DezignKidz: Kathy Bonte
Every so often we conduct interviews with camp directors to collect advice for parents looking for unique experiences for their kids. We recently exchanged emails with Kathy Bonte, co-founder of DezignKidz Seventh Avenue Summer Camp in Los Altos, CA. Kathy tells us that the camp was the brainchild of her friend and business partner Durga Kalavagunta, whose young daughter loves everything related to art and fashion. Both Kathy and Durga have a background in design and have logged countless volunteer hours working with kids. So starting a camp program like DezignKidz seemed a natural way to utilize their professional backgrounds and do something rewarding as well.
Any specific advice on selecting a design or art camp?
I would look for a camp that teaches techniques but also inspires creativity. Look for instructors who are supportive, encouraging and allow children the freedom to express themselves. Some art/design/crafts camps are oriented toward the completion of a very specific project, while others are more concerned with the creative process and less with the final results. At DezignKidz, every camper leaves with a completed garment or accessory but it’s one that bears the stamp of each child’s unique personality. We try to strike a balance by giving campers lots of creative latitude within the scope of a project. And we always make it fun. It IS a summer camp, after all.
Tell us what is special about DezignKidz camp?
There is nothing more empowering to a child than sketching out a design and then actually being able to turn that idea from a two-dimensional sketch into a real life object. Fabric, scissors and thread are the tools we use at DezignKidz, but that same creative process can one day be applied to everything from an iPhone App to a website to a skyscraper. The projects are unique to each child and the teachers actively engage each and every student in the decision process and help them achieve their goal.
Some people try and classify us as a sewing program. But the name of our program is not SewKidz.
While we DO teach sewing skills we are different in that we place a high emphasis on the design aspect of the process. In addition to sewing, we teach related skills like jewelry making, weaving, fabric dying and other textile arts, all with an emphasis on the design element first.
Some kids attend as many as 10 weeks of summer camp. The summer can seem long. Any tips on preventing camp burn-out?
It’s always good to mix it up—-maybe alternate a week of a more sedentary camp with one that emphasizes physical activity. And many experts recommend having some unscheduled time during the summer for kids to just be kids. Chances are the school year is already chock-full—kids need some time to just lie back on the sun-warmed grass and gaze at the clouds.
How should parents help kids prepare for camp?
Read camp emails carefully and make sure the child shows up on day one with any necessary materials or clothing. Be on time—-your child may feel out of sorts if they miss any early instruction or orientation. Parents should make sure kids know what they can expect will happen at camp, what the daily schedule will be, what time the camp ends and who will be picking them up. It also helps for shyer kids to sign up with a friend-that first day in a new camp is much less daunting with a buddy beside you.