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Bay Area Summer Camp Guide for Kids and Teens

This summer camp guide will help you find camps that fit your kids interests and provide some tips on how to make it easier to plan your summer with the greatest ease. 

Adventure Camps | Best Bay Area Summer Camps at Activity Hero

Bay Area kids benefit from a large variety of summer camps — sports, art, coding, outdoor and specialty camps! Many parents describe the camp planning process as a jigsaw puzzle as they try to fit together multiple kids, friends, and camp schedules. 

At ActivityHero, our mission is to make finding and booking summer camps easier for parents. We’ve put together this summer camp guide to provide an overview of all the top camp categories.

Sports Camps

Sports camps are popular with kids of all ages. Summer is a great time for kids to further explore a sport that they love or try something new. Besides keeping kids active, sports camps help kids learn teamwork and perseverance. Sports camps also tend to be less expensive than other camps. 

Boys and girls love soccer camps, and even in the summer, it’s not too hot in the Bay Area to be on the soccer field. The youngest campers have fun playing games and running off all that extra summer energy. Experienced players benefit from extra instruction during the off season.

Family favorites:
Coach Ken Soccer Camps: “Great staff and great experience for my son and daughter! This was our first year and my daughter who is 6 was interested in playing sports like her 8 year old brother. They both had a great time, learned a lot, and it was a great learning environment for the kids. Can’t wait to go back!”

Basketball camps are great for coordination, exercise and team-building. Campers learn the fundamentals of basketball through games and fun drills. Coaches group children by age and skill level, making it a suitable choice for beginner or advanced basketball players.

Family favorites:
Legarza Sports “My son loved his week at Basketball camp. Good instructors who care about the kids. Drop off and pick up were very easy. He’s excited to return next year.

Dance camps are a great way for artistic children to explore their creativity through a variety of different dance disciplines such as modern, jazz, ballet, hip hop, salsa or even aerial dance.

Family favorites:
Grrrl Brigade “A terrific empowering experience that exposes and teaches your child a wide range of dances, music, positive approaches to thinking and expressing themselves. The “show” at the end of the week is very inspiring and the staff is thoughtful, patient and kind in leading the girls through an impressive array of choreography.”

Multi-sport camps are a good way to give kids a variety of several different sports and outdoor games. Bald Eagle Sports Camp proudly says their multi-sport camp is “known for getting even the laziest kids up and moving…and loving it!” 

Family favorites:
Growfit “The staff at GrowFit are simply amazing. I sent both my kids here during the school break and they had an awesome time. The staff went above and beyond when my son was being called names. I really can’t say enough good things about them.”

Coding, Science, and Robotics Camps

Parents know how kids can consume technology for hours at a time on video games, YouTube videos, and social media. So it’s not a surprise that many parents are interested in directing this interest into creating video games, making movies, or coding the next social media app like TikTok. 

Summer is a great time to explore coding for kids because most schools don’t offer coding during the school year. Many coding camps use video camps as the subject matter for teaching kids how to use Scratch or Python to create their own game or learn Minecraft or Roblox mods. Teens may choose Java programming camps to prepare for high school computer science courses or App development camps to explore new app ideas. 

Science camps and STEM camps are popular for girls and boys who are naturally inquisitive. Camps that focus on science, technology, engineering and math challenges are engaging for curious children who like to explore the how and why. For middle and high school students, STEM camps can showcase a wide variety of potential career opportunities.

Family favorites:
Camp Galileo
Camp EDMO
Destination Science introduces new kid-oriented themes each year, like animals, space, or amusement parks. 

Robot summer camps are like coding camps with an extra element of competition. TV shows like BattleBots have introduced more families to the thrill of designing and battling robots. Many introductory robotics summer camps use LEGO Mindstorms, which is also used by the First Lego League in nationwide competitions for kids. 

Family favorites:
Wizbots
TechKnowHow 

Art, LEGO, and Maker Camps

Creative kids can grow their skills and express themselves in any number of art camps and maker camps. From learning to draw to learning to build, art and other maker camps can bring out the creator in every kid.

At a LEGO camp, kids build LEGO animals, spacecraft, and other creations. 

Family favorites:
KidzToPros
Brainvyne LEGO Camps 

For budding master chefs, a cooking camp like Sprouts Cooking Club or Culinary Dude offers hands-on cooking experience and a daily menu. On-demand activities include recipes and video walkthroughs for meals and desserts.

Kids and teens who want to learn to sew will find some creative sewing camps such as Camp Couture in San Mateo, owned by Project Runway finalist Alexandria von Brommson. Sewing camps like this let kids design their own fashions, accessories, and even soft toys. 

Woodworking camp is very popular, even in the high-tech age, but harder to find due to the specialized equipment and instructors. Maker Nexus in Sunnyvale has sewing camps as well as woodworking and industrial arts for kids and adults. You’ll also find woodworking at Tinkering School in San Francisco and Young Builders in Palo Alto. 

Outdoor and Nature Camps

For both boys and girls, outdoor camps are a top interest with kids ages 5-13. This is great news for parents who want their kids to spend less time with screens and more time connecting with nature and playing outside.

The Bay Area is the perfect place for kids to enjoy both water sports and mountain adventures. Kids can take a hike along creeks or try rock climbing, mountain biking, or canoeing. 

Family favorites:
Camp Galileo
Avid4 Adventure

Also popular in the Bay Area

Academic camps are a top interest for kids ages 7-10 who would like to explore a subject beyond the typical classroom curriculum in an exciting and engaging way.

Family favorites:
“My daughter loves math circle. She tells me that she’s not doing math like at school, rather she says she’s doing puzzles and games and that it’s really fun. I love that she’s having fun learning and that math circle helps her develop a positive attitude about math.”

Girls-only camps are a chance for girls to connect with other girls and get a unique perspective on topics such as leadership, teamwork and goal setting. A single gender camp can boost confidence and help girls find their voice while making friends.

Summer Planning Made Easy

Are you juggling a summer camp schedule with multiple children? Or, are you trying to coordinate camps and carpool with friends? ActivityHero has launched a new tool to make inviting friends and teammates even easier. You can now add your favorite summer camps to a saved list, invite friends and share as a group. Parents are able to RSVP that they are interested, registered or unavailable for that camp all in one convenient location. Save time and plan the ultimate summer experience with your child’s classmates, teammates, neighbors and more!

How many camps should my child attend?

It really depends on your child. Some kids can be single-minded and want to enjoy one camp for the summer and focus on their favorite activity, other kids want to take several classes in different areas throughout the season.

You can find these Bay Area summer camps and many more camps near you on ActivityHero or download our iPhone app for faster and easier searching!

Categories
Acting Drama/Theater Performing Arts

Why Kids Love and Hate Theatre Camps






What makes theatre camps, acting camps, and performing arts camps applauded in some cities — and scoffed in others? Our author explores what happened in two nearby towns, and what theatre programs can learn from the kids’ reactions.

By Katherine Teel

For as long as anyone can remember, Mt. Vernon Community Theatre (MVCT) in Mount Vernon, Mo., has always done a summer musical. What’s more, they took great care to choose shows that could make use of a large cast of local young people  —  especially teenagers. Since Mt. Vernon is nearly an hour from any other theatre program, the teens looked forward to the summer musical all year. However, recently MVCT’s contract for its theatre space came into question, and it looked like the summer musical might not happen.

MVCT’s board of directors knew that many local teens were looking forward to being in the show; if the show wasn’t going to happen, MVCT wanted to do something else for the kids. “What about a theatre camp?” they wondered. Other acting programs for kids offered a week’s worth of lessons and rehearsals that culminated in a show for parents at the end of the week. Could they do something like that?

Why Some Kids Hate the Idea of Theatre Camp

To the board’s surprise, the teen response to this proposal was lukewarm at best.

“I guess I’d go,” said high-school junior Whitney VanderGrift. “I mean, all my friends are in theatre. I wouldn’t want to be the only one not involved.”

Other students were more outspoken  —  and negative. “No way,” said senior Sabra Teel. “I’m finally out of school, I don’t want to take any more classes. I just want to do shows. I just want to be onstage with my friends. I know where to go if I want to take classes. I don’t want to spend my summer doing that.”

Needless to say, the MVCT board scrapped the idea of doing summer theatre camps for teens. But it was puzzling  —  in the closest city of Springfield, Mo., about 45 minutes away, the community theatre held multiple sessions of theatre camps each summer, serving all age groups and skill sets. Media coverage of those programs quote students who are thrilled to be there, and wouldn’t spend their summers any other way. The question is, “Why?”

theater-camps-for-kids-1

Why Other Kids Love the Theatre Camp Experience

“I go three or four times,” sophomore Wesley Andrews said about theatre camps in Springfield. “There’s just so much to learn, and the directors really make it a great time. Our group is like a family.”

Sophomore Jessica Barlow agreed. “Every time I go to theatre camp, I learn more techniques and skills that I can use in my auditions. I don’t think I’d have gotten any parts without all these classes and camp sessions.”

Even when presented with these perks, the MVCT performers aren’t impressed  —  and they aren’t convinced that summer theatre camps offer any benefit. “People in these camps think you have to do them to succeed in theatre, and they don’t really believe that anyone from a small town can be as good as they are anyway,” asserted Elise Jarvis, a singer/actor who has held significant roles in several local productions. “But we’re here putting on shows that are every bit as good as theirs. That’s how you really learn.”

Learning What Needs to be Learned

Today, the MVCT board members can see both sides of  this issue. “We all have a lot to learn,” says MVCT vice-president David Kloppenborg. “Nobody should think that they already know everything  —  especially teens. But teens are very involved in our program, so we teach what they need to know as we rehearse a show. And we have some teens who are extremely good already.”

Obviously there are pros and cons to summer camps, and some kids will get more out of them than others. If you’re looking for summer theatre camps because your child is interested in performing, make sure your child sees theatre camp as an opportunity to develop his or her talent  —  not as just more classes in a life already full of classes. Anyone can get something from a theatre camp, but the camper’s attitude going in can make all the difference.

ActivityHero.com can help you “audition” the local theatre camps, theatre classes, and other acting and performing arts experiences in your area. For a list of 20 questions to ask when seeking the best theatre camp or theatre program for your child, read “Looking for the Right Theatre Classes for Your Child? Read This Before You Act!”

Categories
Performing Arts

Looking for the Right Acting Classes for Your Child? Read This Before You Act!






Some activities in life are easier if you have a script. That’s why veteran “drama mama” Katherine Teel is sharing her list of 20 questions to ask directors of acting, theatre, and performing arts camps, classes, and programs.

By Katherine Teel

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions, review them with your kids, and ask for their thoughts. If, for instance, your middle schooler doesn’t feel comfortable working with kids who are driving and dating, maybe acting classes in the 12 to 17 age range aren’t the best fit for her. In parenting as in acting, trust your instincts, and make choices that make the most sense for your character!

1. Is the program open to anyone or is prior experience needed? If experience is needed, how much experience and where? Are different levels of experience accommodated — such as beginner and advanced?

2. Is there a targeted age group for the program? Is it designed for young children? Teenagers? Adults? Senior citizens? If different groups are included in one session, how are they divvied up? Are high school kids mixed in with middle schoolers — or elementary school kids with older children or preschoolers?

3. Is the goal to “have fun” or to learn the craft? (Either approach is fine, depending on what you want, but it’s important to enroll in one that best serves your child’s goals.)

4. What is the enrollment process? Do kids have to audition, or are slots filled on a “first-come/first served” basis? How quickly does the program fill up? Or, more accurately, when do I need to think about enrolling if I want a spot? Is there a waiting list for applicants who didn’t register in time?

5. If you’re looking at a camp, is it a day camp or an overnight program? If it’s an overnight camp, where are the accommodations? Are commuters welcomed if your kids aren’t fans of sleepovers?

6. If you’re looking at classes, are they several hours, half-day, or full-day courses? Do they meet every day for a week or two? Or do they meet once a week? Is attendance at all sessions mandatory in order for your child to participate in the end-of-session showcase or performance, if there is one?

7. What is the focus of the curriculum? Does it include, for instance, drama, musical theatre, choral work, movement/dance, and acting theory — or just one or two of these elements? Is each focus taught over several sessions or does each session have a different focus? How long is each session?

8. What are the topics being taught? Are they general topics like commedia dell’arte, Broadway-style auditions, Japanese puppet theatre, and improvisation? Or does the program focus on honing crucial acting skills, like building a character, playing objectives, and expressing interior emotions?

9. Can you sign up for just one session, or as many as you want? (This will depend in part on how long the sessions are, how many kids are vying to get into each session, and how many staffers are available for each session.)

10. What are the credentials of the faculty members and staff?? Are they working professionals in the industry, cush as actors, directors, teaching artists, musicians, dancers, or designers? If so, what kind of experience do they have and for how long have they been in the business? What is their most recent work and where was it done? Do they have additional credentials as educators?

acting-teacher11. What is the teacher-to-student ratio? Do students receive one-on-one instruction? Is that important to you?

12. Who typically attends the program? Are students mostly local, or are they drawn nationally or internationally? Connections can be made at camps and classes — where does your camper want to build connections, socially or professionally?

13. Who is sponsoring the program? Is it a local performing arts group, a university or performing arts school, a church, or a private individual?

14. Does the program — or the faculty — have any famous or locally known alumni? Have they endorsed the program? Do they come back to teach sessions or portions of sessions — or to scout new talent?

15. Is a particular method of acting being taught? Are the purveyors of the method also the people sponsoring the camp? (Different actors and directors subscribe to different types of acting theory and methodology. If you’re not familiar with them, ask your child’s music teacher/director, acting teacher, or director for guidance.)  

16. If your child has disabilities, can they be accommodated?? Inclusive camps are required by the ADA to make reasonable accommodations for people with any disability or need. (Check out 5 Signs a Camp Really ‘Gets’ a Kid with Disabilities for more ideas on what to look for.)

17. Is financial aid offered? Are there scholarships? Does the program accept a payment plan or can they offer classes at a reduced fee, if financial need is established?

18. Will there be a final showcase? Do they work to produce a play, musical, concert, or recital?

19. Are there costume or clothing requirements? If so, are costumes provided? Or will kids create their own costumes or wear, say, all black or a camp T-shirt?Is the showcase a casual or a formal affair? Are family and friends allowed to attend, or is it only for camp participants? Where and when will it be held?

20. What happens after the program is over? Will instructors be willing to continue to have contact with students after the classes end? Are there other continuing education opportunities? Are former participants given priority enrollment for future sessions?

Look for acting, theatre, and performing arts programs in your area!

Performing arts programs help kids of all skill levels to have fun and develop their talents — as well as lifelong skills such as teamwork, resilience, and the ability to communicate clearly. Start your search here — and get ready to expand your child’s acting resume!

Categories
Drama/Theater Performing Arts

Looking for an “Act-ive” Activity for the Whole Family? The Stage Is Calling!






“Ya got trouble, with a capital T” when your family time feels scattered and you’re not connecting with your kids. Here’s how The Music Man helped this single mother strengthen family bonds — while doing something special for herself.

By Katherine Teel

For the past four years, two things have happened every summer. The Hazelton family takes a trip from Missouri to North Dakota, and they are involved in the summer musical in their Missouri hometown.

“Those two things,” says mom of three Laurie Hazelton, “really got us through some hard times. Our extended family is in North Dakota, and it’s important to me that the kids know where their roots are. But our theatre family…they were really there for us when we were going through some difficult things.”

Making an Entrance into Musical Theatre

Four summers ago, the arts council of the Hazeltons’ small Missouri town decided to put on a musical — The Music Man. There had been a few plays done in town over the years, but nothing organized … and nothing this big.

“There must have been sixty people in the cast,” Laurie recalls. “High schoolers, older people, kids … I had no idea there were so many talented people in this little community.”

Laurie has always loved singing, and she wanted to try out for the show. The Hazelton kids — Maison, Hallee, and Ty — were 11, 8, and 6 at the time, and since the kids’ dad lived in another town, Laurie realized that either all of them participated in the show, or none of them could.

“The younger ones just wanted to stay with me, so they were no problem,” Laurie says. “But Maison was having none of it. I tried everything I could think of to get him to agree to be in the show, but he absolutely refused to get up on stage.”

Fortunately, Laurie knew that what happens onstage is only a part of the whole theatre experience. Maison was quickly tapped to serve on stage crew, and he spent the summer lifting set pieces, flats, and furniture — all in the pitch blackness of a dark stage between scenes. It was backstage that Maison found his niche; he has served on the stage crew every summer since, and even trained with the stage manager in the most recent production.

community-theater

The Extended Family of Musical Theatre

“That summer, we needed the theatre,” Laurie remembers. “We needed warm, caring people to be around. We needed something important to do that would take our minds off our difficulties. We needed tasks that would let us spend time together as a family, and that would bring the kids positive attention and affirmation. Nothing can do that like working on a show together. Your family becomes part of the larger family of the show.”

After that summer, several cast members formed a new theatre group that has carried on the tradition of the summer musical. Laurie was elected to its board of directors, and every summer since, the Hazelton family can be found in the city’s theater facility — acting, singing, dancing, and moving sets.

Building Character and Family Bonds — on Stage and Off

The Hazeltons aren’t the only ones who find value in the theatre as a family activity. At least a half a dozen entire families are involved in the summer musical, and a dozen more parent-child or sibling-sibling combinations. Some are even multi-generational — Laurie’s mother, Polly, has been on stage, and often works on the costume crew, and her father, Bill, puts in hours building the sets and dismantling them again when the show is over.

“It’s a really great way for families to spend time together,” Laurie says. “Parents can be with other adults while still keeping close to their kids, and kids learn skills that can’t be taught any other way. In our first show, my two youngest were so shy they’d hide behind people on stage, and now they have lead roles and singing solos. And Maison has gone from doing crew work to being Assistant Stage Manager — the kind of responsibility he’d never get in school. They’ve really learned to believe in themselves.”

family-theater-programs

Ready to Take Your Family to the Theatre?

Community theatres exist all over the United States, and they are constantly looking for people with every imaginable skill set. They need help creating tickets and programs, sewing costumes, building sets, finding props, raising funds, and much more. Whether you and your children shine onstage or excel backstage, you can find an important role in a theatre community.

Visit  your local theatre to learn more, or find a nearby theatre group on the website for the American Association of Community Theatre.

Get your kids in performing arts! Set the stage with local theatre classes, acting classes, and performing arts classes in your area.

If your kids would like a little more experience before looking into community theatre, consider signing them up for local theatre classes, acting classes, and performing arts classes. Many programs welcome adult assistance with set construction, costuming, and pre-show planning. Some even offer family workshops that involve the adults as part of the curriculum.