The days are getting longer, the sun is feeling warmer, and many parents are wondering how to keep their children occupied this summer. For many, summer camps are a beloved tradition. But how do you choose between a day camp and an overnight camp?
Each type of summer camp comes with its pros and cons. More importantly, the camp you choose should be a great experience for your children, allowing them to grow in a comfortable and safe environment. Here are some of the elements to take into consideration in the day camp vs. overnight camp great debate.
What Are Summer Day Camps?
If your children prefer to stay close to home, summer day camps are an excellent option. They allow children to have fun, meet new friends in their city, and try new activities, such as obstacle course summer day camps.
For younger children who may not feel confident enough yet to be alone overnight, summer day camps may be a better option than even the best sleepaway camps.
Here are some of the advantages of summer day camps:
- Build independence while remaining close to home;
- Stay active and unplugged in the summer;
- Develop new skills;
- Build connections with other children in their community.
What Are Summer Overnight Camps?
So, what is a sleepaway camp? It is a rite of passage for some households, and it may be the first time children spend several days and nights away from their families. It is a unique occasion to spread their wings, explore a new area, and, for the parents, a well-deserved opportunity to enjoy a date night without scrambling to find a babysitter.
Here are some of the many benefits of overnight camps:
- Build self-confidence and resilience when the children must navigate an unfamiliar environment with new people alone;
- Discover new activities and culture in an immersive environment;
- Make new friends with different experiences.
Day Camp vs Overnight Camp: Which to Choose?
There is no right or wrong answer when deciding between a day camp and an overnight summer camp. The latest is a significant commitment. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your kid to decide:
- Are your children independent enough to take care of their needs alone (i.e., getting dressed, bathing, advocating for themselves, etc.)?
- Have your children spent time one or several nights away from you – at a sleepover or visiting family, for example?
- What is your budget?
Time Away from Home
You want your children to have a good experience during their time away. Summer sleepaway camps can be overwhelming. If you are not sure whether or not your children are ready to spend multiple nights away yet, it may be best to start small and help them build their confidence.
Their first overnight could be visiting a familiar environment - a family member or a close friend’s home, for example. You may experiment with shorter sleepover summer camps before committing to multiple weeks. You can also investigate local overnight summer camps to make pick-up more manageable in case of any issues.
Age of Children
Age is a good indicator, but you should also take your children’s maturity level into account when choosing a day camp vs. overnight camp. Not everyone is ready to fly out of the nest at the same time, and that’s ok. You know your child best.
Overnight camps for kids tend to have more organized activities and camp counselors than overnight camps for teenagers. Therefore, before picking a summer overnight camp, ensure that your future camper can take care of themselves and their belongings independently and is confident enough to ask for help.
Overnight camps may be more demanding on the children, but they certainly make parents’ lives easier. Summer day camps require parents to arrange for pick up and drop off and sometimes arrange for meals and snacks. Setting schedules can be a hassle if the caregivers do not have flexible hours and the day camp is far away.
On the other hand, summer overnight camps allow families to have some much-needed “me time”, and all the meals and accommodations are handled. Resident camps can feel like a vacation for the parents, while day camps can be a lot more challenging to fit into a routine.
Communication and Technology
Many summer sleepaway camps strictly regulate the campers’ access to technology, including cell phones, to avoid disruptions. It can be an excellent experience, especially for teenagers who often need to unplug to connect with their environment. Children and parents can still communicate using letters or emails, send care packages, and the camp counselors are always reachable in case of emergency.
However, it can be an issue if the parents or the children have some anxiety issues. It may be best to discuss expectations and have an action plan if the children get homesick or if the parents are worried.
Types of Activities
Camp activities are often a deciding factor when it comes to day camps vs. overnight camps. It is best to choose a camp that offers a wide range of activities, day trips, and so on, to ensure that the children stay active, busy, and engaged.
Overnight sports camps are an excellent opportunity for children and teenagers to perfect their skills but also to strengthen their leadership abilities. If your children would like to take advantage of the same opportunities closer to home, Hot Ground Gym offers teamwork activities for kids and adults near Chicago.
Budget is a significant concern for parents when deciding between a resident camp and a day camp. Since they include room and board on top of the planned activities and around-the-clock care, sleepover summer camps are significantly more expensive than day camps.
However, many camps – overnight or not – provide financing options, assistance programs, and scholarships to make summer activities more accessible. If you are concerned about being able to afford the cost of summer camp, it is a good idea to get in touch with the organizations you are interested in and see if they offer such an option.
One of the main benefits of overnight camps is the unique opportunity for children to assert their independence. Campers often reach new levels of maturity when away from their families for longer periods of time.
Sleepover summer camps require children to advocate for themselves, build relationships – often in a close environment – with other kids with a very different background, and navigate situations alone. Therefore, summer sleepaway camps are best suited to older children. Although it is not always an easy task, they can also build resilience and create life-long friendships with other attendees.
Are Your Kids Ready for Sleepaway Camp?
Attending a summer overnight camp is a big step for any child. Although it is a chance to create the memories of a lifetime, it can also be stressful for a kid who is not ready to leave home. To avoid a disastrous experience, your child should be entirely on board. It is also a good idea to discuss different scenarios so they can feel confident when heading out the door.
Parents know best if their child will flourish in a resident camp. However, children may have a different personalities when away from their familiar environment: a shy child may thrive, while an outgoing one may be overwhelmed.
Choosing between a day camp and an overnight camp depends on many factors proper to each family, including the age and maturity level of the would-be camper, and the logistics around camp accommodations. If you are considering a summer day camp in the Greater Chicago area, we offer exciting sports camps in Libertyville and Arlington Heights. Contact us to find out if it may be a good fit for your family!