Skip to content


What To Put On Your Summer Camp Packing List, According To Camp Staff

Packing your child for summer camp comes with a mix of emotions. There’s excitement for what’s ahead, with a healthy dose of anxiety that you’ll forget to include a necessary item. That’s why it’s so important to create a list of all the essentials. We polled the pros to build this summer camp packing list, which covers a wide range of must-haves, from bedding to bug spray, with plenty of items in between.

It’s likely that your child’s camp will provide a packing list for you, but some are more comprehensive than others. Forgetting to send certain items can cause you unnecessary stress and may even interfere with your child’s experience, says Sarah Kurtz McKinnon, co-founder of The Summer Camp Society. “When kids know their basic needs are going to be met at camp—and yes, part of that will be having the right gear, knowing where to find it and how to use it—they can feel safe enough to explore and have fun,” she says.

Every child needs slightly different things away from home, and some camps may have special requirements. Still, this summer camp packing list can help ensure you’ve got the basics covered.

10 Reasons to Send Your Kids to Winter Camp

It’s cold, it’s wet, the refrigerator door has just opened and closed for the fifth time, and a little voice keeps repeating the refrain you’ve heard steadily for the last four days.

“I’m bored!” “There’s nothing to eat!” “I’m still bored!”

Welcome to school vacation, winter edition.

While the rhythms of school have (happily) returned, the effects of school vacation live on – namely aimless kids who are temporarily sprung from class and in need of something to do.

But it doesn’t have to be that way – not if the kids go to camp. True, day camps may be primarily known as the stuff of summer. But they’re becoming increasingly common during school breaks, set up for parents who need to be on their normal schedule, even when their children aren’t.

Getting to work is itself a bonus. But support for parents is just reason #1 such camps are getting so popular. There’s also a lot in it for kids. We talked to veteran Steve & Kate’s Camp Director Rachel Kirshenbaum about all of it. What does she say are nine other things winter camp is great for?


25 Reasons to Send Your Kids to Your Local Steve & Kate's Summer Day Camp in 2024

“Summer camps have an irreplaceable role in a child’s life. They are dynamic spaces for growth, learning and loads of fun. Steve & Kate’s Summer Day Camp offers a unique experience that’s more than just a traditional summer camp.

The history of Steve & Kate’s Summer Day Camps.
For over four decades, Steve & Kate’s Summer Day Camps have provided a unique and transformative space for children. Incorporated in 1980 by tech educator Steve Susskind and musician Kate Susskind, this innovative approach to summer camp quickly captured the hearts of both parents and children. Rooted in the belief of putting kids in the driver’s seat of their own learning and discovery process, the camp provides a variety of engaging, creative, and recreational activities.

Recognized Nationwide
Recognized as a trusted, nationwide summer camp, Steve & Kate’s emphasizes choice, autonomy, and independence. Its tapestry weaves the freedom for kids to make their own choices with the support and guidance of skilled staff, fostering an environment that is both safe and invigorating for self-expression. Here, children are not just attendees – they’re active creators of their own journey.

Whether children have a passion for coding, cooking, filmmaking, music, or sports, they’ll find something tailor-made for them at Steve & Kate’s. Its hands-on setup is designed to spark the inventiveness and creativity inside every child, fostering skills and attitudes that last beyond the summer season.

Todays Challenges
No matter what challenges and changes the world throws at them, Steve & Kate’s remains committed to its founding principle: trust in kids to be the authors of their own camp experience. By embracing this philosophy, they’ve transformed summer into a time of discovery, growth, and, above all, enjoyment. Steve & Kate’s Summer Day Camps offer not just a summer respite, but a robust and memorable experience that kids revere and remember for a lifetime.

Here are 25 compelling reasons why you should send your kids to your local Steve & Kate’s Summer Day Camp in 2024:

Personal Growth and Development
1. Independence: Camp provides the perfect setting to foster independence as children make choices and manage their own time.

2. Responsibility: Regular chores and tasks instill a sense of responsibility.

3. Resilience: Kids learn to cope with minor setbacks and challenges, developing strong resilience.

Enrichment Activities
4. Range of Activities: We offer a wide range of activities, each one designed to challenge and entertain…”

Benefits of Winter Camps for Neurodiverse Kids

“Do you have a neurodiverse child you think would benefit from summer camp – but you’re not sure if it’s a good fit?

A winter break session at Steve & Kate’s Camps may be just the way to find out.

Winter break sessions are great options for neurodiverse children because they provide the chance to dip a toe in short term – no long commitments; no multi-week decisions to make out of the gate. And that’s just one of the upsides.

We spoke with Rachel Kirshenbaum, director at Steve & Kate’s Camp in Manhattan Beach. What are some of the other benefits of a winter break camp for your child?

Just the Right Size
Smaller groups in winter-break sessions can be less overwhelming for neurodiverse children. Plus, with fewer participants, counselors are able to make more modifications to the routine. For example, if a camper needs additional space to work on an activity, the team can set up a station for their particular needs and preferences. The smaller group sessions also give the camp staff the opportunity to lead activities that don’t work as well with larger groups.

A Place to Engage Their Energy

Each camp day begins with morning kickoff during which an enthusiastic counselor communicates the plan for the day. To keep campers fully engaged, the counselor asks questions and plays interactive games with the group. Following morning kickoff, the camp staff also leads morning energy breaks, which can help neurodiverse campers create an additional sense of calm. These breaks often include meditation, yoga, or movement-focused games of Simon Says.

Support For New Friendships
Making friends can be hard – especially if you’re neurodiverse and don’t know how to connect with other children. The same small groups that support activities allow Rachel and her team keep an eye out for any campers spending time on their own. From there, they’ll find another child who shares a common interest and give them a project to work on together. Sports and group activities, such as word or guessing games, also help the team establish connections.”

Bright Horizons Welcomes Steve & Kate's Camp To Its Family

“Bright Horizons® has acquired Steve & Kate’s Camp, welcoming the day camp and its nearly 30 locations across the country to its family and broadening its array of offerings to support working parents.


Steve and Kate’s has been a partner of Bright Horizons since 2016. Its mission is to provide an environment where children can create their own experience by participating in the activities they love– from music to sports, robotics and cooking. The camp was founded on the belief that trusting a child helps them build their self-confidence and teaches them to use their own judgment. As a result, Steve & Kate’s enables kids to express themselves freely.”

HER Magazine: Possibly The Coolest Summer Camp Ever For Young Girls

“But, there’s something else that sets Steve and Kate’s Camp apart from other camps. Mike Saperstein, a partner at Steve & Kate’s Camp, says, “When we ask campers what they like most about the camp, the answer, overwhelmingly, is that they like Steve & Kate’s because they feel free.” While the activities have changed over the course of 38 years, Saperstein says campers continue to love the level of freedom and flexibility offered by the camp.

Washington Post Express: These campers choose their own adventures

“Bright Horizons® has acquired Steve & Kate’s Camp, welcoming the day camp and its nearly 30 locations across the country to its family and broadening its array of offerings to support working parents.


Steve and Kate’s has been a partner of Bright Horizons since 2016. Its mission is to provide an environment where children can create their own experience by participating in the activities they love– from music to sports, robotics and cooking. The camp was founded on the belief that trusting a child helps them build their self-confidence and teaches them to use their own judgment. As a result, Steve & Kate’s enables kids to express themselves freely.”

Washington Post Express: These campers choose their own adventures

“Summer camp, the age-old childhood rite of passage, was once the realm of muggy mosquito-laden bunkhouses, sunburns, perpetually soggy bathing suits and s’mores-stickied fingers. But in 2016, the summer experience can be so much more.” “For families seeking a blend of that traditional camp experience combined with a modern, tech-savvy touch, there’s Steve and Kate’s Camp,a San Francisco-based outfit with locations in nine states and the District.” “Steve and Kate’s Camp evokes a laid-back aura true to its California roots, complemented by the company’s Silicon Valley-inspired innovative approaches to everything from programming to payment.” “Celesta Kirk, a community director for the camp’s newest Bethesda location, said that unlike at more traditional camps, campers are not grouped by ages or even grouped at all. Kids are free to roam for as long as they like between “studios,” allowing them to chose their own activities and plan their won days, which gives youngsters the power to exercise their independence and judgement, Kirk said.”

Pacific Sun: Food & Drink: Camp cuisine

“Chef Ryan Smith carries on culinary tradition at Steve & Kate’s Camp In an effort to continue to raise the camp’s culinary bar, in August of 2015, the founders hired chef Ryan Smith as their in-house chef and food program designer. The 32-year-old California Culinary Academy graduate, who hails from San Jose and has spent much of his career cooking in South Bay kitchens, is in charge of developing recipes that will be prepared for thousands of summer campers across the country. “My goal is to make every single item a well-balanced meal,” says Smith, who was so inspired by the opportunity at Steve & Kate’s that he was lured away from a corporate chef job with the food service management group Bon Appétit. “The opportunity to feed kids and give them insight to where their food comes from was too compelling to pass up.”

Chicago Tribune: Summer day camps in Chicago and the suburbs

“Working parents’ worries dissipate as they contemplate Steve & Kate’s model. The day can begin as early as 7:30 and go till 6 p.m., and kids aren’t twiddling their thumbs. They’re exercising a Montessori-like freedom to visit the style studio (sewing, knitting and materials); breadmaking studio (ovens and yeast bread ingredients), music studio (karaoke and sound booths that record tracks), animation studio (to record films), dance studio (expert-choreographed routines); plus an outdoor playground (on the school campuses that Steve & Kate’s takes over). New this year is a coding studio (with fun STEM apps). “

Summer Camp Hub: Possibly The Coolest Summer Camp Ever For Young Girls

“Your kid gets the chance to choose their own experience as the camps have a flexible amount of interests. They offer a rather wide range of activities chosen specifically to delight kids including, The Media Lab, Sewing Salon, Blocktopolis, The Bakery, Crochet Corner, and more. These were all chosen based on 40 years of research to see what kids naturally gravitate towards.”

SmartUp Article: Startup Camp (Parts 1 & 2)

“Steve’s Camp, founded in 1980, was designed with a simple yet powerful concept –– getting out of the kids’ way. “For me it’s much more about the kids’ starting to use their own judgment. They’ve got a lot of ideas. It’s about giving them choices, learning to course correct.” This eventually developed into a guiding philosophy: “Our camp conforms to kids, not the other way around.” “Activities were designed around campers’ learning to express themselves and explore their passions and potential in the arts, performance, sports, and recreation. Steve sought fresh products, technology and experiences designed for the kids. His was the first camp to feature “Kangoo Jumps” jumping shoes. They brought in an inflatable bouncy house, and had kids drive electric Bathtub Racers. They adapted a local invention, the “Batting Buddy”, to help kids learn to hit baseballs. Steve didn’t want to mimic standard sports, so his team designed an inflatable, mini soccer arena. “You’d touch the ball more, score more,” he said. “The goal was bigger.” He did the same for tennis, shortening the court and using low compression balls to make it easier to learn how to control them. “With a lot of sports, kids should be at an advantage,” Steve said. “But most sports are not scaled for kids.””

Mommy Poppins Article: Best New Summer Day Camps for NYC Kids 2015

“Every camp-planning season, we here at Mommy Poppins scour the city looking for enriching new summer programs for our been-there, done-that kids. To help you make an informed decision about the new camps on the block, we’ve rounded up nine of the most promising programs set to debut this summer. Some are brand-new, others are places that are significantly expanding their already awesome offerings. “Steve & Kate’s Camp – Bay Area mainstay Steve & Kate’s Camp debuts its first-ever NYC program, which features its signature free-form structure. Campers explore subjects like animation, fashion, computer coding, bread baking and dance in the camp’s high-tech studio at their own pace. Once they’ve had their fill, they can move on to other activities like sports in an inflatable kid-size stadium, or watching live performances. Lunch is a globally-inspired, five-course affair. Perhaps the best part is the camp’s endless flexibility: Families can buy day passes, which can even be used at the camp’s other regional locations. If at the end of the summer it turns out you paid for more days than you used, you get a refund. I know it sounds too good to be true but I spoke with the owners and they assured me it’s not. Steve…”

Parent Map Article: 21st-Century Camp Trends for Puget Sound Families

“Responding to the needs of busy parents whose work, life and vacation schedules don’t match the typical five-day workweek (or camp session), some camps offer new kinds of schedules and options… “Steve and Kate’s Camp is relatively new to the Seattle area, managing three camps for grades K–7 (in Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma) with a uniquely flexible enrollment policy and philosophy. The day camp offers highly specialized “studios” for activities such as dance, music, bread making and animation, along with many outdoor activities. The difference? There is no “schedule” — kids get a full choice of activities. Parents are “recognizing kids’ needs for developing passions over fitting into a rigid structure,” says camp partner Mike Saperstein. Conveniently, the camp allows parents to purchase day passes to use as needed according to the family’s work schedule.”

Red Tricycle NYC Article: New in NYC!: The Summer Camp You Need to Know About.

“Living in NYC, we’re surrounded by choices, and when it comes to picking a summer camp for the kid, things are no different. It can be tough: Sports? Overnight? STEM? Theater? What if you (or more to the point, the camper in the family) didn’t have to choose? What if they could do it all, or just one, just the way they wanted? That’s essentially the promise of Steve & Kate’s Camp, a West Coast-bred day camp chain debuting in the East Village this summer.”

Pacific Sun Magazine Hall of Fame

Pacific Sun Magazine added us to their Hall of Fame for winning ‘Best Summer Camp’ six years in a row.

Steve & Kate’s Camp voted Best Summer Camp 2014 in LA Parent’s Magazine

Steve & Kate’s Camp was voted Best Summer Camp 2014 in LA Parent’s Magazine.

Steve & Kate’s Camp named Best Camp in 2013 and 2014 by South Sound Magazine

Steve & Kate’s Camp -Tacoma was named Best Camp two years in a row in South Sound Magazine.

Pasadena Now article: A Camp That’s Poles Apart

Summer camps thrive in following a strict schedule and system. If not, the sheer number of kids and the organization of activities would overwhelm the camp. Steve & Kate’s Camp is diametrically opposite, and therein lies its unique and genius setup. “There’re two things that have really distinguished us from the rest since the start of the camp in 1980. One is the educational philosophy of [the] camp where the kids choose their own activities; and one where the activities are set up to promote self-directed learning,” says Mike Saperstein, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Steve & Kate’s Camp. What this means is that kids are not pressured to do activities they are not interested in, nor are they forced to work with a time limit. “The kids work at their own pace and develop skills at their own pace which is much more comfortable to them. The counselors who are in the studios, instead of leading a class with a particular agenda, they’re working with the kids individually at their respective paces,” says Saperstein. The counselors find out what the kids need and give them the resources they need. Whether the kid needs basic help or a long mentorship, the counselors do what it takes to help the kids complete their projects. “The counselors interact with the kids differently according to their ability and different levels,” adds Saperstein. Another unique system that the camp employs is more for the parents’ benefit. “We have this unique model where parents can buy any number of days, and attend any time they’d like during the summer. They’re guaranteed space at camp and if they don’t use all of their day passes during the summer, they get a full automatic refund for any unused days,” Saperstein explains. Families with plans to go on summer vacation will find this very useful, where they don’t have to plan summer outings around the summer camp’s schedule, but rather schedule the summer camp around the family’s timetable. Typical days at the summer camp are “really defined by each child individually. So no two days will look exactly the same since the kids chose for themselves” says Saperstein. Aside from the activities, the camp also has Show Specials every once in awhile to provide entertaining distractions for the kids. “It can range from something like a stage combat workshop to an educational show on reptiles,” Saperstein says, “it can also be pure entertainment like concerts at camp and people who do magic shows.” Parents who worry about their kids’ nutrition will be glad to know that lunch and snacks are included with the fee, and the lunch program itself is “designed by our in-house chef who used to be the executive chef at Google [and] we’re offering a whole range of really great diverse lunches,” says Saperstein.

Red Tricycle article: An Unbelievably Cool Summer Camp Comes to Chicago

In your little buddy’s dream world, Mickey Mouse lives next door, the mailman delivers comic books, and lollipops are a food group. Until this fantasy becomes reality, introduce your kid to the next-best thing: Steve & Kate’s Camp. A mainstay in the Bay Area since 1980, the trailblazer is about to open five locations in Chicago and the North Shore, just in time for summer fun. Its unique formula — allowing kids the freedom to independently choose their own adventures every day, with group powwows along the way — has given it a cult following like nothing else we’ve seen.

What’s in a day? It’s all up to the kids. Steve & Kate’s Camp revolves around the idea that campers should have their choice of activity in order to build confidence and stay engaged. To that end, there aren’t strict schedules that lock groups into set periods of craft, sports or science time. Instead, kids can spend the days doing any of the available activities they like — for as long as they like. There are several regular offerings, as well as lots of surprises. Every day, from 7:30 am – 6:00 pm, kids can explore six themed “studios,” which are like exploration areas staffed with trained counselors. Studios include style (sewing, knitting, crafting), cooking, dancing, building, music recording, and stop-motion animation. Along with that, each week brings special amusements, which can range from rock-climbing walls to zip lines to huge water slides to parachute “rockets.” To give this whole utopic world some structure — and provide campers with time to interact on a more personal level with their friends and counselors — each day includes designated small-group time. It’s spent playing games, coming together for huddles and chatting about how things are going.

How ’bout live entertainment? Once a week, campers are treated to live shows featuring Chicago entertainers. And not just any entertainers. This summer, kids will be wowed by Peter Nestler, the Guinness Book of World Records holder for Most Consecutive Jumps on a Unicycle in One Minute. They’ll also bring in Scales and Tails, an animal presenter that comes equipped with a Burmese python by the name of “Julius Squeezer.” Local magicians and musicians will also make the rounds.

Any snacks or food? There are snacks throughout the day, as well as a full lunch, and it’s all included in the tuition. Food comes from local vendors and purveyors whenever possible. In fact, Steve & Kate’s has an arrangement with Door to Door Organics, a CSA that will use the five camp locations as drop-off points. The ingredients will be used in snacks and lunches, as well as in studio cooking lessons.

What ages is the camp for? Any child that’s entering kindergarten through 7th grade can participate. All activities are mixed-age. Counselors understand that the younger ones might need a little extra help or encouragement. So through a concept called Kindercamp, guides are available to be at smaller children’s sides, helping with more technical projects (like stop-motion animation and building), as well as the essential everyday stuff, like washing hands and putting on sunscreen.

Variety magazine article: Free-Form Camp Fires Up Young Minds

Steve and Kate’s Camp didn’t set out to cater to the children of folks at Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic and the like, but given their philosophy, it’s no surprise so many attend. “We have a fundamentally different approach to how we program, which I think has attracted a certain type of person,” says Steve Susskind, co-founder of the Bay Area-based camp that for the first time this year will offer sessions in the LA area, from roughly mid-June to mid-August, depending on the location. “We’ve created an environment where kids are able to choose all day exactly what they want to do, for as long as they like.” Though the camp has numerous programs that have nothing to do with entertainment, several do fall under that umbrella.

“If someone is (interested) in filmmaking, they can do it all day,” Susskind says. “It’s not about structured vs unstructured, it’s about what type of structure. That sort of open-ended approach has been attractive to people from a lot of the creative and tech industries.” Pixar mainstay Andrew Stanton sent his children through the camp and has been effusive about it, writing that the campers “blossom and discover a freedom of identity that, in a way, no other institution I’ve experienced has ever managed.” Deirdre Warin, the mother of Susskind’s wife and camp co-founder Kate Susskind, was one of Pixar’s earliest employees, but Steve Susskind says she didn’t try to recruit anyone to the camp. Pixar families, like others in the area, found it on their own. Over time, the popularity of the camp has enabled it to expand to nearly 40 locations in California, Washington and Illinois. The camp has an innovative fee structure. Families can buy camp credits rather than registering in advance for sessions. As a result, campers can attend, or not, on any day they like, without notice–and get a refund at the end of the summer for any unused days. It’s simple in concept if complicated in execution–though one could argue that refunds are not a huge issue in an atmosphere where campers have so much creative freedom. “It’s not our job to dictate what the story should be,” Susskind says. “It’s our job to help them tell their stories.” – Jon Weisman

Steve & Kate’s Camp Voted Best Of Bay 2012 in the San Francisco Bay Guardian

Steve and Kate’s Camp was picked by the readers of the San Francisco Bay Guardian in 2012 as the “Best Camp For Kids”.

Steve & Kate’s Camp Voted Best Of Marin

Steve & Kate’s Camp was voted Best Summer Day Camp of Marin for 2010, 2011 and 2012 in the Pacific Sun reader’s poll.

Steve and Kate Susskind must know what they’re doing – they’ve been running Steve and Kate’s Camp for 30 years in Marin – although it all sounds as chaotic as a Wonderland tea party. Their philosophy: Let kids decide. Happy campers, age 4 to 12, are given a choice of activities that include things such as high-def filmmaking, electric car racing, sewing, knitting, sculpture, bungee jumping, soccer, etc. – and the kid decides which activity and how long to do it. A camper can do whatever for as long as he or she likes. “It’s structure,” Steve says, “just a different structure.” “We want to make sure we’re doing what the kids want.” Kate says. “We conform to them, not the other way around.” Food at the camp is heavy on the organic, fresh and locally grown, and is served family-style with the cafe open all day. Again, kids choose. Parents can choose, too – when and how often to bring their children – from one day to an entire summer. Unused days are automatically refunded. And somehow it just all works.

Steve & Kate’s Camp Voted Best In Contra Costa County

The readers of Parents Press voted Steve & Kate’s Camp best summer camp for 2011 in Contra Costa county.

Children can channel their creativity in this summer camp that offers campers, age 4–12, activities in filmmaking, electric car racing, sewing, knitting, sculpture, bungee jumping and soccer. Food at the camp is organic, fresh and locally grown and is served family-style with the cafe open all day. Flexibility is emphasized so campers can attend for a day, a week or an entire summer, and they can attend activities at different locations. With a wide range of activities, young campers are encouraged to pursue their own individual interests and passions so they create their own unique camp experience.

Steve & Kate’s Camp Featured In IJ Camp Guide

In 2008, the Marin Independent Journal camp guide featured an article about our “excellent culinary adventure” and how we have “taken camp food a long way from bug juice, bologna sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly smeared on white bread so gluey you can bounce it off a redwood.”

Steve & Kate’s Camp In The San Francisco Chronicle

Leah Garchik mentions Steve and Kate’s in her Thursday column.

Thanks to Nanook of the North Bay for the brochure for Steve and Kate’s Camp, a Marin County day camp that refers to staff members who help kids choose their activities and make friends as Camp Concierges. The camp’s list of activities includes “Limo Rides,” and the arts and crafts program includes knitting “using real wood and bamboo needles.” Furthermore, lunch comes from Whole Foods and “drink service includes milk, 100 percent juice and bottled water.

Steve & Kate’s Camp In Apple’s Hot News

Steve and Kate’s uses computers throughout the camp. They increase efficiency and security for our staff. For campers, they open up the worlds of digital photography, filmmaking, music recording, and podcasting. Apple found out about us and wrote an article on our use of their technology for the “Hot News” section of their web site.

If kids ruled the world, it might look something like Steve and Kate’s Camp in Mill Valley, California