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Steve and Kate's Camp (Berkeley, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Summer Camps & School Breaks > Steve and Kate's Camp (Berkeley, CA)



Feb 2013

Feedback on Steve & Kates camp in oakland

I'm seeking recent parent feedback on Steve and Kate's camp in oakland. Anonymous


Steve and Kates is good for a kid who wants to decide for themselves what they want to do. There are a bunch of options -- a music room, knitting, making videos, books and games, cardboard construction, cooking, a constant basketball game, and whatever the week's big thing is (zip line, water slide, bounce house, etc). They seem well staffed.

S&K is less attractive to my older kid and his friends, due to several changes that seem to be responding to parent complaints. They had a room with video games, etc (my limited understanding), which they eliminated. No doubt parents objected to sending kids to camp to do what they could do on their couch at home. I would argue that giving each kid a limited amount of time they could spend there would be a good compromise, but it's just gone. I'm not saying that an older kid couldn't find plenty to do -- but the ones I know aren't trying that hard, they're just saying they don't want to go. And last year there was a notably smaller group of older kids, which just made it worse.

I'll send my younger kid this summer if he has friends going and he wants to, although it's less attractive logistically since his older brother won't go. Or not. It's not amazing, but they've figured out what they do and do it fairly well. They made their snacks healthier. The much-loved crepes are gone. Again, I'm betting that parents wanted healthier snacks, but my kids loved those crepes!

For my kids, it's always an issue of if they have friends going. More so than a more structured camp where the whole group is doing the same thing, they need to have friends to float with.

The flexibility of scheduling is great for families that don't necessarily send their kids every day -- buy a block of days and send them when you want.

S&K is demographically un-diverse. I called last year to ask about their scholarships for my kid's friend. The scholarships are so small that a low-income family is much better off at a city park camp. And, when I called, there were none available anyway. So, you're likely to have a cohort from your school if it's an advantaged school. Similar vibe to Galilleo and other camps like that (I've never inquired about Galilleo's scholarships, so I don't want to paint them with the same brush without data).

They also give refunds if you don't use all the days in the block that you buy (at the higher rate of the days that you do use) so it's easy to try them out (if you have an alternative camp that you can use at the last minute). I hate planning summer camp in Feb


Feb 2013

Steve and Kate's for 4-year-old?

Hi fellow parents, I am looking for feedback from anyone who has used Steve and Kate's camp at any location. The ease of the drop in seems to good to be true and we have a few holes in our summer plans and Steve and Kate's would be great for a couple of days here and there. It says they have been around for a long time. Our struggle is that my daughter is an outgoing 4 who is headed for kindergarten but has an early fall birthday. Would it be ok for her age? Thanks! Off to camp


Hi there fellow parent, I think Steve and Kate's would be a fine choice for your kid! Both my daughters have attended multiple years. My older daughter, alas, has aged out, but my younger (7 and with some special needs) is raring to go again this summer which will be her 4th with Steve & Kates.

There is a cohort of pre-K kids and my littler dau was in the first pre-k session when it was offered. My kids found the counselors sweet and engaged, the check in and out mostly without glitches, the food delicious, and the experiences varied and fun. At the end of the summer that first year, some of the other sites were closed and there was a total tsunami of kids that week at the Berkeley site and it was a bit overwhelming for my little one. But even then, she wanted to go back, and has really enjoyed it, even tho she's been offered other camping experiences.

If you have any questions, give them a call! I did to make sure they could accomodate my daughter's hearing disability and mild CP, and they were and are terrific. I think my older dau got a bit bored toward the end of her last sojurn there as she had gone a few years in a row (even tho she didn't want to go anywhere else) and feels it for littler kids, say 4 to 11 or so. see you at Steve and Kates


My girls have been going to the Steve and Kate's in Berkeley for the last 3 years. They love it! Yes, the drop in works - they do have a weekly theme (the weekly special), but everything else just hums along the same way no matter what day you attend. Some days they spend time in the kitchen studio making food, other days they make movies. Its super flexible. And we love that if we only need 2 days of camp for a given week, we don't lose any money!

The camp for pre-K kids is a little different (from what I have seen, not personal experience). They are a little more segregated from other campers and move around more as a group. Optional nap time after lunch.

One of the common complaints of Steve and Kate's is that the flexible nature of the camp means it can be harder to make friends. My girls have always gone with each other, so they have a built in friend. If they were going alone, I do think the ''drop in and out'' schedule does mean you have to be confident/independent. Only you know your daughter well enough to know if she has the confidence to make her way in that kind of environment. Steve and Kate's fan


March 2012

Re: Camps with flexible schedule (2-3 days/week)

We are in the same situation - my husband works from home some days each week. After throwing money away on all-week camps, we switched to Steve and Kate's. You can go any days you want, in any location you want. You pre pay based on the number of days you think you'll need in the summer - and at the end of the summer they refund any days you didn't use at the full rate. Steve and Kate's fan


I asked this question on my school listserv and got several recommendations for Steve & Kate's camp. They have many locations throughout the bay area, you can drop in any day, and it looks like great fun! My kids will be going there for several partial weeks this month. I attended an info night at the new Oakland location a couple weeks ago and was very impressed.
March 2012

Hi. Has anyone got any feedback on Steve and Kate's summer camp at The Berkeley School? I'm considering sending my entering-K almost-5-year-old and was wondering if there were reviews? The website looks great, but is it as good as it looks? Worth the not inconsiderable cost? Thanks! Natasha


My 2 kids (then newly turned 7 & 9) went to Steve and Kate's for a week or so last year. I used the camp mostly as filler when our vacation plans changed, since S&K is one of the few camps with a daily drop-in program. Both my kids had fun and said they would like to go back for a week this summer, BUT (and this was non-negotiable), only if each had at least one friend who would be attending at the same time with them. That seemed to reflect the general consensus amongst parents I've spoken with about S&K. The activities are great (esp. for the 7+ age group) and the counselors are fine, but they do not go out of their way to engage individual campers or help campers build new friendships. Campers are generally left on their own to ask for assistance, with little structure throughout the day. Personally, I don't think S&K is ideal for a child just entering Kindergarten, esp. if they are not attending with friends. Monkey Business Camp, on the other hand, has a ton of young and enthusiastic counselors-in-training who dote on the younger kids. My daughter attended when she was that age not knowing anyone and had a blast. She's insisted on going back every year since Cb regardless of whether friends are attending with her. Camper mom
My daughter (6) attended Steve & Kate's camp in Berkeley for 7 weeks last summer. There were pros and cons to the camp, and we did decide to go back, but only for a couple weeks this summer.

I think this camp would be best for confident, self-directed, and outgoing kids, and especially for kids who go there with friends. Rather than having a counselor who takes responsibility for your child throughout the day, the counselors are distributed to stations around the school. The activities at the stations are super fun, including ceramics, video creation, giant water slides, rock climbing, building blocks, and more. When a kid is at an activity, I believe they are well-supervised. However, as far as I could tell there was no over-arching supervision. Nobody to watch over your child for a longer arc of days or weeks and make sure she's doing ok over that longer arc. Personally I found it unnerving at pickup when nobody ever knew where my daughter was (they use a walkie-talkie system to find out what station she's at and send her out). Several times I saw small kids crying alone, which was really sad.

If your child is the type who can self-advocate and get help when he or she needs it, and enjoys having freedom to roam around and try different activities, S&K may be a great match. But if your child is very shy or anxious, doesn't easily grasp new systems and environments, needs a close personal relationship with coaches/caregiver, or tends to suffer quietly, or if you just don't feel comfortable knowing that a one continuous counselor won't be keeping an eye on your child throughout the day, I'd be concerned about sending him or her to S&K.

My daughter is a pretty savvy 6 year old and she enjoyed the camp most of the time. She loved all the activities, called ''daily specials'' and ''weekly specials''. She did best when she was with a friend who knew her way around the camp and who helped her navigate the system.

One thing I'll unequivocally say I love. The payment system, the refunds, registration, scheduling, etc., are so clear and professional and well-run. And it was super convenient not having to plan exactly which day or times to go to the camp.

I hope this helps!
- fairly happy with Steve & Kate's


I think that your child's experience at Steve & Kate's depends a lot on your child's temperment adn whether they know anyone else there. My daughter and I also thought it looked great, so we signed her up last year (she was 9). Because we had other things going on, she didn't end up attending until the second half of the summer, and she did not have a friend with her. It felt like there were already groups formed by kids who had been there earlier in the summer (understandably), and because of the ''free choice'' style, that there was no a lot of time or effort made to get her more comfortable or get her integrated. The feeling at that campus (at least during drop off and pick up) is pretty chaotic. Granted, my daughter was at an age where some shyness and less willingness just to join another group of girls was already happening, so your younger kid may be more comfortable.
Hope that helps,
Alison
June 2011

Both my daughter & son attended Steve & Kate's camp from kindergarten to 7th grade & 6th grade respectively. I can't speak highly enough about their camp & until this day, my kids still have extremely fond memories of all the great fun they had with and without their friends. Here's their philosophy - it's all child directed. That's right - your child picks the fun activities they pursue for the day & the kids they'll hang out with as well as what they will eat for lunch from the truly marvelous healthy choices they offer. Trust me, S&K + their first class staff know how to offer activities that will ring your child's bell. It is so empowering for your child to be in control of their own day. What FUN it is for them to make decisions about their day while being tended to by their carefully selected staff. My kids have always led a very structured schedule while in school along with their extracurricular activities of soccer, baseball & music lessons. As I look back on their S&K camp days, the biggest gift they received was the freedom to do what they wanted, an important aspect missing in the accelerated world our children live in. The other attractive component of their camp is the fact that you don't have to commit to session dates. This means you can plan your vacations first, then fill in your camp dates by purchasing camp hours. Whatever camp hours you don't use are refunded back to you soon after camp ends. S&K's camp is just a win-win situation!! Phyllis


May 2011

Has anyone had any recent experience with Steve and Kate's camps. They have many locations around the Bay, and I was considering the Berkeley location, but might do another location in Contra Costa country. I would appreciate all feedback pros and cons. Thanks, PK


In response to the question about Steve & Kate's Camp: We have had a great time with them! There are so many activities for our first grader and his older cousins (10 & 12). I love that things like filmmaking and a recording studio are offered to the younger kids as well as to the older kids. My niece loves the cooking studio and that she can do whatever she feels like doing every day of the summer - all the kids can pick whatever activities they feel like working on each day and don't get stuck doing the same thing day in and day out. My older nephew loved all the camp games and outdoor activities they offered - seemed like they always did a good job of wearing the kids out every day!

I loved that they didn't have to go off site for any field trips (so I didn't have to worry about them traveling around the Bay Area without me), but every day there was something new and exciting that the staff brought in, like a magic show, a water slide, bouncy houses, and petting zoo animals. The staff seemed more mature and experienced than many other summer programs we've tried out (they're all at least in college-and it seems like many we got to know were teachers or in some other kind of professional field working with kids during the school year). I know this year they are planning on adding many more locations. Their website says the East Bay locations are El Cerrito, Berkeley, Lafayette, Danville, and Pleasanton, and you can use multiple locations if it's more convenient for you. We will just stick to our home campus, though - the kids get so involved with the staff and the new friends that they make, that I can't see mixing it up by going to more than one location. It sounds like a nice option, though, for people who need it. Boy Mama


hi There, my 2 very different kids have both ADORED Steve & Kates! We have used Kentfield and Berkekley sites-you can send the kids to any camp site, and because different cities have different schedules for school vacation, we had almost 100% coverage for the entire summer. Older kid loved the arts & crafts; she's a pretty picky eater but thought the food was awesome. Younger kid loved meeting all the different kids and making lots of new friends and got a big kick out of the game-show stuff, which older kid avoided. She ate like a horse the entire summer. I loved having one place to drop my kids off, knowing they were having a great time, and certainly didn't miss packing 2 lunches on a daily basis. The staff is young, energetic and as great as you would hope they'd be with the kids. I think it's worth the $! Back to Steve & Kate's this summer!
Got to give Steve and Kate's two thumbs down, I'm afraid to say. My son had one day at the Berkeley location and that was enough. My son is shy, and he was going to be there without anyone he knew. Before I left in the morning, I asked the counselors and the camp director to check in with him and help him find some friends.

But when I picked him up at the end of the day, he was playing Lego by himself. When I asked him how his day had been, he started crying. He told me that he'd played video games all morning (they have a room set up just for playing video games), and that he'd played Lego alone all afternoon.

When I called the staff later to ask what had happened, why they had basically let my son spend the day alone, a young woman asked me ''what's wrong with your son? Does he have a social problem?'' No, my son does not have a social problem, unless you think shyness is a social problem.

I should say also that the next day at Monkey Business Camp, the head counselor had this same shy son helping and laughing and part of a group group of kids within 10 minutes of arriving. A little emotional & social intelligence and kindness was all it took to help him join the group. I left confident that he would have a good day. Happier elsewhere


As a prior poster said two thumbs down, that was my assessment too, from summer of 2009. My son is very social and outgoing. He makes friends very easily. He started Steve & Kate's camp in Berkeley 2 summers ago in July so many or most kids had already been there since June so they knew the drill. The counselors whispered: ''ok, 8 year olds, come with me'' at which point all the 8 yr olds knew that they were supposed to leave the morning assembly to move on to the next plan. My son was sitting on the fringe of the campers, he did know know that any whispering was going on, and that that would be how he would receive his cue to leave the morning assembly. Zero orientation on that front. So... luckily, another parent told me what was going on. (the whispering was being done to reinforce less shouting or something like that.) I went to the 8 yr old group counselor and told her my son did not know what was going on and she pretty much told me to go get him, which I did. He joined the group. But nobody was friendly or inviting to him at all. He played with the video games most of the day and a bit of Lego. The playground at the facilities they use looked cramped and crowded. I don't know if the kids care but this is summer, right? It looked like a crowded school day. I have never seem my son so unstimulated at a summer camp, and I did not send him back after that one day. -anon
Feb 2011

We are considering sending our 8-year-old son to Steve and Kate's camp for the entire summer - it looks great on their website, but we don't know anyone who has attended. Of the 3 reviews in the BPN archives, two are positive and one is negative. We'd love to hear from others about the good and not-so-good things about this camp - please also say how many weeks your child attended. I'm wondering if kids might get bored after a few weeks. Thanks so much. Camp planning mom


My 2 daughters (7 and 10) went to Steve and Kates for 5 weeks last summer and LOVED it. They were at the Berkeley camp. The centers themselves are the same each day, but the activities within each are different (some by day, some by week). Some activities were quite popular - the girls would have to stop by a few times over the week to get in - but they always did what they wanted by the end of the week. Each day the ''daily special'' is different (not required to go) and they can always choose free play if they don't want to go to a center. The counselors are fantastic, the food is wonderful (so nice not to have to pack lunches and snacks like other camps!) and the girls really liked the ''big'' weekly activities (bathtub races, climbing wall) and the camp games that end each day. When we asked the girls what they liked best about the summer before they went back to school, which included us taking standard ''vacation'' type trips and family adventures, Steve and Kates was in both of their top 3 lists. a Steve and Kate's fan
My daughter (age 10) really enjoyed her time at Steve and Kate's (Berkeley site) last year and has asked several times to return this year. Our schedule is flex so she went about half a dozen times -- not all in a row -- so it stayed fresh. I wouldn't recommend an entire summer but there are tons of activities and she said the food was good (cooked in the school's kitchen). The counselors had great energy and every day there is a special activity. Like a tiny disneyland. River
My daughter, who was 9 last summer, attended Steve and Kate's in Berkeley for the first time. She spent 2 weeks there and enjoyed it quite a bit. I think much longer and she would have been bored. She chose the 2 weeks based upon the special weekly activities. You didn't say which campus you are interested in. The Berkeley campus was nice, but very urban and small. It would have been great if there was a swimming element to the camp. Since I've been sending my kids to summer camp (the past 12 years), I have found 2 weeks is the max for most camps with the exception of the 6 week drama camp they have enjoyed. Check out This Land is Your Land too.. Sabrina
Our son was 11 when he went to Steve and Kates. Things he liked were the freedom to do his own thing/pick his own activities and the food - he raved about the meals! He felt that a lot of the kids were younger than him and he would have preferred more in his age group (this would not be a problem for your child's age group). The other possible negative is that many of the activities are ''rewards based''. Lots of prizes...I think it may have been a little bit too rewards based for our son. Overall, he enjoyed the camp fine but I think (in retrospect) I would not have put him in for several weeks as we did. You might try it for a week or two and see how your child likes it. In our experience, we were able to book at the last minute and still get him in. East Bay Mom
April 2010

Steve & Kate's Camp (Berkeley location) looks like a wonderfully creative place for my 6-year-old daughter, but I don't know anyone whose children have attended. I would appreciate feedback from those who have experience with it, in particular the quality of counselors and activities. Ann


My kids went for 2 weeks last year (ages 6 and 9, female and male). They both found the freeform nature a bit confusing and it took them a week to get the hang of it. They had some anxiety and frustration over it. In the end though, they both loved it and would like to go back (alas, I can't afford it this year).

Quality of staff? What I witnessed was fine - friendly, outgoing, caring. But for the rest of time? I heard no complaints from my kids, no ''horror stories'' of any kind. I suppose I wish there was a better way to acclimate kids who were trying to figure out the system, but then again, it's also good for kids to do some real-life problem solving - let them talk to staff and kids and figure it out - which they did. My older child suffers from an anxiety disorder and is also a picky eater (so their open-all-day cafe had little appeal for him) - but if HE wanted to go back, then I'd give it a thumbs up for all. Mom of Two


Steve and Kate's camp was not a good fit for my child. The camp seemed really centered around competing for things: rubber chickens, honey sticks and prizes. My daughter came home in tears both days she went because she said the adults were really unfair and didn't give prizes to everyone for trying (disclosure: she goes to a school where she doesn't encounter rewards as incentives or lots of competitive activities). The counselors didn't remember her name and she was confused with another child and reprimanded for doing something she didn't do. Steve and Kate's publicize their special activities like making a movie, but she didn't get her first choice activity either day she went and while making the movie she did she felt bullied by another child and the counselor didn't help her. Granted, both days she went were in August towards the end of the summer, but I expected a higher caliber of care for the price. There was lots of sugar available throughout the day in the foods (oatmeal available every morning with unlimited sugar, ice cream in the afternoons.) Yes, it was organic! It was not at all worth the price in our opinion. Paying for a week of the Downtown Berkeley YMCA and only using two-three days of it is a much better use of our money! Anon
April 2009

Re: Summer camp for daughter just finishing kindergarten
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.


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