Advice For Parents

Transitioning from a child-care center to day camp

Camp is another piece of the child development puzzle

Gretchen Carlson
Transitioning from a child-care center to day camp

Parents are faced with countless options when it comes to planning summer activities for their families. The goal, of course, is to select activities that are fun and meaningful. 

Camp presents a new series of opportunities for kids to stretch themselves by learning new skills, exploring the outdoors, and testing their independence. Starting summer camp means moving toward more consistently active and thoughtful kid-centered programming.

Parents of young children need to decide when and how to transition their child from the child-care setting, or time at home with mom and/or dad, to summer camp. While this decision is individual to each child, there are a few points to consider that can help you decide if camp is right for them.


Child-care programs and day camps both provide a structure to the day. For kids who have spent most of their time at home, this structure can provide a gentle transition toward what will be expected at school.


While both a child-care program and day camp teach children to cope with temporary separation, camp directly encourages and teaches independence. Every child is taught to handle their own gear, clean up after themselves and become more responsible for their self-care.


Each camp program develops its own community, and kids are encouraged to problem solve and find solutions as a group. Often kids build friendships that last for years, if not a lifetime. Within this community, camp counselors are typically enthusiastic and energetic and act as friends and mentors to their campers.

Outdoor play

One of the biggest benefits of camp programs is the amount of time spent outdoors. Whether the camp is specifically nature-based or not, most camps will significantly increase time spent outside playing.

New skills

Many camps are skill-based, meaning kids can choose something they love and dive in deep for a week to learn more. Alternatively, all-inclusive or general camp programs teach kids a range of skills not addressed in a child-care setting such as swimming, sports, leadership, teamwork and more.

So you want to send your kids to summer camp…now what?

Once you’ve decided to make the move from the child-care setting to summer camp, it’s time to think strategically about making this an easy adjustment for your child. Recognize that this transition can be both exciting and nerve wracking.

Here are a few things to consider:
  • Select a camp with a philosophy that aligns with your child’s interest — does you child love sports? Nature? Crafts?
  • Talk to you child about what to expect — what will they do, where will they be, how long will they be there?
  • Tell them how excited you are and how proud you are of them — engage with your child about their experience getting daily highlights and encouraging continued learning.
  • Encourage your child to get ready for camp — let them help pack their lunch or shop for a bathing suit.
  • When possible, visit the camp before the program starts. Find out if your camp has an open house, and if not view photos online to give your child a sense of where they will be spending their day.

Summer camp can be a rewarding experience that provides kids with memories and skills that form the foundation for a happy future. With a little preparation and planning this might just be the year to move from a child-care center to day camp.  


Gretchen Carlson is the program manager at the Gundalow Company in Portsmouth.

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