "late bird" sessions on to other El-C camps, too, for a fee) and have swimming lessons twice a week as well as trips to the splash park (Discovery Camp also takes one offsite field trip a week). In addition to having working parent hours, they are very reasonably priced. 

    I highly recommend Monkey Business Camp, https://monkeybusinesscamp.com/ My son has gone to MBC for over a month each summer since she was 4 (he will turn 11 this summer) and we often use the afternoon extended care.  Their site is in Tilden, so close by.  In addition to having a joyful, laid-back atmosphere where the kids have a ton of fun outdoors, MBC has been a great place for my son to grow. The staff really sees each child as an individual and helps them navigate the social and emotional aspects of being in a large group environment. The kids are given a lot of choice in their activities and are encouraged to take on increasing levels of responsibility as they get older. This coming summer my son will enter the youth leader program (CIT) and I have no doubt that it will be a wonderful experience for him.

  • Hello, I am considering new camps for summer for rising 1st grader. Does anyone have recent experience with: City of Oakland's Feather Hill camp at Montclair Rec, or Studio One Art camps?  Thank you, BPN! 

    Hi, our daughter has gone to both Studio One and Montclair Rec, since she was in K or first grade (she's now in 6th grade). We've done Montclair Rec a lot more because it is close to home. I have no complaints -- it is a very old fashioned cheap and cheerful summer camp. The kids sing songs, do sports, and roam the park. Once a week they go on a field trip (take the bus to a movie, go to Fisherman's Wharf, etc.). It is also very working parent friendly with drop off at 8 and pick up at 6 with no additional charges. The staff all look like a bunch of college students (and some are) but many are deceptively youthful looking and have been with Oakland Parks and Rec for years (we know them pretty well because she also went to the after school program at the park, and it is the same staff). Our daughter will be back this year, in a junior leadership position. 

    I have less to say about Studio One because we've only been from time to time and haven't built community but we also like it there. 

  • Summer Camp for Introverts?

    Apr 2, 2018

    Hello parents,

    My child is a classic introvert and has hated all the camp experiences she has had so far. None of them seem to be geared toward quieter kids who need downtime, prefer small groups and structure, need time to warm up or facilitation with meeting other kids, have a group of kids going for multiple weeks, or a dedicated staff person who "knows" them.  She is completing the first grade this year and is already stressed out about it. It's also challenging because the really awesome sounding camps I've found are expensive AND end after only 3/4 hours so I can't just "make it work, somehow". We've tried Studio One in Oakland, Steve & Kate's, and Trackers. I'm hoping not to deal with crying every morning this summer so can someone tell me there is a magical camp with a dedicated counselor per small group, is low-key, has longer multi week sessions that kids attend for, and lasts at least 6 hours per day. Or am I asking too much? Thanks!

    Both my boys attended this camp but we chose it because One son was cautious, slow to warm up, introverted. He went to Monkey Business camp and it worked well for him. He started around 5 or 6 years old. The things that made it easier for him there:  there was a goal to help all the children feel part of the group, they helped kids learn each other’s names, he did not feel anonymous there. Also the structure of the day allowed for some choices for ex there was typically a choice of activities so some kids could sit at the table and craft, and some could join an organized game.  At the session where they put on a play, my son worked on set design and wasn’t pressured to perform but felt a part of the presentation.   I was able to discuss my concerns re my son’s temperament with The directors and the lead counselor and they were receptive and supportive of making the camp work for many kinds of kids. My boys both enjoyed being outside all day and went to the camp for several years. The have fond memories of those years now. 

    Your daughter sounds like my daughter. I don't know what they did exactly, but my daughter had an amazing time last summer at Camp Kee Tov. I don't know if they still have space this summer (we signed up in December!) but the sessions are 4 weeks long. You can use before and after care (I think from about 8-6). All of the staff were campers there, many of the counselors have been attending since they were 5 or 6. 

    Oh boy! I hope you find something! My kids are fine with outgoing camp counselors, but if I had to go to their camp I would DIE DIE DIE of being yelled at and forced to chant things. I just wanted to express support - I have no useful suggestions, all the camps I've seen really think I'm crazy if I point out the kids sitting on the sidelines wishing for a little downtime and peace and quiet. 

    Pear Tree Summer Camp has a lot of the things that you are looking for. The camp is open for 8 weeks and your daughter could have the same 2 staff people the entire time she participates. Your camper would be in a group of 15 kids or less. The morning starts with a circle and a supported academic session. The rest of the the day has both free play and structured activities. www.peartreesummercamp.com

    I would love to recommend Monkey Business.  There is care until 6 pm.  More importantly, it is a safe and warm camp.   Both of my kids have attended and are now in “leadership” positions there ( counselor in training).  

    My daughter, who was very worried about going to camp, had a very successful experience at Monkey Business for the same reason brought up by someone else—-they gave her choices about what she wanted to do. This made her feel like she had control over her situation and it was her best camp experience in Berkeley. For an introvert I think that being given choices makes you feel more respected, and if you feel respected you feel more comfortable and happy. 

    Not a specific recommendation but strategy: I was an introvert kid and hated summer camp unless I was with a best friend from school. Does she have anyone close with whom she could attend camp? This allowed me to get past the social anxiety and not dread it to such a degree. Still not ideal, but eases the stress.

    Camp Galileo

    the counselors are SO well trained, enthusiastic, intuitive, non judgmental, accepting. My introvert kids had perfect experiences and attended K-8 (wow). There is lots of small group time with dedicated counselors, classes with great ratios. Plenty of big group active games at lunch — but always a solid alternative too for quiet fun, like lanyards. I can’t speak highly enough. 

    I highly recommend the summer art camps at Richmond Art Center. If you do both the morning and afternoon sessions with lunch in between, and extended care then there is full day coverage. Very small class sizes (think 8-10 kids). My daughter has attended a couple of summers as well as classes during the school year (as a bonus, you could sign up for a spring Saturday class or workshop to help your daughter get used to the center and see what she thought before committing to summer camp). My daughter is a more outgoing introvert, but she is very sensitive to noise. Richmond art center is the only place where I’ve seen an instructor tell the parents of a more rambunctious kid that he needs to tone it down because there are a lot of kids in class who don’t like the noise when they are concentrating on their art work (without being asked by the quiet kids parent). The instructors are true teaching artists, serious about their craft. It’s a great place for kids to really focus on creating visual art in multiple mediums. I’ve found that not that many kids do the full day for the full summer, but kids do come back for multiple sessions. My daughter will be there for the whole time except week 1. She’s 11 so is older and probably wouldn’t be in the same age track with a rising 2nd grader. But, the full day kids have lunch together in a charming and quiet interior courtyard. So there would be one constant friend throughout the summer. RAC is open on Saturdays, if you’re interested my daughter and I would be happy to meet you down there and check out the galleries so your daughter could get a sense of whether this might be a good fit. Also, I don’t know whether they do summer, but Hello Stitch in Berkeley has camps. My daughter is there this week for spring break and it’s very small, meets her need for things to be quieter and she’s learning to sew! A good camp fit makes such a difference!

    Yesssss... both my kids tend toward this. Roughing It was a great experience for my rising first grader, a lot of structure and small groups. Brushstrokes has also been good; again, a small group. The bigger city recreation programs have been the hardest experiences for both my kids. You could also try hiring a babysitter instead of camps. I will say that my older child, now in 4th grade, has become less sensitive about needing to warm up over the years, and acclimates more quickly to more overwhelming environments, relative to where he was a few years ago. So don't despair - this year and next year might be challenging, but your child might change and mature.

    Also would recommend Pear Tree. The location is calming, the staff is calming, and it has a small camp environment. My kid is going again this year, although not a calm, introverted kid!  I look at the camp as a respite from the more kinetic OUSD environment.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


One-week camp for a 5-year-old?

April 2016

We are planning on having our 5-year old do a couple weeks of camp this summer between the end of preschool and the beginning of Kindergarten. We're signed up for a week of Zoo Camp, but need to fill a second week. So, any recommendations for 1-week camps that are particularly good for incoming kindergartners? Oakland based would be best. Coverage needs to be at least 9-5, and ideally with the option of either earlier drop off or later pick up. And we'd like to keep it at $400 or less a week. We are considering Studio One, but concerned that there won't be enough physical activity and outdoor time, and concerned that the very low price may also mean not great quality. We're open to any and all suggestions. Camp for incoming K student

I recommend Adventure Time, which is an after-school program at several Oakland public schools during the school year. You don't have to be enrolled in with them during the school year to be able to enroll for their summer programs. I know they are offering summer camps at Montclair Elementary and at Roberts Park. I also recommend the Cal Explorer Camp up at Strawberry canyon. Outdoors, very active program, includes swim lessons and the 5 and 6 year olds are separated from the older kids (older kids at Golden Bear Center at the top of Dwight Way). summer camper

Sarah Science has a great outdoor camp in Oakland and Berkeley.

Check out Sarah's Science Camp. Both of my kids have been attending since they were 4.5 and they LOVE it. The price is a bit higher than what you're looking for but it's well worth it in our book. Very high quality program focusing on science and nature with plenty of active play time. And the best part: they're outdoors all day! The regular day is 9-3 but they have extended care from 8-5:30 and we've used that on a daily basis as needed. Yesterday I signed them up for an additional week (the electricity week in July) and was told that they have space in every session right now. Berkeley Camp Dad

Crestmont Summer Camp (www.crestmontcamp.org) accepts rising kindergarteners. There are six one-week camps between June 27 and August 5th, with a different theme and specialty teacher each week. My daughter went before entering kindergarten and loved it. The staff does a good job of balancing teacher-led activities with open play, and because the camp is housed on the campus of Crestmont School, there's a lot of indoor and outdoor space kids can use. Crestmont Camp is located in the Richmond Hills, which might be a little out of the way for you, but it's close to the I-80 and has great parking, which makes it a pretty fast drop-off and pick-up spot. Happy Crestmont Camper

Depending on which week you need, you might consider the Creators and Explorers camps at Aurora School in Oakland. They are small, sweet camps with lots of fun activities including plenty of time to run around AND they happily take kids entering kindergarten in the fall. (You don't need to be an Aurora student to attend Aurora camps. They're open to everyone.) Here's the link: http://auroraschool.org/summer-camps/creators-explorers Happy Summer

Camp for 1st grader that lasts more than 2 weeks

Feb 2013

I am looking for camps for my daughter who will be starting 1st grade in the fall. Both parents work so we need care most weeks. The idea of changing camps every week or two seems stressful on both us and on her, so I have been looking for camps that last longer than 1-2 weeks - ideally four week sessions. We were hoping to sign up for Kee Tov but her age group was full so we are on the wait list - are there other similar camps? Thanks! Amanda

For the last few years, we've been sending our daughter to the Junior Explorers Camp that is run by the City of El Cerrito Recreation Department . It is available for ten weeks, and each week they do different activities and a short local field trip. They also swim at the El Cerrito Community Center in the afternoons on M,W,F. My daughter never gets bored, and in fact, she has made some nice friends there. They have all day coverage too, which is great for parents that still have to work all day. Happy Camper's Mom

It's still a one week camp, but Sarah's Science Camp (three locations: Berkeley, Oakland and San Ramon) has a different theme each week. Our son has done up to four weeks back-to-back. It did not feel repetitive. There are many kids that do several weeks and often they are put in a group together and with the same counselor each week. We really like it have sent our son there for several summers in a row. Happy Camper's mom

Monkey Business has camp for 10 or 11 weeks in the summer. Some kids go for all 11, some for part of the summer. My kids went for 6 weeks last summer. There were some familiar faces and some new kids each week, which was nice. It wasn't too repetitious but had a clear structure- my younger one really liked that. Too much new doesn't work so well for my kids, so this was a good mix. Berkeley mom

We had originally looked at KeeTov last year, but had the same issue (sessions all full). We ended up going with Camp Tzofim (though the JCC) and after her positive experience with it, we're sticking there. My daughter was also between kinder and first grade when she started, and they were great with the little ones. She did six weeks (3 two-week sessions) and there was enough variation she enjoyed it all the way through. I particularly like that they go swimming 2x every week, as my daughter is a bit of a fish! Tzofim runs a total of four 2 week sessions. The actual camp is in Oakland, but they run a bus daily from the Berkeley JCC, and have early drop off if you need care starting earlier than the bus drop-off. http://www.jcceastbay.org/camptzofim/ - A happy Tzofim mama

Roughing It camp in Lafayette has either 4 or 8 week sessions so the kids really get to know each other and form friendships. It's pretty pricey but transportation from home (all over the Bay Area) to camp and back is included. They have a payment plan option if needed. The counselors are always excellent, many return year after year, low camper to staff ratio for younger kids and lots of activites to choose from. It's a traditional outdoor daycamp with swimming, hiking, games, crafts, theme days, camp fires, field trips, you name it.. My son enjoyed his summers there immensely. TC

Aurora , the school where my son goes, offers a wonderful theater arts camp where they put on a great musical at the end of a 4 week session. I think they are doing Annie this year. It's a K-5 school and the camps are for the same ages, so it's great for younger aged kids. Many of the staff at the summer camp come from the school too. Check it out at www.auroraschool.org/summer-camps. Registration isn't open yet, but will be launched next Friday the 15th. They also have before and aftercare. Keri

For our family, we have found it VERY stressful to change camps each week (even when staying with same camp, they usually change the kids there and often who the leader is for an age group every week)...so we did just what you are doing and looked for camps with longer sessions.

The one we LOVE is Adventure Day Camp (ADC) in Walnut Creek (we live in Oakland). The sessions are three weeks each; they have three sessions per summer. My oldest son has been to two sessions (or 6 weeks) each summer for the past three summers and LOVES it. He has found that there are many, many kids who come for multiple sessions each summer...so he has been with a fairly stable group of kids for the past 3 summers. My younger son went to two sessions last summer as well and LOVED it too.

ADC has buses to pick up the kids and take them to camp and bring them home...so don't rule them out if you are not in Walnut Creek (as noted, we are in Oakland). My kids have made great friends with kids of all ages on the bus each summer.

This is an old timey camp where the kids swim, play, try archery, ride horses, make lanyards and god's eyes, etc. They even have a camp out on the 2nd Thursday of each session. Kevin, the owner, is also very flexible if you can make 2 weeks of a session instead of 3 (as for us this summer when our school is letting out mid-week the first week of the first session). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! A huge fan of ADC

My son attended two summer camps at Aurora school last summer, and while they were each one week long, we had the consistency and convenience of having them both at one place. Aurora offers a variety of camps with themes to interest a variety of kids, including a theater arts camp that lasts one month. My son loved both of the camps he attended, and looks forward to returning this summer, including the theater arts camp. Happy Aurora Mom

Playful summer camp for early elementary kids

Feb 2013

We love school, but we love spunky kids too! We're looking for a camp that supports creative free play... A camp that really encourages kids have say in the direction of their play, while adults are in charge and everyone is respected of course. A place that gives kids the mental and physical (non-playground) space to be kids? Appreciate your input, and looking forward to summer. mama of a kindergartener

You should take a look at Camp Edmo . It's an Arts & Science, Animation and Recreation camp. My children have attended since just before starting Kindergarten and are now at Camp EdTech, their digital media camp for 5th - 8th graders. They love it. The staff is amazing, the curriculum is put together in partnership with MOCHA, the Children's Creativity Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, and they have fun rallies, outdoor recreation, team building and more. There are locations throughout the bay area so take a look at their website - http://www.campedmo.org/ and see what you think. I know they have early bird savings before the end of February too! A Huge Camp Edmo Fan

The camp that came to mind was This Land is Your Land (Sarah Science). My son loved the camp when he was in early elementary. It was out in a park, they played under the trees, there was some structure but they really understand kids. They don't have a rule that you can't play with sticks -- just that the sticks have to be carried vertically. Hikes, swimming, and letting kids hang out. They also do science projects. My kids enjoyed them. I found them a little repetitive. If the kids don't want to do the project, they don't have to. They get so dirty, we didn't send the same backpack/lunchbox that we used during the school year. Some grime never really comes out. It's large enough that my kids always found kids that they already knew. Sign up early for cheaper rates. My kids remember it fondly

My 2 elementary-aged kids had a great time at Monkey Business camp up at Tilden last summer. One is active, one quieter and they both made friends and had a lot of fun. The field games, the group singing, and the time to hang out and do what they wanted to do with friends is what I heard about most. When I asked what camps they want to do next summer and described some that other friends are going to - Monkey Business was it. Good luck finding the right camp for your kid - it's out there! Mom of 2 happy campers

For the parent looking for playful summer camps - Sorry for the slow response, but there is a program in the east bay that is fantastic, Orinda Afternoons . Small, home-based and very child centered. Everyday they go on a different hike or excursion to a local regional park - my kids always came home telling me about a fun art project, song or story. The camp is small 6-8 campers only (K-2) - kids get lots of attention. The director is really nurturing, fun and great with young kids. Camp has before and after care for those who need it and serves lunch and snacks. Check out www.OrindaAfternoons.com Susan

Summer Camp for 6 year old who loves to learn

March 2012

I am looking around for summer camps for my 6 year old, she is very smart and loves to learn. She told me she wants to go to a camp where she will learn math and science. I did a search and found Da Vinci center for gifted children summer camp that sounds good for her. I was wondering if anyone has sent their child here and what their experience was.

Hi, I can't say enough good things about Camp Galileo . My children (6&10) have attended multiple years. The approach is learning through innovation. The kids collaborate to design, test and redesign their projects while learning all sorts of scientific principles. This is with a bunch of fun and games and great themes! The strongest aspect is the amazing staff who are educators, in college, and college-grads. Their expertise, training, and enthusiasm make Camp Galileo a truly unique experience. Edie

Summer Camp recommendations for incoming Kinder

Feb 2012

Hello - I'm looking for recommendations for camps that are good for incoming kinders this summer. My kid can be slow to warm, but energetic. Looking into Head Royce, but interested in some of the more affordable camps. Looking for full day camps that pay extra attention to the needs of the little ones and is good with transition issues. Thanks - Camp Mom

For your incoming kindergartener, I would highly recommend Camp Galileo . Both my boys, now in 1st and 3rd grade, started their summer camp experiences with Camp G and both absolutely loved it. My older one claims he'll be going there until he can't and then he'll become a counselor. They have a separate space dedicated to incoming kindergartners so that they don't get lost amongst the bigger kids. The curriculum is age appropriate, the staff to camper ratio is low and they really get to know the personality of each child. The little ones are still involved in overall camp activities but for most of the day and for their outdoor playtime, they are given special attention and kept in their small group so that they feel safe and comfortable. My little guys is extremely shy and when asked each year what camp he wants to go back to, Camp G is always the first on his list. The camp director is easily accessible and if your child goes for more than one week, it seems that the entire camp staff knows them by name. It's a warm, fun and educational environment where kids come home with creative projects, make good friends and just enjoy their summer vacation. Good luck with your search! Kelly

My daughter is 41/2 years old and she is also slow to warm up. Last year I sent her to Roughing It Day Camp in Lafayette and she had the best time! It did not take her long to become comfortable. The camp directors and counselors are very nurturing and allow the parents to watch and leave when they are ready. However, as soon as she was greeted by her counselor she told me to leave!

It is a family run camp with great activities (ex: horse back riding, swimming, crafts and etc) and counselors. She still talks about the camp so we are going to send her for a whole month this year. I am very protective of my daughter but I have full faith in the safety of the camp. It has been around for many years and has a great reputation. They split the campers into their own age groups and do age appropriate activities and learn to socialize in a relaxed setting. I think it would be a great fun transition to Kindergarten! Stephanie

Summer camps for a shy kindergartner?

Feb 2012

My son, who is just finishing kindergarten, is shy and somewhat timid, and while he loves one-on-one play dates with other kids, he tends to shut down in big social groups and just watches the other kids play.

This is the first year we'll be doing summer camps, and I'm looking for something relatively small and nurturing. And I think he would do best in a camp with a moderate amount of structure (though not extremely rigid rules) -- I don't think he would thrive in a free-for-all kind of environment.

I care more about finding a camp that's a good fit for him socially and emotionally than in finding something that caters to particular interests, but just for the record, he enjoys science, dramatic play, and to a more moderate degree, arts and sports. We'd like to find something in the Berkeley area. Any recommendations? Thank you!

my son was like yours after kindergarten -- camp was tough for him socially when it was a free for all, but the highly structured programs didn't feel like a break from the structure of school. We found that Monkey Business was the best fit for him at that age. Although the environment was informal, there was an excellent counselor to camper ratio and the counselors included and engaged all of the campers. It was fun and silly. After first grade, my son was much more capable of handling the free-for-all city-run(more affordable)camps.

My boys (1st & 3rd grade) attended This Land is Your Land summer day camp (also called Sarah's Science Camp) last summer. This was the first summer camp that my youngest had attended (his brother had been once before). It has worked out wonderfully for us. Both my confident, older son and my shy, younger son thoroughly enjoyed their experiences and we plan on returning for several more weeks this summer. The camp does a great job of hand selecting their counselors. When my wife and I dropped off the boys we met their counselors and found them to be warm and nurturing. By the end of the first day, my youngest son was already friends with the rest of the kids in his group and by the end of the week, he asked us if his counselor could be the new babysitter. While the camp isn't the smallest (100 kids?), they are split up into different locations within Tilden Park (Berkeley) and Roberts Park (Oakland) and further divided into groups based on age. So the experience for each camper is much more intimate. The day is structured around a schedule but there are periods of free time and choice time throughout the day. The kids learn about different science topics and build great little contraptions and toys each day. But they also get to spend time outside, being kids, going on hikes, doing art projects, playing active games, and other traditional camp activities. Their website is www.sarahscience.com and they are offering an early bird summer camp discount right now. Neil

Summer Day Camp for child going into 1st Grade

April 2011

I am looking for a good summer camp in Berkeley for the first week that school is out June 20. Alot of the more popular camps dont start until the following week. I would love to hear your views on the Berkeley Downtown YMCA summer camp? Or any other ideas that you may have -- I need a camp that has a 7:30am drop off as I work in the city. New Summer Camp Mum

Have you considered Camp Edmo ? My twins went just before they started Kindergarten and are still campers, five years later. It's an Arts, Science, Animation and Recreation camp. The activities are designed in partnership with several of the Bay Area's top museums. Their activities are varied and the kids have fun while learning. I don't know if you're in the east bay or not but there are three east bay locations; Alameda, Oakland and Moraga, as well as locations in the Peninsula, South Bay, San Francisco and Marin. The camper to staff ratio is 8:1 which is great and I know was a big consideration when my children first started going to camp. The website is www.campedmo.org I'd also be happy to answer any questions for you. Margot

Camp for sensitive boy entering kindergarten

March 2011

Hi - I'm looking for a summer camp in Berkeley/Albany area for a very sweet, very sensitive boy entering Kindergarten. I would like a place that can teach him to be more self-reliant but is also sensitive to the fact that he's really uncomfortable in typical ''rough boy'', competitive environments. For example, he loves kicking a soccer ball around but hates playing in games. He's also pretty rule bound and gets upset when other kids don't play by the rules and sometimes take advantage of him. Since he's starting K in the fall and will be facing these kind of situations, I'd love to have him in a summer camp that can help him transition and deal with this in a warm, friendly environment. Thanks for your suggestions. Berkeley Mom

My son sounds similar to yours. Wasn't really into typical ''boy'' games (sports, star wars, etc) the summer before entering kindergarten. Very rule oriented. I sent him to Monkey Business Day Camp in Tilden for 3 weeks last year and he LOVED it. He went with a friend, which I think helped, but I'm sure he would have had fun without him. He learned new songs, how to play tag, made crafts, made friends and really blossomed. I actually think it helped to send him there before kindergarten. They have some young counselors who seem to look after the ''little ones''. Definitely mention this stuff to them when you sign up and again when you drop him off on the first day. Good luck! Rachel

My son, who sounds a lot like yours, went to Glitter & Razz for a couple weeks last summer and loved it. If your son has any interest in theater arts you should check it out. The kids work together to make up their own play, writing the plot, developing their own characters and lines. They also have time for individual art projects and free play. The group is small and the teachers are very creative and supportive. One day at pickup there was a disagreement between two kids and I was really impressed by how the teachers helped them resolve their conflict.

Camp recommendations for 5 year old?

March 2010

Hi, I am looking for some recent reviews of some of the summer camp programs I've read about here. I have an active 5 year old boy, and we're interested in the programs at Footfire, Monkey Business in Tilden Park, Camp Galileo in El Cerrito (at Prospect Sierra), Sarah's Science in Tilden, Steve and Kate's in Berkeley, or any other place that offers a great program. If you have recent experience with your child in any of these summer camps, please let me know. I am specifically wondering about the care for the little ones, i.e. 4/5/6 year olds. Thanks for the help! Berkeley Mom

I sent my then 4 1/2 year old son to Sarah's Science camp in Roberts park last summer. It was kind of last minute, and they had space, and they came recommended on this board. And he was so excited to be off to camp with the big kids!

But he had a blast and really enjoyed the week. He's been a pretty independent kid, and he had a few pee accidents that week, but the counselors said he did fine and there weren't any issues with the other kids or the activities. As they warn you on the website, he came home filthy and exhausted every day!

We're going back for three non-consecutive weeks this summer as well. Bryan in oakland

I highly recommend Camp Galileo for your 5 year old. My son's first ever camp experience 2 summers ago as an entering kindergartener was at the El Cerrito campus of Camp Galileo and he absolutely loved it. He insists that he will be going every summer until he goes to college. The 5 year old group uses the contained kindergarten classroom and playground and so they have their own special space to play and explore without the worry of bigger kids running into them or over them. The playground has plenty of space and with lower ratios and teachers who are dedicated to just this group, they get the perfect balance of small group activities mixed with large group interaction. The kindergarteners also are involved in overall group activities but build a close relationship with their group and their teacher. They get plenty of time to run around and burn off some energy and the activities designed specifically for that age group allow them to really be creative, engaged and excited. Even drop off is fun with giant bubbles and streamers and teachers who are literally smiling and full of energy every day. My son is going back for the third straight summer this year and with 4 themes instead of 3 as they had in past years, he gets to enjoy Galileo even more than before. Feel free to contact me if you have specific questions or concerns. Kelly

You have a pretty good list there. Both our kids went to camp at age five (they're a bit older now), and the ones at the top of our list would be:

  + Camp Kee Tov (www.campkeetov.org) + Steve and Kate's + Sarah's Science (Tilden) 

Also, JCC of the East Bay (North Berkeley) has just started some one-week specialty camps. They run very good programs, and our kids have been doing great at the afterschool for several years. JCCEB is really mostly a ''multicultural'' community, open and welcoming to all: http://prod.jcceastbay.org/youth/tzofim.html Good luck! == Local Dad

We sent our 5 year old to Camp Galileo in El Cerrito last year. The curriculum of art/science was good, but the high energy cheerleader-ish atmosphere was a bad match for our son. He was not happy, and within the first week, someone on staff decided - without getting to know him better or talking to us (we had warned them he'd be slow to adapt)- that there must be a problem at home. They reported us to CPS and we had to undergo an evaluation by a social worker. The case was dismissed (even the social worker couldn't figure out why they had reported it), but it will remain on our record forever. I understand the need for mandatory reporters, but this just seemed like a case of bad judgment. We will not be returning to the camp, and I would not recommend it to anyone. NW

My 5 year old son absolutely loves Monkey Business Camp . He is a high maintenance kid requiring extra attention and support and he always received that extra help at Monkey Business. He needed a play-based type of camp and really thrived and became more creative at MB. Creativity, fun, and respect are all reinforced at MB and I was always impressed by how much individual attention he received. We actually dropped out of Galileo because it was too big and busy and he wasn't getting the kind of support he needed. a Monkey Business fan

Reasonably priced camp for almost 5-year-old

March 2010

I'm looking for a camp to send my almost-5-year old this summer that is reasonably priced and has a nice program, with time outdoors. It can be half days. Thanks! NLI new to berkeley

I recommend Sarah's Science camp at Tilden Park in Berkeley. The camp is a great mix of science, play and exploring nature outdoors. The kids make a science project every day and go swimming once a week. They go on hikes, play on the field, build forts and do other activities throughout the day. They group the campers by age and they have a lot of younger attendees so your son should fit right in. The staff is wonderful and attentive also. Hope that helps. Brian

Low-key half day camps for just-turned 6 yr-old?

Jan 2010

Hi there: My daughter will be just turning six as school gets out, and has never attended summer camp before. I'm lookign to start her off slow, perhaps just for a week or two in a low- key summer camp...ideally just a half day. It seems like most camps run a full day, though, until 4pm or later. Does anyone have recommendations for a less-than-full day of summer camp that woudl be suitable for young kids? We live in Oakland, so camps in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, or other areas nearby would be best. Thanks! Jennifer

My 7 y/o son really enjoyed his week at Park Day summer camp . It was his first experience with summer camp (and with a longer day of structured activities, since we homeschool). We were warmly welcomed the first day by junior counselors and counselors-in-training. I was welcomed to stay as long as I liked with my younger (3 y/o) child, enjoying the playground, etc. Parents drop off kids during a fairly big window of time in the morning so there wasn't a morning rush to be there at x time exactly. They offer a shorter day (3/4? time) that we did and again, there wasn't time pressure; we were welcomed to stay and play and catch up on what his day involved at our own pace. Kids of all ages seemed well held both by teachers and fellow campers (and their great counselor & CIT program). I recommend their program & my son has asked to do camp there again. a good experience

There are two terrific camps that have half day sessions - Aurora School (upper Rockridge in Oakland) and Lawrence Hall of Science (the hills in Berkeley). LHS does science oriented camps. Aurora does art, tennis, field trips, legos, etc. They are very sweet with kids there and would be a great choice for a child new to the camp experience.

Last summer I taught a half-day course for middle schoolers at the Head-Royce Summer Program , while my three lower school children (then 5,7, 9) attended the LS program. They LOVED the camp so much that they begged to go all day. They could swim, do science projects, play in the garden, read and craft stories, among other academic and playful activities. Most of all, they enjoyed making new friends from all over the Bay Area. Come check it out! Hilary

Summer Camp for 5-year-old who needs structure

Oct 2009

Although it's early, I'm starting to think about summer camp possibilities for my 5 year old son who has some mild special needs. He has some sensory integration challenges and would thrive best in a structured program that isn't too chaotic or noisy. He is in kindergarten right now and loves science, art, and imaginary play. Our geographic parameters are Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Kensington, or Richmond. Thanks for any suggestions. Concerned About Camp

Your kid sounds exactaly like my kid. I sent him to Monkey Business Camp in Tilden Park, recommended to me by a friend who also had a kid with mild special needs issues. They were great! Monkey Business was very reassuring and told me that they discuss any campers who might be special needs ahead of time. My son did great there for 3 weeks, right from the get go. He'll probably go back this summer. Good Luck april

I would recommend Sarah's Science for your child. The children have a structured day which includes music, science experiments, swimming, hiking and outdoor activities. The counselors are excellent and understanding of kids with special needs. Sarah operates camps in Berkeley at Tilden park, Oakland at Robert's Park and in San Ramon at Little Hills Ranch. The camp's age range is 5-15. The staff and program are wonderful and I'm sure your child will enjoy it. There are plenty of reviews of Sarah's Science Summer camp in the BPN archives as well. Good luck! Brian

Summer camp for daughter just finishing kindergarten

April 2009

I'm starting to plan for my daughter's summer and was interested in feedback on the Adventure Time summer program. She's finishing Kindergarten and goes to a school with afterschool AT that we don't use, and she's always asking when she'll get to do AT. The price and 3-4 day per week options are appealing. But how does it compare to the snazzier camps like Galileo and Monkey Business in terms of keeping kids constructively occupied? I've read the reviews and know the latter two are great but they're also pricey, especially if we don't really need all 5 days.
summertime, and the livin' ain't easy

Right before kindergarten we sent our daughter to Adventure Time Camp for one month. The first week was rough because she did not know anyone and the counselors were wonderful. The second week she had a great time. But make no mistake about it, Adventure Time is affordable child care. It is not enrichment camp. It is not activity based camp. It is affordable child care for working parents.

My daughter has attended the following camps - I am including her ideas and ours: East Bay Dance Center , similarly priced as Adventure Time about $50-$55 per day with before and after care. Don't worry about tap, ballet or jazz shoes - your daughter can borrow them. My daughter loves this camp, her friend does not.

Steve and Kate's Camp - About $2,000 for the entire summer. Kids have a great time - you need a self motivated kid because there is a general assumption your child will choose one or more of the activities if they're interested. Great value, lots of fun. There is a dog, so if you're kid is allergic this is not the camp for you.

Sarah Science - one of the more expensive camps my daughter attends. She thinks it is just so-so, I love the projects she brings home and explains. Camp Galileo , another expensive choice, but fun for one week. My daughter was bored with the rubber chicken and the group time for the three weeks we sent her, but loved the first week.

My daughter attends a camp for gifted kids that she loves, loves, loves, but your kid must be highly motivated, able to stick with a learning assignment for an hour and a half and be prepared for homework. Lots of Trial and Error and Success in Camp Decisions

Camp for 5-year-old - arts & crafts and music/dance

Feb 2009

Hi, i am looking for updated information regarding summer camps for my 5 year old boy. He is interested in arts and crafts and music/dance type camps. Preferably an all day type setting. The information in the archives is a bit dated. Last year his pre-school offered a summer program so i didn't have to worry about it. This year however, he is attending public school and they don't have any summer program. worried momma

The Contra Costa Preschool Directory has an AWESOME Summer Camp page for Preschoolers and Kindergarteners! Here is the link: http://www.contracostapreschools.com/summercamp.html. There is a large list of camps available and all of them are suitable for your 5-yr old! joj

What do parents do for childcare during the summer?

Nov 2003

what do parents (who work full-time) do for childcare during the summer months? my child will be six. up until now, he's been at year-round preschool, but now he is in public kindergarten. are there full-time, full-summer ''schools'' for this age group? or am i resigned to hiring a private nanny. working mom

You don't need a nanny and you don't need school. Summer is for play and the Bay Area offers many, many opportunties to suit your child's need. Around February, the Parents' Press will have pages and pages of wonderful summer day camps listed in the back. With both our daughters (one now almost 15, the other 9), we've had great success and fun at the Berkeley Richmond JCC and East Bay School of the Arts for full day coverage. There are arts camps, animal camps, sports camps. There are many other places that offer full day and half day coverage. Summer is the best time to let your kid find out what he or she likes and to explore it! Have fun and relax. :-) Karen

I'm sure you will get many, many responses about this one! Welcome to the world of summer camp! The Bay Area has an incredible number of choices for summer ''care'' (which is really summer camp); many of them full-time. The ''hunt'' for summer camp begins early, about Jan. - Feb., and many spots will be full if you wait until you are really thinking about summer. Different camps have sessions of one week, two weeks, all summer, etc., and the hours vary. We always look for one that's closest to an 8am - 6pm schedule to leave time for the commute to work. NOTE: many of the full-time camps are 8:30 - 5, which is, well, hard if you work 8:30 - 5. Check out the UCB parents web page(s), and Tom Lent's web page for much more information. Best of luck, working mom

There are bunches of day camps that are all day with after camp care for your 6year old. One in particular that my son went to is called Berkeley J Summer Camp. It's at the Berkeley Richmond JCC (Jewish Community Center) on Walnut St. between Rose and Vine. The sessions are 4 weeks long from 9-4 each day with before and after camp care. Lots of kids go for both sessions. My now 8 year old went for 2 summers (I think they start at 5 or 6) and really liked it. The counselors are all young and REALLY fun. It's a smallish camp going up to maybe 10 years old. The kids are all together doing various activities. My son is pretty shy and quiet and really liked it. They have sport activities, swimming, field trips, art, and always music at the end of the day. Though they celebrate Shabbat every Friday and sing Jewish songs(among others too), it is not a religious camp and plenty of non Jewish kids go there. There must be other camps too with longer than 1 week sessions...start checking Parents Press and maybe other papers or web sites around February. Good luck. anon

Welcome to the world of summer activities! When my kids were six they adored Kee-Tov which is a wonderful summer day camp. Since then, we've also liked the Cal Sports summer programs as well as pottery camp at Brushstrokes and even sleepaway camp. You'll want to sign up for activities in the very beginning of 2004. Working mom