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9 Sweet, Small Camps and Classes in Seattle That Kids Love

From sewing to art and even coding, creative, small programs that nurture kids' spirits

Photo: Made Sewing

Some kids love big, busy camps that are thrumming with activity. Other kids who would do anything to avoid such an environment, but might thrive in a small, homey camp. With winter break coming up and new class sessions on the horizon, we've searched the city for small camps and classes and newer after-school programs that specializing in creative activities and a nurturing environment. 

(Find many more camps and ideas on our camps web page, as well as our directory, and Golden Teddy Awards listing.)

Photo: Flourish Dance Project

1. Flourish Dance Project, West Seattle

Established in September 2015 within Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in West Seattle, Flourish’s class roster draws from classical and urban influences, including ballet, breakdance, creative movement, modern and street jazz. The gorgeous studio space contains expansive ceilings and a garage door that opens up to a beautiful greenbelt. At the heart of this project’s mission is the belief that dance can vitalize the individual and help sustain our city’s vibrancy. Flourish also has generous financial assistance available for qualifying families.  

Upcoming classes: Although classes began in September, there are a handful of openings in ballet, creative movement, modern, and street jazz.

Parent testimonial: “He set the alarm early this morning so he could work on his modern dance. After practice, he 'low transition modern danced' his way to the bathroom. He’s found his movement genre!” 

Photo: Seattle ReCreative

2. Seattle ReCreative, Greenwood

This arts-and-crafts donation center, retail store and arts learning center opened in Greenwood in January 2015.  Children’s art classes emphasize process-oriented, explorative art-making experiences and combines old-fashioned, hands-on learning with contemporary creative and environmental values.

The vast collection of recycled artist materials for sale are priced 50-75 percent below their retail value. Classes are held in the three in-store spaces: a creative playspace, children’s art space and in a community makerspace. In advance of the holidays, children’s workshops will be offered in sewing, mosaic, woodworking and origami.

Upcoming classes: Pre-holiday workshops include DIY Garlands (Dec. 5), Holiday Mosaics (Dec. 12), Sewing Stuffed Animals (Dec. 12), holiday origami (Dec. 19) and DIY gift tags (Dec. 19). There are also ongoing, drop-in classes such sa Paint Playground, offered for kids ages 1–5 several days a week. 

Parent testimonial: “After our first visit to Paint Playground we were hooked! We love the creative ideas that we come away with for reusing materials and our daughter gets to play freely and explore her artistic side (without making us stress about mess at home). 

Photo: Made Sewing

3. Made Sewing, Greenwood

Three years ago, Made Sewing offered its first Monster Factory class with kids designing and sewing monsters, including creating a backstory and monster name. Now more than 200 students take summer classes in its small, sweet Greenwood studio space and Made Sewing instructors teach at after-school programs in almost 20 schools. Founder Carissa Brunner aims to have her students learn abstract ideas in a hands-on way, noting sewing helped her understand geometry and accelerated her reading skills as she started sewing from patterns. Don’t tell kids they are learning in this sew-fun haven.

Upcoming classes: Classes include Reversible Holiday Aprons, Cozy Robes, Sweater Jacket, and Winter Gardening Aprons. Sign-up for winter after-school classes will begin in December and summer camps will be out in January.

Parent testimonial (full disclosure, from the writer): “This is my 13-year-old daughter’s third year at Made Sewing, and it’s one of her safe, happy places where she gets to be totally herself. Yes, she’s a passionate sewer, but that’s not the only lesson learned there. For example, I love that Carissa teaches students how to be critical readers of mass media."

Photo: Marcia Wiley Glass Art Classes

4. Marcia Wiley Glass Art Classes, Ballard

Former middle-school teacher and local glass artist Marcia Wiley started teaching glass art classes to kids about three years ago in her disco-ball decorated Ballard studio, which has two kilns and an outdoor space with a climbing tree named Maggie the Magnolia. Young glass blowers make practical and decorative creations including window ornaments, jewelry, magnets and keychains.

Upcoming classes: Current offerings include holiday gift-making sessions, full-day camps during Seattle Public School’s winter break and after-school classes starting in 2016.

Parent testimonial: Parent Jackie B. rave’s about her boys’ experiences: “Marcia is very skilled working with glass, and by giving them responsibility in a working studio, inspires independence and confidence in children. Whether they are exploring glass or the outdoors, Marcia is in the moment, harnessing the curiosity and wonder of her students.”

Photo: Dragonfly Art Camps

5. Dragonfly Art Camps, Ballard

Saddened by the downturn of art in the schools, friends and artists Melissa Meier Oquist and Melia Scranton started teaching art classes. Oquist teaches in Harbor Building on the corner of N.W. 92nd and 11th Ave. N.W. while Scranton teaches at the Kenney Center in West Seattle. Their goal is for students to learn how to create so they can continue the process on their own. Participants learn the elements and principles of art, such as how to mix colors, how to add shadow to create form, and how to draw and paint the world around you. Camps and after-school class sessions include drawing, painting, clay, collage and some freeform sculpture. During the school year, Oquist teaches after school art at Spartan Recreation Center in Shoreline on Wednesday afternoons with Thursday afternoons being added this winter in the north Seattle space.

Upcoming classes: Winter after-school classes begin on February 4.

Parent testimonial: “Not only did my daughter make truly heirloom quality projects that I'm so proud to display, she learned best practices and respect for the studio."

Photo: Moonpaper Tent

6. Moonpaper Tent, Maple Leaf

Across from Maple Leaf Reservoir Park, a mystical air envelopes participants in a magical learning experience. Camps at Moonpaper Tent are theme based and rich in creative drama, art and craftwork, storytelling, and magical realism. Instructors/Moon Fairies incorporate creative visualization and mindfulness practices, generating an environment representative of possibility.

Upcoming camps and classes: Most classes and camps enroll an average of 15 kids. Upcoming offering include day camps for ages 4 and up: Winter Magic, Dec 21-23; and The New Knews of New Town, Dec 28-31.

Parent testimonial: “My daughter was just in Princess Power Camp and oh my goodness, it was the best camp EVER!  It was so fun and so intentional, I almost cried at the coronation.”

Photo: Seattle App Academy

7. Seattle App Academy, West Seattle

Now in its second year, this West Seattle afterschool program offers high-quality tech classes at an affordable rate. Many of the classes are geared towards students who haven’t yet taken programing classes. The classroom is equipped with thirty 23-inch touch-screen computers, 3D printer, robot kits, tablets and electronics supplies. Instructors understand kids’ needs for immediate gratification and their desire to successfully interact with technology, and build classes around this idea.

Upcoming programs: The next eight-week block of afterschool classes started on November 30, and a Minecraft workshop happens on Jan. 16. Check its website for regular free community events.

Parent testimonial: “Friendly accessible staff with a small group feel to it, like they will pay attention to my son’s needs/strengths more than a larger class or facility might.” “Great attention from knowledgeable instructors, obvious they know and love what they teach and engage students.” 

8. Illumination Learning Studio, three locations

Only in its third year of business but already a runner-up in ParentMap's Golden Teddy awards, this cultural arts and educational program, with three studio locations, has struck a pleasing chord within Phinney Ridge, Ballard and Northgate neighborhoods. Offerings are wide-ranging, including before- and after-school clubs, a partial-day preschool, school break and summer camps, and music lessons, programs for kids from Pre-K to 5th grade, in topics including music, Spanish, fine arts, performing arts, yoga and movement. Illumination instructors aim to provide each child with a positive pathway to new experiences, differing cultures, and work to instill in them a solid understanding of community and the part each of us play within communities.

Upcoming programs: Upcoming offerings include a wide range of spring break and summer camps, from sports to adventure to themed camps such as Harry Potter. Illumination also co-sponsors the PNA’s Ridge Romp concert series for children and families happening on the first Saturday morning of each month. Instructors have special use of the studio space during off hours evenings and weekends to run private and group music lessons, voice and drama, fine arts, and yoga. 

Parent testimonial: “Nothing about this place feels like a waste of my time. My children are stimulated and challenged and love to be here.” “They are wonderful people who offer kind, loving instruction with clear boundaries and expectations.”

Photo: Arts Aloft

9. Arts Aloft, Madrona

This Golden Teddy Award winner started in the attic of owner Betsy Erving’s home after she and her then-sixth grader decided the art classes they had found has too much in common with paint-by-number activities. Arts Aloft's current Madrona studio debuted in 2009. Classes (for kids ages 4 to 12) contain elements of studying art history as well as direction in drawing and painting techniques. The studio has access to as many media as possible so young artists will find a medium that works best for them. 

Upcoming programs: An ornament-making workshop, and two holiday break camps as well as after school classes and birthday parties. 

Parent testimonial: “Arts Aloft uses quality materials and a creative and ambitious curriculum. Children are engaged and feel respected and are encouraged to take  a theme and run with it in a way that expresses their individuality,”

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