We love our kids, but nothing makes the heart grow fonder than a little absence. Truth be told, their hearts grow a little fonder too. Department of Environmental Conservation summer camps is the perfect way to grow hearts and minds. Here's how to get the best dates.

There are four DEC summer camps offering 1-week sessions in two age groups, 11 - 13 and 14 - 17. Sessions begin June 28, but fill up fast. To ensure you get the dates and camps you want, make reservations starting January 26. Here are the camps, you can click the link for more details on the specific location details.

Camps offer a wide variety of outdoor adventures; including fishing, bird watching, fly-tying, archery, canoeing, hiking, camping, orienteering, and hunter safety education. The hunter education programs are available for either gun, bow, or trapping and are offered at each camp each week. Campers have to sign up during registration and complete some work at home before camp starts.

Camp Pack Forest will offer a 6th week for 14 to 17-year-olds who may be interested in a career outdoors with the DEC. "Outdoor Adventure Week" runs from August 2 - 7 at Camp Pack Forest. In addition to typical camp activities, professionals will introduce a variety of career options.

The video below features some of the activities at the annual camps. Registration opens January 26 at 1 p.m.  But if you're a first-time camper, the DEC encourages completing the online registration form in advance as it is quite lengthy. Applications are only accepted online. For more information call 518-402-8014.  The video below features some of the camp activities.