Op-Ed: Skip the summer vacation and send your toddler to Burning Man

(Los Angeles Times)

Dangerous pesticides and pollen are in the air, and families all over Los Angeles are huddling into warm, quiet places to listen to NPR and avoid June gloom depression. Summer is definitely here. And with every summer comes the age-old question, “How will I keep my children entertained while I’m doing important self-work?”

There’s traditional summer camp, but those mostly take place near red states, and you should never trust a 17-year-old (why don’t they have an internship?) with your child’s physical and emotional safety. There’s the family vacation, but planning and logistics can get tricky when you include both assigned family and chosen family. Besides, vacations won’t expose them to different cultures and ideas since everyone goes to either Cabo or the Ojai Valley Inn.

Why should your child “relax” or “have fun” when they can learn meaningful lessons about civic responsibility and flaming Hula-Hoop safety? After consulting sages, healers, our friends at Goop and dozens of shamans, those of us who gently lead Los Feliz Daycare have a suggestion: Skip the summer vacation and send your toddler to our Burning Man camp.

Namaste, love and light, and we hope to see your child on the playa!

Our Burning Man is a wonderful ecosystem for young ones because Burners, like toddlers, shed their clothing, admire everyday objects with wide-eyed wonder and never sleep. Most importantly, our camp provides the perfect learning environment for our toddler friends because we follow the same 10 principles as the Burning Man festival: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation and immediacy.

Year-round we offer the best in Nut-free Early Childhood Education for friends from 17 to 217 weeks, and we’re the only learning place in the Greater L.A. area that encourages our childhood ambassadors to drop themselves off in their own self-driving Teslas. That’s radical self-reliance in action. We boast a beautiful Frank Gehry-designed campus that features the Pitt-Jolie Center for Conflict Resolution and the Susan Sarandon Ceramics Sanctuary, among others. All gifts — as well as physical learning tools for our children to be schooled in irony and alliteration at a young age.

We present beautiful examples of civic responsibility by holding daily student council elections and encouraging campers to choose their transcendental meditation mantras rather than wait to receive them. And every day, we feature activities such as primal scream yoga, book club for toddlers who have written a book, and ayahuasca ceremonies. Radical self-expression and participation at its best. It’s like we’re operating a mini-Burn year-round.

You may still be asking, “Shouldn’t my 78-month-old child Sondheim learn Mandarin this summer rather than swinging on a 100-person banana-shaped hammock and howling at the moon?” No. The lessons of Burning Man camp will enrich their day-care experience and help set them up to get into Harvard-Westlake and eventually Yale.


Radical inclusion means anyone can be a part of Burning Man. While there may be a three-year-long wait list to get into our school, camp applicants only have to meet certain soft requirements such as being able to code and recite specific quotes from spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. But once enrolled here, everyone is included in everything. Our Friend of the Month for the 600th month running is everyone.

Gifting refers to the value Burning Man places on acts of gift giving, and charity drives are part of the camp curriculum. We’ve given to such places as Wheels for Paralyzed Goats and Code Grey, which strives to place retired greyhounds in the homes of each camp family.

Decommodification — creating social environments free of corporate advertising and interests — makes Burning Man a pure, human space. In that vein, we recently closed the campus Starbucks and opened an art installation that evokes the idea of coffee and alertness.

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Radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort and civic responsibility are also cornerstones of our philosophy. Your toddlers will practice these principles as part of our camp’s daily political policy-based improv shows that push the form in exciting new directions and, most importantly, have a strong libertarian message.

“Leaving no trace of our activities after we gather” can sound boring to even the woke-est of toddlers. But at Burning Man camp, we make it into a fun game of “everyone pick up 10 pieces of trash and at least four items that were handcrafted at our sister-school in Williamsburg.”

At our camp, we strive to work together and be in the moment. That’s participation and immediacy. When we’re working at our camp’s kombucha brewery it’s also why we refrain from saying “Have a good day” or “Good morning.” Statements like that make a dangerous assumption about another person’s relationship with time. Those salutations also project an emotional state in an unsafe way — someone’s morning should be theirs to identify.

These are just some of the lessons your toddler will learn and teach this summer at Los Feliz Daycare’s Burning Man camp. You can follow along with your child’s journey (should they consent) with daily emotional progress reports, and we’ll even sacrifice our screen-free experiences to deliver the reports via email. That’s how much we care.


Namaste, love and light, and we hope to see your child on the playa!

Jason Shapiro is a comedy writer and the author of the satirical Los Feliz Daycare Twitter feed.

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