Choosing the Right Camp: Sleep Away Camps vs Day Camps

Explore the differences between sleep away camps and day camps to make an informed decision for your child’s summer adventure in this guide!

by Andrea Smith

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It’s that time of year again; the summertime honored tradition of your kids saying they’re bored and have nothing to do. This summer, instead of giving them a phone or telling them to be creative, send them to summer camp!

Summer camps are an excellent way for your child to engage in social activities outside of school, away from the shelter family members, and to experience a new world outside of the house! But finding the right summer camp for your child can be hard, and choosing whether to send them to a sleep away camp or day camp is even harder. That’s because some parents aren’t always comfortable letting their children spend weeks away from home or they believe their child is too young.

In today’s guide, we’re going to help parents make the right summer camp choice. This guide will explain the differences between a sleep away camp and day camp, and talk about the benefits of each one. Let’s get started!

group of young scouts finding an animal skul
Photo by cottonbro studio on

What is a Day Camp?

Day camp is an option for parents to enroll their school-age children in a program that offers activities during the day. Day camps often have set hours each day, like 9am to Noon or 7am to 3pm. Others offer longer days. What they all seem have in common is that children are not allowed to sleep at these camps.

This can be a good thing for parents of children with separation anxiety or are on the younger side. Each camp has different levels for different age groups, divided into combined ages such as 3 to 5, 6 to 8, etc. Day camps also offer different learning options as well as different activities, and each are based on the age levels of the children.

Another thing to consider is that much like sleep away camps, day camps also offer different focus areas with some focusing solely on academics while others focus on arts, science, theatre, coding, sports, and more.

Regardless of which day camp you and your child choose, it’s important to note that each day camp offers the chance for your child to make new friends and create new memories. And because many of the activities at these day camps are varied, there will be many chances for children to connect with nature, unplug from technology, and learn to to build socialization skills like teamwork, creativity, and self-confidence.

The Pros of Going to Day Camp

  • Summer camp gives them autonomy
  • Helps children engage in activities not usually offered at school
  • When a child is homesick the camp director can ask for the parent’s help
  • They get to have fun without pressure for academic excellence 
  • The parent are contacted with any issues
  • Children learn to be independent

The Cons of Going to Day Camp

  • Some children don’t thrive with high levels of activities, leading to overstimulation
  • A child can get injured
  • Separation anxiety can occur
  • The time spent at a day camp may be too short
  • Children may find it harder to make friends

What is a Sleep Away Camp?

Sleep away camp, or overnight camp, is where children spend several nights away at a camp. They’ll sleep there for a set number of nights such as a week or two, or perhaps they’ll spend the entire summer at this type of camp.

Sleep away camp provides a residential experience where campers live in cabins or dormitories and engage in a variety of recreational, educational, and social activities. Sleep away camps often offer a wide range of programs such as outdoor adventures, sports, arts and crafts, team-building exercises, and more. The immersive nature of sleepaway camps allows campers to build independence, make new friends, learn new skills, and create lasting memories.


  • Sleep away camps offer more variety in terms of activities
  • There are sport-focused sleep away camps: football, cheer, baseball
  • Children have more time to focus on their activities
  • Promotes resilience and self reliance
  • There are age restrictions for how old a child must be in order to sleep away


  • Sleep away camps can be quite expensive
  • Many sleep away camps do not allow young children to stay: check the regulations set forth by the sleep away camp you’re interested in
  • If a child has serious medical issues, it may be difficult for the staff to provide this kind of care: again, check with the sleep away camp you’re interested in about this
  • Some sleep away camps do not allow parents to make unscheduled visits: instead, parents are usually given a schedule of when they’re allowed to visit


In conclusion, when it comes to deciding between sleep away camps and day camps for your child, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s essential to consider your child’s personality, age, preferences, and specific needs. Sleep away camps offer the opportunity for greater independence, immersive experiences, and personal growth, while day camps provide convenience and the comfort of returning home each day.

By understanding the unique benefits and considerations of each option, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your child’s interests and goals. Ultimately, both sleep away camps and day camps offer valuable experiences that can contribute to your child’s development, create lasting memories, and foster a sense of belonging in a supportive community. Choose the camp experience that best suits your child’s needs, interests, and desired level of immersion to ensure a summer full of fun, growth, and enrichment.

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