It's More Than Just Eating S'mores: Camping Affects Your Kid's Brain In Some Big Ways

There are two kinds of people in this world — those who love camping and those who prefer room service. I like a little bit of both. (Glamping, anyone?) Camping on the beach and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean is basically heaven, but so is laying in a king-size bed (that isn't yours), ordering some delicious food up to your room, and watching a movie. But camping can have some serious benefits for kids and families. If you're planning on a camping trip this summer, you'll want to know all the ways camping affects your kid's brain. It turns out all those tents and marshmallows could set them up for adult success.

Adina Mahalli, MSW, a mental health expert and family care professional at Maple Holistics, and Dan Warren, Human Development Research Specialist with the Boy Scouts of America, explain to Romper how camping really benefits kids, emotionally and psychologically. Think about it — camping is all about being able to survive out in the elements. What better way to show your kids how awesome they are by giving them the skills they need to succeed out in the wilderness? Camping also brings people together to create bonding experiences, and gives your child a sense of community and belonging. Not to mention those lifelong memories that they will fondly (or not so fondly) reflect back on for years to come.


Camping Gives Them Amazing (Or Not So Amazing) Life Long Memories

If you went camping as a kid, think about all the memories you made with your family and friends. Those memories last a lifetime and allow kids to decide what's important to them. Maybe your child will develop a deep appreciation for nature after having such a wonderful time on your camping trip. On the flip side, maybe they decide that they enjoy other activities more. Either way, your child will learn more about themselves. Warren says that camping has "some key benefits, including increased focus and memory recall."


Increases Independence & Self Confidence

Camping can help increase your child's self confidence because it requires them to learn to do things for themselves. "Camping is generally used to help teens and children build up their self-worth," Mahalli says. "Learning survival and life skills like pitching a tent, starting a fire, and cooking a meal are all activities to help increase one’s self-confidence. Confident children are more likely to be successful in the future." And why not start setting them up for success now, right?


Helps Kids Learn To Be Resilient

Learning problem solving skills are important for resiliency, and when your child runs into a problem during their camping experience, the self confidence they're building will help them persevere when things don't go according to plan. All of this sets them up to learn how to be resilient, according to both experts. Remember, the stakes are high when you're camping. Resilience is absolutely required.


Teaches Kids To Be In Control

Participating in the camping experience is all about learning how to survive outside the comfort of your own home and out in the elements. It teaches kids to be in control of their outcomes, and requires them to learn to take care of themselves, problem solve, and take responsibility for their choices. Warren says that the benefits of camping bring a long list of mental health and behavioral benefits. "Research also shows that spending time outdoors can reduce the effects of ADHD and depression for people suffering from the disorders," he says.


Teaches Kids Gratitude

Whether it's gratitude for the beautiful scenery that mother nature has to offer or it's gratitude for indoor plumbing and toilet paper (depending on how rugged your camping gets), Mahalli says, "Being outside improves a person’s physical and mental health. Instead of spending their summers in front of the TV, they can go to a camp where they are forced to be technology-free and embrace the outdoors."


Gives Children A Sense Of Community

Whether you're taking the kids on a great camping adventure, or you're sending your older ones off to sleep-away camp, your child will feel a sense of community and bonding. Mahalli says, "If you want to bond with your children, then camping is a great way to do it. You can foster their love for the outdoors and spark their curiosity." She recommends a fun game for the whole family to play "by creating a nature scavenger hunt. It’s easy to write up a list of things commonly found in nature and have the kids compete to see who can find all the items first. The loser has to make everyone else s'mores. Games of every kind are a great way to involve your kids and connect to them."

Warren confirms that camping will result in "improved social engagement and teamwork," making it a really important activity for your child.