Maker Camps Provide Hands-On Fun
It’s easy for our kids to be consumers and just enjoy the clothes, toys, jewelry and food that other people made. But wouldn’t it be more fun if they could create those things themselves? As home to a vibrant and diverse community of makers, the Bay Area is the perfect place for kids to get inspired to explore various hands-on crafts and creations, and summer is the perfect time to do it.
There are numerous maker camps throughout the Bay Area. Below are just a few options.
The Butterfly Joint
This woodworking and design studio in San Francisco runs camps for kids in kindergarten through grade 9 that help them build anything from cutting boards and keepsake boxes to spoons and walking sticks. The goal is to have them walk away with something that could become a family heirloom, says owner Danny Montoya.
He says kids learn patience, resilience, responsibility and the ability to think in three dimensions, something he believes is lacking these days.
“It gave me a sense of confidence with approaching anything hands on,” he says of his own experience. “There are lots of adults I know who can’t do anything in the physical realm as far as fixing something or adjusting something. It’s the way I grew up so it’s all I know. But most people weren’t exposed to tinkering with something.”
Montoya limits each camp to 16 kids and encourages them to stick with learning new skills with which they’re initially likely to be uncomfortable. “I want them to appreciate the effort and love that goes into making something yourself,” he says. “You understand how difficult it was to make.”
Parent Paul Marshall says his 6-year-old daughter loved the experience and couldn’t stop talking about how interesting it was. During camp, she made a small spoon and loves detailing each step, from the kind of wood used to the tools to shape it. “Making something out of wood from scratch really spoke to her,” he says.
Summer camps and prices will be posted on the website in late February or early March. Camps range from one day to weeklong programs running from 9am-3pm. 4411 Cabrillo St. email@example.com. thebutterflyjoint.com.
SUB: Cooking Round the World
This summer camp teaches kids to cook recipes from throughout the world while learning about the culture of the places the food came from. A typical camp day includes cooking and eating four to eight recipes, reading a folktale and playing an international game. The goal is to teach children to become citizens of the world. The camp accepts kids ages 6-13 and has locations all over the Bay Area.
“It’s not merely stirring a bowl,” says owner Mindy Myers about what makes her camp stand out. “It’s kind of like an immersion experience.”
The staff is 90 percent hands off, allowing the children to learn from experience.
“Philosophically, I believe that the joy is in the doing,” she says. “We are not after the perfect carrot rose. We are after ‘I made this and I’m so proud of it.’”
Myers believes every burnt cookie is a teaching moment. “We practice the Socratic method – we teach by asking questions. We say to the children: what could we have done differently?”
By learning to cook, the children gain self-confidence, Myers says. “It’s a skill like learning how to change a tire or how to put a button back on a jacket. If you know how to cook, you can fend for yourself.”
Camp costs, times and registration information can be found on its website. Locations include Oakland, San Francisco, Fremont, Milpitas, San Carlos, Alameda, Walnut Creek and Martinez. 510-593-5285. cookingroundtheworld.com.
SUB: Dragonfly Designs
Kids ages 5-13 can attend camps in art and jewelry making, textiles and fiber arts, leatherworking and metalsmithing at several locations throughout San Francisco and the Peninsula.
The camps open with yoga and mindfulness, and there’s an option for language immersion in Mandarin or Spanish. While most of the camps are taught in English, owner Stacee Gillelen decided to offer the foreign language programs so kids in immersion schools could keep up their language skills during the summer.
Gillelen says kids enrolled in the camps learn everything from sanding metals to copper etching and stamping. “Our goal is to expand creativity in children and work on open-ended jewelry and art projects,” she says.
Campers create leather-bound art journals specific to what they are creating and document what they have learned so they can refer to it after camp is over.
Classes are taught by highly skilled teachers, the majority of whom are graduates of the Academy of Art University in San Francisco or the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and Oakland.
San Francisco resident Dan Kaan says his 7- and 9-year-old daughters love the camps. “They have tons of awesome supplies and materials to work with,” he says. “They come back with some pretty impressive crafts.”
Camps are $85 per day and run 9am-3pm with before or after care available at some locations. There are locations in San Francisco, South San Francisco, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Burlingame and San Mateo. 650-303-1900. dragonflyfun.com.
SUB: Marina’s Sewing School
This Burlingame program offers summer sewing camps that teach sewing techniques, basic pattern manipulation, fashion illustration, draping and more for kids ages 6-12 and teens.
Arianna Carter-Monah, a senior at Mercy High School in Burlingame, started taking lessons through the school when she was about 6. She became so good that she now helps teach the classes.
She also recently used her talents to design and make her own prom dress.
“I couldn’t find anything I liked so I thought, I’m going to make my own,” she says. “I love the creative outlet. I like the ability to make anything I want.”
Marina Dulman, the school’s owner, says that learning sewing gives girls and boys self-esteem because they can make something out of nothing. The kids can decide what kind of styles they like without just choosing from what the stores have to offer.
Dulman’s students learn to set their own agenda rather than look to the teacher to tell them everything to do.
“I don’t want the kids to be entertained,” she says. “They’ve been entertained too much. I want them to learn to entertain themselves.”
Tuition is $195 per week per child for one morning or one afternoon session. Students are responsible for purchasing and pre-washing their own fabric. Call for locations – classes have been held in Burlingame, San Mateo, Hillsborough and Millbrae. 650-685-9744. marinassewingschool.com.
Lisa Renner is a frequent contributor to Bay Area Parent and the San Francisco/Peninsula/Marin calendar editor.