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Day camp or overnight camp?

The Crossroads for Kids Camps in Massachusetts offers overnight and day camp options.
The Crossroads for Kids Camps in Massachusetts offers overnight and day camp options.

How to find the best fit

By Lucy Norvell

Director of development & communications
American Camp Association, New England

So, what is better – day camp or overnight camp?

This excellent and frequently asked question doesn’t have a simple answer.
Many children attend both day and overnight camp in the same summer rather than one or the other. Some families find that a combination of day and overnight camp experiences is optimal, while others find it best to choose between day and overnight options.

Here’s the question you should ask instead: What is best for your child this summer? And, here’s what you need to find out if you don’t yet know.

Day camps typically serve children ages 3-16 during the daytime. The length of the camp day can vary. Half day, school day and extended day are the most common. Sometimes camps provide transportation to day camp and sometimes families provide it. Day camps can be found in a variety of locations ranging from private land to school campuses, from reservations to the activity centers of nonprofit organizations.

Overnight camps (also referred to as resident or sleep away camps) usually serve children ages 6-18. Campers sleep away from home for the length of the session (between one and eight weeks).

Day camps serve the youngest of campers as well as many first-time campers who are not yet ready to be away overnight. Campers travel home at the end of the day to rest and refresh. Day camp often serves as an introduction to the amazing world of summer camp, but it’s not just for younger and new campers. Experienced campers of all ages—including teens and tweens—are challenged and delighted by day camp programming options. Typically, families choose a day camp that is close to home, work or a relative or friend who cares for the child before or after camp. Location is one of the most important variables in a day camp search. The ACA’s Find A Camp tool allows camp seekers to search by a radius around a zip code and by state (find.acacamps.org)

Overnight campers should be ready to be away from home overnight. While a successful experience away from home prior to going to overnight camp is recommended, children need not have been away from home for several nights—just one or two will do. Overnight campers range in age, too—from 6 or 7 at the youngest to 18 at the oldest. Living, learning, playing and experiencing life together 24/7 is very popular with children of all ages and equally valuable to their optimal development. Being away from their families for the length of the session while on a resident camp adventure creates a sense of independence that’s highly beneficial—and which prepares children and teens well for the next school year, not to mention college and young adulthood.

Deciding what is the best fit is important at the very beginning of a camp search. Some camps offer both day and overnight camp options. It’s easy to use the ACA’s online Find A Camp for each prospective camper in the family.

For more pointers on finding a best fit camp for your child this summer and to use the online camp search tool, visit www.acanewengland.org and click on ‘families & public’.
The American Camp Association, New England—the region’s hub for all things summer camp—supports camp experiences, educates camp professionals and staff, consults on camp best practices and advocates for camp quality. For additional camp information and resources, visit www.acanewengland.org or call (781) 541-6080.