Here in the Northwest, we are serious about our kids’ enrichment opportunities. We keep their schedules full of classes, camps and learning opportunities. Lucky for us, it’s easy to make great choices about their activities when we have so many fantastic options. All of this serious scheduling is to ensure that the kids have the chance to uncover their passion. Will it be music, soccer, science, nature, theater or something else? Think of all the fun they’ll have as they find out.
Taking first place this year, the YMCA continues to provide convenient and accessible programs that teach droves of children how to stay safe in and near the water. With local branches in King, Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish counties, YMCA offers a variety of aquatics programs for all ages (in case you want to take a dip, too!).
A favorite of Seattleites, Seattle Parks and Recreation Aquaticsis your go-to place for all kinds of water-related fun including pools, beaches, sprayparks, open water swimming and the annual Polar Bear Plunge.
Notable for its location — tucked beneath a Chinese restaurant on Lake Union — Safe N Sound Swimming is well-known for its one-on-one lessons. These plus swim camps and other programs mean your kid will be swimming like a fish in no time!
Swimming matters at Pro Sports Club but this Bellevue destination offers much more than a few nice pools. With a gym, spa and countless other amenities, Pro Sports makes getting your family's rec time in easy!
With an extensive summer pool schedule, Stroum Jewish Community Center provides plenty of pool time for your little swimmer. Plus, lessons to make sure your littest fishes are safe and sound as they splish and splash.
Located on Aurora Avenue in Seattle, SwimGuruprovides swim lessons to kids and adults of all ages with courses even available for babies as young as 6 months because it's never too early to teach safety.
Camp for Kids With Special Needs
Winner: Camp Korey
Families of kids with serious medical conditions love Camp Korey and the carefree fun and games it offers on a huge farm on the Eastside. Founded by the father of a teenage boy who died of cancer, Camp Korey aims to let children forget about their illnesses for a week and turn their focus on the adventure and joy of being a kid. Medical personnel on staff support campers as they partake in activities such as boating, horseback riding, arts and crafts and stage night. Your votes for Camp Korey flowed in, showing your appreciation for this special place and its support of kids and families.
Kids with special needs get a warm and enthusiastic welcome at Camp Sealth (which is owned and operated by Camp Fire Central Puget Sound) on Vashon Island, with staff working to tailor the quintessential summer camp experience to each child, whatever a camper’s abilities and desires might be. We’re pretty sure that for most kids, this means having fun with friends and trying new things; your votes affirm that Camp Sealth is successfully providing this for all kinds of campers.
Your votes piled up for Seattle’s School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) and its unique programs in circus arts, such as acrobatics, trapeze and more. You love that SANCA occupies a special and needed space where physical activity and sport are not competitive; here, the environment is open, empowering and fun. SANCA’s classes are open to everyone and its Every Body’s Circus individual coaching program is a good fit for students needing special attention.
The Outdoors for All Foundation understands the transformative power of outdoor recreation, and so do you. You voted in support of Outdoors for All’s programs, which get children (and adults) with disabilities out skiing, kayaking, river rafting, rock climbing and more. What started as a skiing program for a handful of kids now reaches several thousand individuals each year, thanks to the dedication of hundreds of volunteers.
Camp Provjoins the Golden Teddy list. This integrated day camp for kids ages 2 to 10 welcomes children with special needs and their siblings, encouraging bonding time with a staff that features a speech language pathologist, occupational and physical therapist and other experts.
Art, Dance, Theater + Music Program + Camp
Winner: Sunshine Music Together
A multiyear Golden Teddy winner, Sunshine Music Together tops your collective list among local arts programs for kids. Mixed-age parent-and-tot classes develop natural music appreciation in young children, and you like that the program integrates singing, instruments, movement and play. The catchy, fun songs appeal to kids and grown-ups alike, and you appreciate the engaged, dedicated instructors. “Teachers are lively, inspired and want to give the gift of music,” said one pleased voter, and another liked that the classes helped music become a part of their family’s regular weekly routine. Sunshine Music Together offers regular classes in multiple locations, including Seattle, Lynnwood and Redmond.
Seattle’s Illumination Learning Studio earned your votes for its variety of arts-focused programs, including piano and guitar instruction, performing and fine arts classes, and themed summer camps. One voter commended the “great teacher” who is “passionate about teaching.” In addition to classes and camps, Illumination offers before- and after-school programs with transportation, a preschool program, and parent-and-tot classes at its multiple North Seattle outlets.
Roaring Mouse Creative Arts Studio lets kids explore creative expression in their own manner and at their own pace, and your votes indicate you’re roaring with approval. This neighborhood studio in Seattle offers classes, camps, workshops, kids’-night-out sessions and birthday parties. Roaring Mouse programs highlight the link between play and art.
Your votes indicate you think the world of the Russian-influenced dance instruction at Emerald Ballet Theatre in Bellevue. The school focuses on classical ballet, but also teaches other genres of dance, including character, modern, hip-hop and others. The school welcomes both boys and girls, as well as students with special needs, and offers levels ranging from pre-ballet for preschoolers up to rigorous instruction for aspiring professional dancers.
Three Dragons Academy believes kids can do anything — and they're there to make it happen! Founded in 1995 to offer children's theatre and music education, Three Dragons offers children the ability to shape their own creative projects. Adults advise but it's up to the kids to craft a stage-worthy production.
This national campSteve & Kate's Camp provides a variety of activities to keep even the busiest of campers busy and engaged. Find locations in both Bellevue and Seattle.
STREM Camp (science, technology, robotics, engineering and math) camp
Winner: Pacific Science Center
The venerable Pacific Science Center earned scores of your votes for its camps focused on STREM topics, including marine science, cooking, medicine, robotics and even the chemistry of candy! You gushed over the “awesome, intriguing science curriculum” that has campers studying the center’s resident critters (think naked mole rats), connecting science and cooking, or learning the science behind solving crimes. Kids dig the creative and hands-on nature of camps; you love your kids’ huge love for science. A wide array of camps welcomes kids from pre-K through high school. Camps meet in nine Puget Sound–area locations.
Everyone wants their kids to have a leg up in today’s competitive world, and your votes show you like the advantage offered by Bellevue’s Russian School of Mathematics (RSM). RSM provides after-school and summer math enrichment programs, plus tutoring and test prep for kids, from kindergartners through high school students. RSM employs a traditional Russian- and European-influenced approach to help students excel. Clearly, it’s working well for your kids.
Girls Rock Math earned heaps of your votes for its unique camps that make math real — and really fun — for girls. Campers in grades 1–6 build confidence and friendships while using math together with the arts to dig into crafts, painting, gardening, fashion and more. Fun-sounding camp titles include “Crafty Math,” “Math-Magical Garden” and “Super Spirals and Fabulous Fractals.” Girls Rock Math offers its weeklong day camps at nine Seattle-area and Eastside locations.
Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia lives up to its name, giving kids lots of opportunities to create, build, touch, tinker, dig, play, stack, drop, mix, craft and investigate with their hands, minds and bodies. All this rolled into a week of camp? According to your votes, you love it. Summer and school-break camps integrate STREM topics with camps called “Little Bots,” “Circus Science,” “Geology Rocks” and “Tinker Tech.” Camps welcome kids from age 3 to grade 4 in half- and full-day sessions.
No stranger to Golden Teddy,KidsQuest Children's Museumearns its spot for a wide selection of STREM-centric camps perfect for the littlest campers on up to the older set. But move fast! These camps sell out quick.
In their second spot on this year's Golden Teddy list, Steve & Kate's Camp gets a nod for its strong STREM focus. "Our camp," write the founders, "conforms to kids." That means giving campers the tools and guidance they need to have a blast and learn a lot.
Rory spends her days with her handsome husband, three kids, 11 chickens and pet pig Edwin. She's a reckless optimist and may be found hiding in the closet eating chocolate chips (which she aspires to bake something with but never does). Her perfect day would include a walk on the beach with her family, taco-truck tacos for dinner and roasting marshmallows around a campfire.