Berkeley for Children

Photo by Joe Reifer

On Halloween last week I walked across town to a party during the time when all of the trick-or-treaters were out and about. I know there are lots of children in Berkeley, but I was surprised at the sheer number of children in neighborhoods (such as near the Berkeley campus) where I did not expect that many lived. On many of my walks I have taken note of all sorts of things that children can do here in Berkeley, but I have found this to be an area where it was challenging to stay neutral about the observations. As most people do, I have preconceived ideas (based on my childhood and my opinions as an adult) about what makes somewhere a good place to grow up. I am usually perplexed by and somewhat skeptical about the “best places to raise a family” lists published by various media outlets and polling organizations because they are often so subjective; everyone puts different weights on criteria ranging from quality of schools to crime level, housing affordability, and availability of services and opportunities specific to the needs of their children (such as health care for a particular condition or strong arts and sports programs). I can’t make too many comments about these factors on my walks anyway, but I can report on what I have seen for children around town. There are lots of parks and playgrounds throughout town with typical play equipment and structures. Virginia-McGee Totland has much more than the average in the way of toys and structures, and the Adventure Playground has a unique setup with hammers, lumber, paints, and opportunities for children to build and create. There are public swimming pools, and several parks have basketball and tennis courts, recreation centers, and fields for baseball, softball, and soccer. Tilden Park, in the Berkeley hills, has a merry-go-round, animal farm and nature area, a lake for swimming, a steam train, picnic areas, and hiking trails. Berkeley Iceland offers ice skating and hockey opportunities. In the way of culture and learning, there is a children’s museum, the Hall of Health, the Berkeley Art Museum, and other museums on the Berkeley campus. I am sure there will be even more to see as I continue to walk new streets.

Two Berkeley women maintain a blog called Rookie Moms that has the goal of offering 365 activities for new parents. I have to admit that before I looked through it I wondered if it was just going to be a resource for parents who have lots of money to spend on themselves and their babies, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn’t entirely the case. Their Week in Berkeley section conveniently lists a variety of activities and notes the cost in cases where there is one. If you look at the blog entries tagged free/cheap and Berkeley, you’ll find all sorts of other interesting ideas, including library story times, nice places to walk with a stroller, “tiny tot” swimming lessons, and more. For those with money to spend, there are suggestions for baby- and child-friendly places to eat, classes, and services for parents.

No, I have not forgotten about schools, but I will talk about that in a separate post in the future because there are quite a few points to cover there.



  1. neath said

    Excellent Photograph!


  2. Thanks for the shout-out! Even the activities that aren’t Berkeley-specific are ones that we’ve done with our boys around town.

  3. Spike said

    Great photo with the storm coming up.

    Haven’t noticed much for kiddies on my walks. Woy Woy Peninsula is the world’s only above ground cemetery, as my namesake pointed out. Though there is a kiddies’ storytime at the library and a few parks with jumgle gyms.

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