When it’s time to choose between sleepaway camp and day camp, consider separation level, setting, and skill development.
Day camps allow nightly check-ins; sleepaway camps are immersive
Day camps help to ease first-time camp families into the summer camp experience. At day camp, kids gain some autonomy while returning to the comfort of home each evening. This routine allows parents to see their child’s growth daily, rather than waiting for letters or an end-of-camp summary.
For kids who are easily worn out, anxious, or young, day camps offer less strenuous schedules and a gradual approach to gaining independence. Day camps build confidence for longer-term experiences away from home, such as sleepovers, overnight school trips, and sleepaway camp.
Not sure whether it’s the right time to try overnight camp? Read our Is my child ready for sleepaway camp? blog.
Sleepaway camp’s immersive experience builds community. Engaging in camp life 24/7 provides a better opportunity to connect to others and form relationships. There’s no substitute for the bonds formed around a campfire or through communal cabin living. In addition, committing to an overnight experience usually translates into a quicker adjustment to homesickness.
Time away from home and phones gives campers a new perspective. At the end of camp, campers return with a new appreciation for their parents, pets, belongings, and creature comforts. Limiting a child’s screen time and keeping them tech-free is easy at sleepaway camp but more difficult at day camp. Overall, sleepaway camp allows parents to truly see the benefits of kids unplugging at camp.
Day camps are familiar environments; overnight camps provide a new and natural setting
Day camps are often located in cities or based out of schools or recreation centers, which are all familiar settings for kids in their everyday lives. For variety, many day camps offer enriching trips out to different locations. In these traditional settings, however, campers may lose the sense of the great outdoors that is so natural at a rural overnight camp. At overnight camp, you cannot help but connect with nature because you’re living in it!
Similarly, if located close to home, campers need not travel far distances to attend day camp. However, sleepaway camp can be more convenient for parents because they do not have to pick up and drop off each day.
Day camps often specialize in activities; sleepaway camps build life skills
Many day camps specialize in a single activity. There’s a camp for everything under the sun: science camps, yoga camps, sports camps, robotics camps, and even Lego camps. Some day camps have a STEM/STEAM focus which can help to prevent summer learning loss. This focus gives campers opportunities to try new things and develop skills with the help of specialized teachers.
Sleepaway campers enjoy a wide variety of fun activities while building soft-skills, particularly independence, responsibility, and creativity. Campers gain a sense of responsibility from taking charge of their own schedules and cabin space. Many campers continue the chores they learned and practiced at sleepaway camp at home such as making their bed, folding their clothes, and neatly arranging their belongings. Being taken out of their comfort zone—and thriving in their new environment—also builds resilience and boosts self-confidence.
Through community living and camper diversity, sleepaway campers learn to be considerate of others. The presence of international and out-of-state campers offers diverse experiences and opportunities to learn from each other. Being surrounded by new people also gives campers a chance to be their own person independent of the kids they see in school each day.
To learn more about how sleepaway camps contribute to developing broadly as a human being, we recommend I send my kids to sleep-away camp to give them a competitive advantage in life from the Washington Post.
Overall, day camps are a good choice for kids who are not ready to be away from home, need familiar surroundings, or want to focus on one specific activity. By offering more independence in a new setting, sleepaway camps aid in personal development.