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Overnight Camp: It’s Got Some Brainy Benefits!

Sending your kids to overnight camp might seem like a fun vacation-like escape, but it has some enormous benefits for their brains!

A group of children playing the parachute game in a field

According to the Department of Education, about 1% of kids in the US go to overnight camps each summer. In 2020, 82% of overnight camps were closed, leading to even fewer kids going to overnight camps. Many of those who do go, however, report such incredible experiences that they return year after year and then maybe become counselors there! 

The FUN!

Many camps are filled with various activities such as water skiing, paddle-boarding, tennis, arts and crafts, dance, and more! Many camps also allow campers to choose some activities they want to do more of through electives! 

Overnight camps can provide kids with a sense of exploration and independence, especially since they are often located in adventurous environments filled with lakes or forests. 

Campers meet many new friends and strengthen these relationships by living in a bunk with them. While kids often make friends at school or day camp, the time they’re spending with them is of course lower. At overnight camp, it’s pretty much 24/7! Campers spend so much time with their bunkmates that so many of these new relationships are strengthened - like in college when you get close with your friends because you spend so much time with them and live with them. 

Many overnight camps also have many traditions and spirit, including talent shows, color wars, random chants, and camp-wide games that help build a sense of community and belonging. 

Some things parents love, and kids eventually learn to love about overnight camp, is that most of them are technology free too!  And don’t forget about all the lifelong memories and friendships formed! <3 

The Brainy Benefits  

Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about the fun benefits. But what does all this do for the brain? Well, many things! 

First, a TON of physical activity is happening at camp… like a TON. Many kids are quickly getting 15,000+ steps a day at camp. They’re swimming laps in the pool, running bases in kickball, running from activity to activity, and much more! Physical activity has many neurological and mental health benefits (check out our physical activity blog post!), and escaping physical activity at an overnight camp is pretty hard. The best part is that this can become a long-term lifestyle beyond camp. 

Overnight camps can also play a significant role in social and emotional development. There is TONS of social interaction - even during rest hours, sometimes at camp! It’s a very community and group-focused place. It can help kids gain a sense of empathy and truly understand the nature of the impact of how they treat others. They understand social responsibility through bunk cleanups and responsibilities throughout each day. They also are likely to gain a sense of resilience and emotional regulation, as the environment can be super supportive as the campers gain new out-of-comfort zone experiences, such as living away from home, 

Something else that’s pretty awesome is that campers try so many new things daily! 

Where to Start

If you’re interested in finding a camp for your kids, one of the best things you can do is ask around! Ask friends what camps they know and if they have sent their kids to camps. 

Many camps will do “try for a day” like programs or do tours during the summer months to get a taste of what it would be like to send your kids there. 

In addition to various financial aid options, many camps and outside organizations will also give early-bird discounts to families that register early and discounts to families that are first-timers! 


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