The Great Mystery of Life: Why do Full-day Camps End at 4:00?

clock outside office building shows 4:00

Why do “Full Day” Camps end at 4:00?


This has perplexed me ever since my children entered the day camp world. I was shocked at the lack of options for working parents who need child care until 5:30 or 6:00. My husband is an architect and I worked at a bank; we were both expected to be in the office at least 8 or 9 hours a day. I suddenly felt like we were in some kind of minority. Who were all these people who apparently didn’t have to work regular office hours?

I couldn’t figure out who the 9am-4pm camp was geared to.

Who works from 9:30 to 3:30??

In order to make these camps work for you, the solutions are:

  • Pay the extended care fee. This means that you may end up paying $250-300 for the 9am-4pm camp and another $50-100 to leave your child from 8:30 to 5:30.
  • Hire a nanny to pick up your child at 4:00. This is more expensive than extended care, and if you can afford that, then maybe you can just hire a nanny for the full week and forget camp altogether.
  • Take vacation time so you can leave work early. Which means that you’ll probably just wind up making up the time by answering emails that night. Plus, isn’t vacation supposed to incorporate sand and sun?
  • Come up with creative excuses to tell your boss as to why you’re leaving at 3:30.

woman running up stairs


Chances are this strategy is not sustainable for the whole summer.

This leads me to believe that there are numerous people out there with extremely flexible schedules, such that they can leave at 3:30 every day during the summer. What are these jobs? Can someone please tell me how to get one?

Then I started thinking about this from the camps’ perspective:

  • Providing a full day of programming is hard. Kids can only concentrate on science or art for so long. I certainly couldn’t keep my own kids entertained at home for 8 hours. And camps who don’t charge extra for extended care usually follow the same schedule of core activities between 9:00 and 4:00, with recreation time before and after.
  • The extended care option allows parents to pay for only what they need.
  • The 9am-4pm model allows you to combine two 3-hour half day camps with a lunch break in between.

And does extended care make really camp unaffordable? Yes - 2018 average session cost $253 without and $413 with. However, that's more of a function of the camp provider: the YMCA vs. private schools.

So what’s the takeaway here?

There are some good choices if you’re able and willing to pay. But like in so many other aspects, the deck still seems to be stacked against families with two working parents. It’s a struggle to find options that meet your needs. Summertime becomes a big juggling act.

Make it easier with Summer Camp Guru. You can search for camps by pick-up time.

Find a day camp that works for you!


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