Dance line of campers at Tilden Outdoor Camp in Berkeley

Our Philosophy

We started Monkey Business Camp in 1998 to nurture the creativity and individuality of each child in a loving and magical environment. We develop programs with balance of structured and spontaneous activities, hire dynamic and kind staff, and then go about building a community centered around fun and respect.

With these intentions, we have developed a holistic approach to how we run our camps:

Being Outdoors Is Something We All Need More Of

The most important way we do this is by hosting many of our our camp programs outdoors, between 80%-100% of the time. Planning specific time for nature exploration, being barefoot when it is safe, and inviting naturalists and herbalists to share their knowledge about plants and animals of the area are some ways we expand into this idea. When children have depth experiences in nature, they are sustained in the moment and in an ongoing way, and inspired to protect the wild.

“My children loved this camp and made it clear this is the only one they wish to attend from now on!”

Play Makes Everything Better

What would camp and life be without play! It’s easier to learn something new when it’s fun and if you are in a relaxed mood, so our staff bring this joyful spirit to camp days. Playing a competitive or non-competitive game with laughter and flexibility builds empathy and trust with others. During the school year, younger people often have a very full schedules, so at camp we balance structured and non-structured times of day, where some play is initiated by the staff and youth leaders and some by the campers themselves, so they get to practice leading from within and from each other, as well as being led. Play is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization. Through play, children get to  “play nicely” with others—to work together, follow mutually agreed upon rules, and socialize in groups. As adults, we can continue to use play to break down barriers and improve our relationships with others and to experience JOY!

We Are Similar and Different – Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Monkey Business Camp staff, youth leaders, and campers smile for a photoCamp is a positive force for hanging out with people who are both different than you, as well as finding points of contact and similarity.  We believe that this world is better when there is a diversity of opinions, which often comes from growing up in different backgrounds, and each of us coming into this world with unique medicine for the world. We are committed to making a camp experience that is extraordinary for children and families from all sorts of backgrounds. Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goals include hiring staff from diverse racial, gender, economic, cultural, religious, and sexual orientation backgrounds and matching kids in a group with staff of similar backgrounds when we can; training for staff and youth leaders that invites in goal setting in this area and supports ways to be more inclusive in terms of the language used, and the kind of activities provided and books read; doing our part with scholarship and flexible payment plans to bring down economic barriers; inviting in leadership on our staff and youth leader teams for those in historically marginalized communities, to center these voices more strongly. These are seeds we are planting for the world which we want to see, but which is not yet here. We are in a learning process and evolving. In addition, activities we plan are guided by a multiple intelligences model of how people learn. With interactive games, kinesthetic experiences, expressive art, time in nature, and more, we want both to ground kids in things in which they feel confident, and also stretch them to learn more about those they are not. Our food project team is very conscientious about using Kosher products, as well as providing alternatives for those with allergies or sensitivities. Our dream is to create a camp and a world where there is justice for all, where all people are respected, treated well, and celebrated for who they are, and where all can explore what it means to be them!

Positive Guidance and Being Friendship Coaches

We know that conflicts arise at camp and see these as the result of unmet needs. Maybe a camper had a really late night and acts out meanly toward her friends, or a camper is overstimulated and keeps complaining. Staff gets to know the children during their time at camp, so can support them and give positive guidance. Many kids come to camp with friends and some without and we want to support both new and older friendships. We also want kids to learn skills, for navigating the inevitable inter-personal and intra-personal ups and downs of life.  Staff ask questions, inquire about camper ideas for how to navigate conflict, and pro-actively play with kids to be a positive guide. Sometimes children do need to sit out, and cool out, but we work on finding out the underlying reason for a child’s behavior and work with parents to address. Campers do need to have self-regulation, where they can calm themselves, follow directions, and be kind, and manage within our staff:camper ratios most of the time. We believe in letting kids know what we want from them, or channeling their energy toward something positive, rather than telling them “no”.

Self-Care, Community Care, and Care For Our Planet Earth

Young Pre-K campers surround a large redwood tree, some of them giving it a hug

We talk with kids about caring for themselves, each other and the earth, and invite in their voices on these matters. At lunch and snacks, everyone sits for about 15 minutes, to take time to eat, and socialize with others. We have regular water reminders, to promote hydration. Kids have a lot of freedom to chose from different options, AND there are times when they need to be a part of community activities each day, like our group times. We are a Certified Green Business since 2009.  We are dedicated to doing our part at this critical time to create a beautiful, healthy world for future generations of humans and other beings. We donate to causes supporting local ecological action, specifically Ecology Center and Sogorea Te Land Trust.  We support the East Bay Regional Park District each year by hosting camps in their parks and creating what we hope will be future stewards. Girls on the Go and Boys on the Go camps (paused during the Covid pandemic) travel by public transit. We use Dr. Bronner’s and other “healthy for people and the planet” cleaning products and soaps at camp whenever possible.

Playing Safely

Having served over 10,000 campers since 1998, we have a stellar safety record. It is one of primary goals that kids are not only safe at camp, but that they (and you!) feel safe about being at camp. Most importantly for safety is our stellar staff team, filled with inter-generational wisdom. Additionally we have a strong youth leadership program which provides for a bit of extra assistance and support for the kids. Staff are certified in CPR and first aid and are background checked. In addition we have developed a number of site-specific safety protocols that staff enforce at camp. We have nut-free groups when we have a camper with nut allergies who cannot be around those eating nuts/nut butters.

“So easy to tell she had a great experience as she would provide great details on where they had gone, what they did, and how much fun she had with friends she made each week. In addition, the counselors and staff were attentive, friendly, and taken good care of my daughter while in their care that I didn’t have to worry. Because of her daily interaction with other girls at camp, it was easy to see her more confident and mature in her mannerism and in her communication.”