Summer Camp Parents

Camp and the Brain

By Stacie Hoppman August 14, 2023

When we think of summer break, we usually think of brain rest. Instead of focusing on academics and education, it’s a chance to sleep in or play outside or veg out on the couch all day. Of course, here at Camp Bear Creek, summer break means summer camp – spending our days swimming, playing, kayaking, hiking, and all of our favorite camp activities. Even though it’s a break from school, summer camp is actually a great brain boost for kids in a lot of ways!

1. Physical health boosts brain health! It’s not hard to take well over the recommended 10,000 steps a day at summer camp. We do a lot of walking. Add in the running, paddling, swimming, and hiking, and a day at camp is easily filled with all kinds of physical activity. Summer camp is a great way to promote and encourage physical health in kids. Along with that boost in physical health, studies show that exercise also helps to improve immune systems, reduce the risk of heart disease, and increase neural functioning. The more we move, the healthier our bodies and brains get!

2. Time spent in nature can help to decrease anxiety and increase our happy hormones. Many people talking about “clearing their mind” when spending time outside in a natural setting. The chance to breathe the fresh air, walk through the woods, explore wildlife, and re-connect with the world is like a re-set for our brains. Research shows that kids who spend increased time outside had improved memories and increased social and emotional awareness.

3. Reduced screen time causes changes in our brains. We are a society dependent on our phones, but at camp, the screens are left at home. Kids who spent less time on their phones had better critical thinking and reasoning, language skills, and better quality sleep. Plus, without a screen to distract them, kids spend more time building social and conversational skills, making friends, and being present in the moment.

4. Kids practice all kinds of emotionally healthy habits at camp. So much learning, growth, and brain development happens in just one week of camp. Kids practice regulating their emotions, feeling empathy, adapting to new situations, expressing and communicating, making good decisions, and overcoming fear. The camp setting helps teach kids to be more confident, be independent, and to build relationships. The more these skills are repeated, the more our brain is strengthened and conditioned for the future.

Summer break might seem like a brain rest, but for our Camp Bear Creek kids, it was a way to continue building healthy habits, skills, and brain function for this school year and the rest of their lives. They’ll begin this school year with newfound confidence, independence, social skills, and mental well-being. So we wish all of you a happy start to your school years, and we can’t wait too see you again next summer!

Want to learn more? Check out this article from Harvard.