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The Skinny on Overnight Youth Camp Theme Nights

by Jesse Garner


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At Pine Cove we are all about being seriously fun. Themed dinners and events (theme nights) are just one of the many ways that we have fun at camp. When else do you get to pretend to be a superhero and run around playing a superhero game? Or cheer for your made-up country for the Olympics, camp-style? Here’s everything you need to know about theme nights and theme night costumes.

Youth camp theme nights start when campers change into their costumes in their cabin before dinner. Campers eat dinner in their costumes and then head into the theme night activity (or sometimes, the reverse). Activities vary by night: sometimes we dance, and sometimes we run around as part of a game, sometimes we have an interactive show, but we always have a blast.

Knowing what is happening for the theme night is an important aspect of preparing a great theme night costume. It’s important to make sure your camper can run around if they are playing a bunch of mini-games located all over camp, as cute as that mermaid fish tail may be. Don’t forget that camp happens during the summer, and it is hot! That full-body mascot bunny costume may look amazing, but it’s probably far too much to wear for a jumping-around-getting-hot-and-sweaty dance party.

“Costumes? In addition to packing my kid for camp?! I’m already getting stressed out!” We hear you, parents. It can seem a little overwhelming to think about theme night costumes in addition to everything else, so keep two important ideas in mind. One, it’s all about fun for your camper, and two, keep it simple, simple, simple. Remember, this costume will only be worn for a couple hours at most! There is no need to be the “Pinterest Queen” here.

Pro tip: multiple small things are easier than one elaborate large thing. For example, for a Hollywood theme night you might pack:

  • All-red clothes and a construction paper sign that says “carpet”
  • Glittery sunglasses, a feather boa, and mardi gras beads (all from the dollar store)
  • A white t-shirt, a strip of black fabric to tie into a bow tie, and some hair gel for a slicked back hairstyle
  • A plastic fedora, black t-shirt, and black shorts

If the above still sounds stressful, check out our theme night packs! One pack has something fun to wear for every theme night this summer.

What if you want to go big? Do it! But only if you promise not to stress out about it, deal? Our counselors will be dressed as ridiculously as possible, so your camper will not be overdressed for a theme night. Also, feel free to have a little fun and stretch the theme a little bit. One of our favorite costumes was for a sports theme night called “Put Me In, Coach!” Campers showed up dressed as tacky tourists asking to be put into coach class for their flight!

Second pro tip: put all of the pieces of each costume into a ziplock bag labeled with the name of the theme night. If you have younger kids you’ll guarantee they can find what they need on that night. For more packing tips check out our ultimate guide to packing.

So grab your camper and turn planning for your theme nights into a fun activity for the two of you. Keep it simple and fun and you’ll breeze through this part of camp prep. Need to remind yourself what your theme nights are? Lists are here with links to our Pinterest boards full of ideas.

Posted May 19, 2021

Jesse Garner

Sr. Director of Camper Engagement

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