While the school day may be limited to subjects like math, science, spelling and reading, learning doesn’t have to end when the kids leave the classroom. Develop some mad fencing skills, learn how to sew or find out what zookeepers do all day at an after school class near you. Kids work on physical skills and bonus, they might make some new friends at the same time!

Photo: AcroSports

San Francisco

Kids looking to increase their flexibility and have some fun while doing it will definitely find a class at AcroSports that suits them. From gymnastics to tumbling, from parkour to clowning, kids of all ages will expend some of their cooped-up energy while learning some new tricks.

At The Butterfly Joint, a woodworking studio for kids, little wood workers put on tiny custom aprons, clock in on the vintage punch clock and start work when they hear the sound of the steam whistle. Veteran teacher and professional wood worker Danny Montoya has already gained a reputation for schooling his charges not only in the art of sanding, cutting and chiseling, but in manners, problem-solving and focus.

Blossoming artists and anthropologists alike will love the de Young museum’s Art After School program. These one-day-a-week classes for kids aged 6 to 13 delve into the museum’s art collections from around the world, and teach kids about the connection between art and culture. Hands-on art making is part of each class which are taught by professional teaching artists.

Kids hoping to catch major air on their skateboards or snowboards will benefit from being taught stunt safety and “air awareness” at the House of Air Training Ground. Bounce on in with your trampoliners-in-training for an open jump session, and you’ll all be hooked.

Mini-Matisses can explore with paint, clay, photography, and more at San Francisco Children’s Art Center, located at Fort Mason. There are several classes offered each weekday evening, allowing families greater flexibility.

The San Francisco Fencers Club promises to provide a mental workout as well as a physical one to children as young as 5. With locations in the city and in Belmont, SF and Peninsula dwellers can feint, glide, and parry their way to victory.

Photo: Trackers

East Bay

Berkeley, Albany, and Oakland students who crave the great outdoors (or are big fans of the Hunger Games) will find their happy place with Trackers after-school programs. From various school locations, the kids head to a local park with a Trackers instructor. The afternoon’s activities could include archery, wood-carving, pickling, storytelling, wilderness survival skills…as long as it can be done outdoors.

Your mini-Freddie Mercury may love to unleash his voice at home, but what if he were given the opportunity to foster his love of music and performance under professional tutelage? The highly-esteemed Pacific Boys Choir of Piedmont supports these budding belters while they learn music theory and voice control, along with teamwork and citizenship. Bonus: they now have a choir for girls ages 8-13 called Sorella, meaning “sister.”

There are a myriad of after-school martial arts programs around the bay, but the students of the East Bay Judo Institute are an impressive bunch. The staff at the El Cerrito facility, which includes Olympic coaches, athletes, and hopefuls, provides a safe and structured environment for children to push their physical boundaries while learning self-discipline and emotional control.

The team behind Berkeley’s Cal Camps (which kids and parents rave about, come summertime) also put on a series of after-school classes. Whether it’s swimming, gymnastics or archery that your little Bear-in-training been’s wanting to try, the supportive Cal staff will introduce challenging concepts in a safe and supportive way.


Photo: Iadinka via Flickr

North Bay

Parents are huge fans of swim lessons the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center. In addition to the five levels of classes offered, there’s also swim club for children who want to exercise their competitive muscles.

Creative kids get to play with making pottery, painting, decoupage, sewing and more at Doodlebug’s San Anselmo studio. They even dabble in teaching kids mindfulness—because how can they interpret the world around them without learning to be in the moment?

Whether your little twirler is just looking to start out in a tutu, or they are ready to take steps towards becoming a serious dancer, San Rafael’s Marin Dance Theatre affords kids a chance to let their inner prima ballerina soar.

Tucked along Lucas Valley Road in Marinwood are several tennis courts, where kids can learn tennis fundamentals, or, when they’re more advanced, join a league for some friendly competitive play.

kid rock climbing

 Photo: Ondřej Špaček via Flickr


Mini songstresses from 6 and up will sing a variety of music when they join the Peninsula Girls Chorus. This Burlingame-based choral organization is in its third decade of empowering young women to find their voice, and just won “The Best of Burlingame” (Musician category) for the ninth year in a row.

With locations in Belmont, Sunnyvale, and San Francisco, Planet Granite shows kids the ropes, literally, and offers a workout so fun they won’t even realize how hard they’re working. Bonus: they also offer a Parents’ Night Off on the second and fourth Fridays of the month where you can leave your little climbers to get tired out while you grab a peaceful bite to eat.

Minecraft-obsessed minis will happily create their own video game worlds after attending one of Digital Monkey’s after-school classes. Littles learn 2D and 3D animation, as well as game design in the Belmont studio’s hour-long classes.

Photo: Kate Loweth

South Bay

Too much time sitting at desk making the kids stir-crazy? Bay Area Movement Parkour can solve that problem for you. They a flexible schedule offer parkour/freerunning classes for kids aged 5 and up every day of the week. Mini ninja warriors will learn balance and agility and will leave each class sweaty and tired!

Aspiring zookeepers can get up-close-and-personal with anteaters, zebus, meerkats and more at Happy Hollow’s after school class program.

Little rock stars can learn what it feels like to perform for a crowd at School of Rock’s after school program. With classes offered in San Jose, Palo Alto, San Mateo and San Ramon, aspiring musicians learn how to play the guitar, bass, keyboards or drums. Each class ends in a group jam session at a local music venue.

One of the best advantages you can give your child is the gift of another language. While yours may not be a bilingual household, there are after-school language instruction and immersion options at many Bay Area schools. Education Française Bay Area offers an affordable option for bilingual education at 17 locations in all corners of the Bay Area.

(Aside from the gems on this list, be sure to check in with your local parks and recreation department for their after-school offerings, as well as the local school’s after-school enrichment programs. Many offer everything from theater to roller hockey, chess to guitar, and often you don’t need to be enrolled at the school to sign up.)

Got a favorite after school program that we didn’t mention here? Leave your praise in the comments.

—Kate Loweth & Sarah Bossenbroek