Overnight camp or day camp: Which is right for your child?


I am often asked about the differences between day camp and overnight camp – besides the obvious difference that you sleep at overnight camp but not at day camp. 

I have been fortunate to spend the past 26 summers at camp in various roles, including camper, counselor, head counselor, program specialist, assistant director and camp director. In that time, I have become well acquainted with many different types of camps, including traditional overnight camp and day camp.

Despite some differences, overnight camps and day camps have much in common, including: 

• Sparking lifelong interests. I personally am an avid outdoorsman who first paddled a canoe, tied a fishing hook on a line, and stayed overnight in a tent at camp.

• Helping kids conquer fears. Camp may be the first place where your child jumps into the deep end, touches a snake or a worm, tries a new food, or sleeps under the stars.

• Developing a child’s understanding of community. At J-Camp, held at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center, in Providence, we talk a lot about the middle “C” in JCC (Community). The middle C shapes everything we do throughout our camp day. Community is what brings us together and helps us learn how to get along with people.

Now, here are a few things specific to day camps that makes it such a great experience:

• Parents get to see the new skills their children have learned on a daily basis.

• For parents who are anxious about sending their kids off on their own, day camp provides a much lower barrier than overnight camp.  

• The cost is usually quite reasonable.  

• The camp may be in your neighborhood, offering great exposure to what your community has to offer.

• Day camps accept very young children and expose them to new activities.  

Advantages to overnight camp include: 

• A technology-free environment. Many overnight camps have adopted this policy to provide children with a break from phones, iPads, computers, etc. 

• Access to activities that might not be available at home, such as boating, water skiing and rock climbing.

• Learning how to share space. Studies consistently show that kids who attend overnight camp have an easier transition to living in a dorm.

• Earning useful certifications in skills such as lifeguarding, CPR and babysitting.  

In conclusion, either type of camp is a great place for kids to hone skills they didn’t know they had, break down barriers they didn’t know existed, and learn where their place is in the greater community. 

We are lucky to live in a part of the country with literally hundreds of camp options. We are even luckier that we have many great camps right here in Rhode Island.

AARON GUTTIN is J-Camp and teen director at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.