Given the wide variety of session options being offered by summer camps, selecting the most appropriate session option & overall duration for your child’s summer at camp is an important decision which may be influenced by a number of factors.
At one end of the spectrum, a traditional sleepaway camp season may extend through a good portion of the summer – lasting for 8 or more weeks. Often, such camps will also offer more limited sessions of a shorter duration, such as for half of the summer (4 weeks), as well as even shorter 1-week session increments. In the context of overnight residential camps, shorter 1 or 2 week sessions are sometimes marketed as a “mini-camp” or “1st time camper” program – allowing (especially younger) kids to obtain an initial taste of what camp life is all about while being away from home. A few things to consider about camps which offer multiple sessions:
- Some campers stay for the entire summer
- Some campers arrive at the beginning of the summer and leave during the middle.
- Some campers arrive during the middle and leave at the end of the summer
- Programming and specific summer activities can vary from week to week
The scenarios listed above have important consequences as far as how your child adapts to the overall summer program as well as how he or she interacts with other campers who may be staying longer or leaving sooner.
Cost of enrollment and family budget is often a concern, especially if faced with a decision where each week represents a greater expenditure; however, some camps will offer a better rate for the full summer.
Switching gears, at the other end of the spectrum there are also residential camp programs which offer one or two week sessions which are a bit more independent of one another vs. the steady progression of an eight week camp which builds upon and takes into account prior weeks’ experiences in terms of camp activities and other programming aspects. Such camps may offer multiple shorter sessions over the course of the summer season, but there is a lesser degree of continuity in so far as the population of campers as well as perhaps repetition of programming from prior sessions (unless sessions are divided into ability levels or some other metric). Specialty camps such as Horse Camps, Film Camps, Football Camps (as a few examples), as well as travel camps or teen tours may offer such shorter sessions.
In addition to choosing which weeks you’d like your child to attend, some day camps will allow you to select which days of the week to enroll your child. If your family budget is of concern, this can help financially in so far as allowing your child to attend a summer program for the full length of the summer @ 3 days a week vs. every day of the week for only part of the summer. In busy households, registration for only part of the week may allow for parents to better adjust their work schedule to facilitate an optimum balance.
All camp listings on the Camp Channel will reflect session information in 1 week increment blocks; however, this is a very general indicator and it’s always important to contact the camp director at your camp for the specific details pertaining to their respective program.
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While an overnight camp is a great opportunity for a child to live away from home and gain a sense of independence, many residential summer camps offer parents and other family members the opportunity to visit at camp during the summer, and possibly to spend some time alone as a family away from camp on what is commonly referred to as “Visiting Day”.
Not all camps offer a visiting day, so it is important to contact the camp director to determine if your camp has a such a day and to plan accordingly. If your camp does in fact host a visiting day, it’s a good idea to obtain all the necessary details to make the day go as smoothly as possible and be enjoyable for all parties.
Obtain the date(s) in advance – planning may entail making travel and lodging arrangements in an area which may have limited accommodations given that camps tend to be located in relatively remote areas. You may also find out that you are competing for space at a handful of local motels with parents who have children attending other camps in the region who hold visiting day on the same date.
Obtain a visiting day schedule from camp – most importantly, there will be an official “start time” and an “end time” (it’s important to be on time), but there may also be planned events which allow you to watch or participate with your child in activities at camp. Ask your child if there are any particular events they would really like you to watch.
Will there be meals served – or will parents be responsible for bringing in food? In either case, it helps to be able to plan accordingly.
Are you able to leave camp with your child? – while your child may be eager to show you what they’ve been doing at camp over the summer, they also might be just as excited to leave camp for a little while in order to “return to civilization” … perhaps to enjoy a slice of pizza in town or visit to the local candy store.
What are the camp rules on bringing back food/gifts? – it’s a pretty sure bet that most camps won’t allow “outside food” to remain at camp very long past visiting day, so be sure to find out the particulars of the camp policy and keep this in mind before purchasing what might be in excess of what is allowed. Similarly, there may be rules regarding what other sorts of non-food items might be prohibited or frowned upon.
If you haven’t already found a suitable summer camp, feel free to search or browse the Camp Channel’s directory of summer camps!