Why Overnight Camp is Good for Your Child's Mental Health
By Laurie Kaiden, Director and Campcierge™, Maine Camp Experience

When we think of life at Maine Camps, we think of the positive ways camp supports good mental health. At camp, children unplug from their tech devices, and they make real-world connections with friends and nature. During these pandemic times, where kids have felt stressed and disconnected, camp is even more vital for fun, friendship, and freedom from screens, social media, and school-year pressures. Here are meaningful ways that overnight camp in Maine benefits kids’ wellbeing:
1. Outside in nature
2. Active
3. Social
4. Community
5. Eating and sleeping well
Getting outside in nature is vital to good?mental health; it lowers stress and anxiety and boosts feelings of wellbeing. Spending time at Maine overnight camps means being outside and enjoying lots of quality time on beautiful natural lakes, and vast fields and forests. It’s being able to breathe deeply while taking in the smell of fresh pine in the air. When outside, kids get plenty of sunlight, which is a great source of Vitamin D. Being outside in nature lowers stress, and anxiety and boosts chemicals in their bodies that put them in a good mood and make them feel happy. In addition to the time outside at camp every day, there are also unforgettable trips throughout Maine where campers hike, raft, and explore. Trips start out smaller for younger campers and grow as they get older. Examples include blueberry picking trips, visiting coastal towns like Boothbay Harbor, rafting on the Allagash River, and hiking Mt. Katahdin. Seeing the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is a highlight for some older campers.
Being active and getting exercise is vital to children’s healthy growth. Exercising  can help eliminate low mood, anxiety, stress, and feeling tired and lazy. At Maine overnight camps, children are active. While they do have downtime like rest time after lunch, they are moving all day with five or six activity periods plus an evening activity. In a single day, kids can be waterskiing, playing lacrosse, climbing a ropes course, practicing for the play, swimming in the lake, and riding a horse (these are just a few examples of the 50+ sports, arts, and nature activities camps offer).
Being at overnight camp means being social. Campers are living in cabins with peers their own age. They’re getting to know each other and bonding as they enjoy fun activities together and learn life skills ranging from making their own bed to gaining confidence, resiliency, and the ability to navigate social situations. Having friends boosts self-esteem and having a network heightens campers’ wellbeing. Maine campers feel connected to their camp friends while at camp each summer and throughout the year when they can keep in touch through reunions, get-togethers, FaceTime calls, and camp newsletters. Many camp friendships that begin at age seven or eight grow throughout camp summers and continue throughout college and into life beyond. It’s beneficial to have “camp friends” in addition to home/school friends for a little break and for an outside point of view.

Laurie Kaiden is the Director and Campcierge™, Maine Camp Experience. For the past decade, she has worked closely with 35+ premier Maine overnight summer camps. Laurie also provides free, personalized guidance to families to help them choose their best camp. Laurie is a mom of two Maine campers. She has also been a counselor at camps and was a camper herself for many years. She is a real S’mores enthusiast! laurie@mainecampexperience.com; www.mainecampexperience.com; 877-92-MAINE
In a community, campers are part of something greater than themselves. Being in a community helps people feel safe and secure. From each other, campers feel inspired, and supported to grow. In a community, campers learn things about themselves, others, and the world around them. They grow more confident and independent, while also learning to help others. It’s wonderful to know that you always have a friend and someone who cares. Kids feel the community at campfires and other camp gatherings to talk about values, acknowledge successes, and sing camp songs together. Special activities, too, bring campers together like Carnival, Olympics, little/big brother and sister programs, and even milk and cookies at night. When your children go to camp in Maine, they are a part of their individual camp’s community and also a part of the larger Maine Camps network. They may know kids at other Maine Camps through intercamps, trips, and even traveling to and from their Maine Camp each summer. Or, even if they’ve never actually met before, when they do, they have shared experiences of camp summers and bond over common experiences. And, campers are not just connected to the current camp population, but also generations of campers and counselors who have come before or who will come after. There’s a common bond – shared interests, values, songs, and experiences.
Campers also thrive from eating and sleeping well. They’re given a balanced diet with three full meals and snacks that provide vital essentials like iron and B12 which are important for a good mood. The menus are varied and robust and offer a lot of choices complete with lots of veggies and proteins. Campers get plenty of sleep, too, which is also vital for their active days and wellbeing. Campers will find themselves tired from the full day’s activities and falling asleep pretty quickly after lights out at night.
For all these reasons, Maine over-night camps really give kids the chance to relax, rejuvenate, and recharge. For example, while sailing a boat, campers are learning something new, taking in the beautiful natural environs, and enjoying quality time with friends. Campers feel great while they’re at camp and the benefits and learnings last throughout the school year ‘til they can return to their camp summer home again. Camps do fill quickly, so now’s the time to research and enroll your child if you haven’t already.