A summer camp experience offers children the chance to try new activities in a safe and nurturing environment. It offers them the opportunity to gain life skills and essentials such as independence, confidence, and resilience.

When choosing a day or overnight camp, there are many things parents need to think through. One consideration regards enrollment options. Parents should take some time to consider for how long they want to send their child to camp — not just for this year, but for future years, too. Camps offer a variety of session options for families, some of which you may not know.

Here are some of the common enrollment options that day and overnight camps offer. Whether choosing a day or overnight camp, there truly is a camp enrollment option that will work for your family.

Mini days at day camp

Some day camps offer “mini days” for the youngest campers. These mini days are generally for pre-kindergarten-aged children and allow them the opportunity to go to camp for a few hours a day.

Day camp sessions

Many day camps offer different session lengths running anywhere from two through eight, allowing children to have a wonderful camp experience for however long works for their family’s summer plans.

Three-day option

There are day camps that offer sessions a few days a week, such as three or four days. These days are either mini days or full days. These shortened weeks are often offered for the youngest campers.

Before and after care

There are day camps that offer before and after care where children can arrive early in the morning before the camp day begins and stay later in the day after the official camp day ends. This is often a good option for working parents.

Full-session overnight camps

Full-session overnight camps run for seven weeks. Attending camp for the whole summer gives children the opportunity to have enough time to adjust to camp, be part of the camp community longer, to have a longer period of time to develop skills gained at camp, and to strengthen friendships. For parents who want their children to eventually have a full-session camp experience but maybe not during the first summer, some camps offer a two- or four-week introductory session for the youngest campers.

Session camps

Some families are looking for a shorter camp experience for their child but one that still offers a full camp experience. A session camp lasts for a few weeks, usually three or four. Campers in each session arrive together and leave together. Some session camps will allow campers to stay for more than one session, however, others won’t. If you think you may want to eventually send your child for a longer period of time, make sure the session camp you choose allows campers to stay. If not, sending your child to a full-session camp with an introductory short session is a good option.

Camps with flexible session lengths

There are overnight camps that offer anywhere from one- to seven-week sessions. Some camps offer one or two weeks at a time. Others offer a minimum of three or four weeks at a time. Often times, camps will bunk children together for the amount of time the camper is staying. Keep in mind that if you decide to send your child to camp for one or two weeks, it often takes time for a child to adjust to camp life and by the time a child gets accustomed to camp, it will be time to go home. Camps that offer flexible sessions allow families to choose the length of camp that works best for them.

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  • Jess Michaels

    Jess Michaels is the Director of Communications for the American Camp Association, NY and NJ. ACA-Accreditation is a parent's best evidence of a camp's commitment to health and safety, and it ensures that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. Families who need assistance with finding a summer camp can call the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey's Camper Placement Specialist, Renee Flax, at (212)391-5208 for free, one-on-one advice in finding a camp for their child. Visit www.searchforacamp.org for more information. Photo credit: American Camp Association® Camp Pemigewassett, Wentworth, NH