Lots of Things for Kids to Do in Southside San Francisco

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Southside San Francisco offers a range of activities for children, including photography, dance, soccer, and Jiu Jitsu.  Many of the goings-on focus on confidence-building, fitness and developing lasting friendships.   

According to Lisa Nowell, founder of Recess, a play space at 470 Carolina Street, her company’s 7,400 square-foot community venue is a favorite for neighborhood babies to four year olds, many of whom visit daily.  “We have an area just for crawlers, a train table, a pretend play area, slides, swing, a climbing wall, and a variety of classes, from messy art, to music classes to cooking,” said Nowell. “Recess also has a parent education component, which helps facilitate support and connection.”

Recess offers an afterschool program for children up to age 10, and is organizing playgroups for children with special needs.  “I think that parents come for their kids, but end up really staying for the community,” said Nowell.

Lisa Flood, coach for SFF Soccer Juniors, which plays at fields located on Fourth Street and Mission Bay Boulevard South and 261 Loomis Street, said the business offers soccer instruction for children between the ages of 18 months and five years, with league play for children over five.  “Two to three coaches run the program, which is 45 minutes long,” said Flood. “We first work on improving coordination and getting the kids used to a lot of repetition. Later we teach them skills, like rolling the ball onto your feet, and introduce scrimmage games.”

According to Flood, working with the ball is key to soccer success. “It’s easy to kick the ball and send it up the field. But if you’ve got no control, you’ve got no way to get it into the goal. That’s all practice,” she said.

Audrey Jones, workshops coordinator for Rayko Photography Center at 428 Third Street, said Rayko offers a class for younger children, a parent/child workshop for children ages five through 10, and two courses catering to ages 10 and 18 that focus on digital and darkroom photography. “In the darkroom class we teach the components of a traditional darkroom and what working in a darkroom is like. In the digital class, we photograph the environment, each other, and work on editing and printing images,” said Jones.

Jones said she sees Rayko students learn how to become artists and feel comfortable with their surroundings.  “Kids are very patient. Once they understand the basics they can expand on how to develop their style. Maybe photograph things that are tied into their personality,” she said.

Marci Briskin, owner of My Gym San Francisco at 901 Minnesota Street, said her facility offers noncompetitive gymnastics mixed with movement and dance for newborns to eight-year-olds.  “We have wonderful, clean, equipment in a 5,000 square foot space. Children attend classes with their parent or caregiver until age three or four, and then can come independently,” said Briskin.

Briskin said her staff is skilled at balancing structured and exploration time. “We have a lot of different equipment: a balance beam, a horse, uneven parallel bars, a zip line, a climbing wall and a ball pit. I’ve learned that it is super important to encourage children to try new things. The most important thing is that they have fun,” she said.

Angelique Bannag, who teaches Tahitian dance for children ages four through 12 at Danzhaus Dance Center at 1275 Connecticut Street, said discipline helps children master movement.  “Our students learn basic Tahitian dance moves and language, dancing to music recordings and live drumming,” said Bannag. “There are techniques to the dance, and I like to teach proper technique. It takes repetition to do well, but the kids get to express themselves too. We do freestyle and learn routines called “otea.””

Moses Baca, Gracie Black Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor at El Niño Training Center at 2920 Third Street, said his students, who range from ages of five through 12, also benefit from repetition.  “Many students are shy when they first come in,” said Baca. “Within three to six months they develop better posture and they’re moving about ten times better. They gain strength and flexibility. Jiu Jitsu is a good social glue, a bonding experience.”

Carlos Barrios, head instructor of Barrios Martial Arts Academy, housed at 901 Minnesota Street, said his students, who range from two and a half to adults, learn respect, listening skills, and citizenship from martial arts. “It teaches you self-defense and technique,” said Barrios. “It’s not just hitting and kicking. Martial arts is more like a lifestyle, a different way of thinking. We give kids scenarios, like if another kid grabs you, and make sure the students can actually process it.”

Barrios said he sometimes teaches children and their parents in the same room as part of a family class.  “We do a lot of practice. I teach Hapkido, a very traditional, Korean-based form of martial arts that incorporates Tae Kwon Do kicks and Karate strikes, as well as joint locks and throws. We, teachers, can only just show you the way to go. They, kids and parents, have to learn to love the martial arts,” said Barrios.

Justin Alarcon, gym manager at Dogpatch Boulders, located at 2573 Third Street, said climbing is another way to teach children ages six and up trust-building and competitive skills. Dogpatch Boulders offers two types of teams, recreational and competitive. The recreational squad is for individuals new to the sport, meant to familiarize and engage them in working together in a relaxed environment. It mixes beginning climbing training with light exercise, including core work.

The competitive group requires a tryout. It trains individuals to compete against one another in bouldering, sport and speed climbing. “The competitive team takes kids as young as 10, and will go up to seniors in high school. The older kids have kind of a mentorship role with the younger kids. It’s all a group activity. Although climbing is sort of an individual sport, the groups create a team environment. The kids learn camaraderie, and it’s very social,” said Alarcon.

BAYCAT, located at 2415 Third Street, Suite 230, is a digital media school that promotes teamwork and discipline in the arts. The nonprofit offers afterschool sessions to those aged 11 through 17.  Children don’t need a portfolio to apply; the program is free for low-income individuals.

“We take the best teaching practices that build inclusion and community. Our approach and curriculum is project-based, and is aligned with K to 12 standards. In addition to the tech skills, we also teach media literacy, critical thinking and teach our youth to work as a team to create their projects,” said Villy Wang, BAYCAT president.

According to Wang, the program focuses on helping students tell their own stories. “It is the telling of their stories that creates job opportunities for them, which strengthens our communities,” she said.

Southside San Francisco is home to three YMCAs: Bayview-Hunters Point, at 1601 Lane Street; Potrero Terrace, at 1805 25th Street; and Potrero Annex, at 751 Missouri Street. These facilities offer various programs and classes for children and teenagers.