The darkness of night changes the natural world into something different; for some children, it is a time of excitement and discovery but for others, it is sinister and scary. However, darkness itself is not something to be feared- and by helping children to discover the mysteries of the night, they might come to enjoy all the adventures it has to offer.
Fun Activities to Play in the Dark
We’ve compiled a list of a few ideas for fun games to play in the dark. Many of these games can be enjoyed all year round, even on those cold, dark evenings after school in winter!
This is like a game of hide-and-seek, but in reverse. One player is chosen to be ‘it’, and the other players count to 20 while ‘it’ hides. Once they’re finished counting, the players use flashlights to look for the hidden person. As each player finds ‘it’, they hide alongside the hider. The last person to find the hider is ‘it’ in the next round.
Required: flashlights for each player.
To create the course, use either glow-in-the-dark chalk or necklaces to make the boxes in different colors and shapes. You could also use rechargeable LED light strips.
Required: glow-in-the-dark chalk or necklaces.
Ghost in the Graveyard
Despite its name, this game is more about having fun than being creepy. All the players have flashlights and they all meet at one spot, which we’ll call home base. Then they choose one person to be the ghost. The other players turn off their flashlights and count out loud to 20 while the ghost runs and hides. Then the players turn their lights back on and split up to try to find the ghost. If one player sees the ghost, they shout “Ghost in the graveyard!” The ghost and all the players then run back to home base. If the ghost tags one of the other players before they get back to home base, that player becomes the ghost for the next round.
Required: flashlights for each player.
Time to get the hula hoops out and have some fun. You can wrap them in neon or glow-in-the-dark tape to make them even more fun. There are lots of different ways to move with a hula hoop – try twisting your hips, wrists, ankles or even your head. You can also try changing the direction of your twist, or twisting with one foot ahead of the other.
Required: hula hoops, neon, or glow-in-the-dark tape.
Red Light, Green Light
Then don’t forget to turn off the house lights and pretend you’re driving a real car as you steer your way through downtown! This classic game is even more fun at night. Get a roll of red cellophane from your local dollar or craft store and make a red light by taping a circle of the wrap around a flashlight. Then turn off the house lights and pretend you’re driving a car as you steer your way through downtown!
One player is chosen to be the traffic officer and stands at one end of the playing area with a flashlight. The other players stand at the far end. The officer calls “green light!” and the players start moving towards the officer. After a few seconds, the officer turns quickly towards the players, turns on the red light, and yells “red light!” The players should stop moving. If the officer sees anyone still moving, that player has to go back to the start line. The game continues until one player gets past the officer. That player becomes the officer for the next round.
Required: one flashlight and red cellophane.
Try lying on a blanket with your kids during the day and watching clouds together. You can print out free star charts from the internet, or use apps on your mobile devices, to help your kids spot constellations like the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Orion. You can also look for shapes in the patterns of stars, just like you would when watching clouds. See if you can find the brightest stars, and look to see if the moon is full.
Required: blankets or towels to lie on.
Shadow puppet shows are a great way to have fun and use your imagination. You can use a wall or a fence as your “screen” and set up flashlights to shine on it. Kids can use their hands to make different animals, or cut out figures and glue them to popsicle sticks to make them move through the light.
Required: flashlights, craft supplies.
Dodging, ducking, dipping, and diving away from a flashlight beam are the most important moves in this game. One player is chosen to be ‘it’ and closes their eyes at home base while counting to 20. The other players scatter during this time. ‘It’ then has to find the players and tag them with their beam of light. When tagged, players must go back to home base. The last player tagged in the previous round becomes ‘it’ in the next round.
To play this game, you will need some (not too loud) music, some flashlights, and a rope. Players must walk bent over backward, feet first, without falling, while the others cheer them on. After each player makes it under the rope, the rope holders lower it closer to the ground and players try again and again until they can no longer make it under the rope. Warning, this game comes with a lot of laughter.
Required: music, a rope, and flashlights.
Kids can play lots of games with one or two ropes, and they’re even more fun at night when the ropes are glow-in-the-dark or lit up.
This game is perfect for the smallest kids in the crowd. Have two older kids hold the rope on the ground and shake it. (Having the older kids make snake “sssssss” sounds as the younger kids jump is always a fun touch).
For those who are older, a double dutch game using two ropes can be fun. Two kids turn the ropes in opposite directions while a jumper tries to jump in between them. Even a classic jump with one rope can be fun as jumpers see the sparkly rope against the night sky.
Required: glow-in-the-dark, or lit-up ropes.
The best part about this game is that it can only be played in the dark. To start, players partner up and decide on a signal to communicate with their flashlights (such as two long flashes, three short, or something similar). Then, pairs scatter to different spots in an area (a large space, such as a schoolyard or park would be perfect). The goal is for players to find their way to their partners in the dark by identifying their flashlight signals. Players have to make sure their signals don’t get mixed up with others which often leads to mixed-up fun.
Bat and moth
This game requires 10 people and a few blindfolds.
One person is chosen as a bat and another as a moth. The rest of the people form a reasonably tight circle around the two people.
The bat has a blindfold on and is trying to find the moth by using echolocation; he does this by making a noise and then listening for the echo. The more noise he makes, the better he will be able to tell where the moth is.
. If the bat is to catch its prey, it needs to listen carefully and concentrate.
The people in the circle help the blindfolded bat stay within the circle and do not provide any other assistance.
Once a bat has located a moth, they can catch it and other children can have a turn.
The game can be made more difficult by having more than one moth at a time.
Make a rope trail through the woods during the day, and have the kids follow it in the dark with an adult at the end.
Glow Stick Tracking
Glow sticks are available at some toyshops, the Natural World shops, or on the Internet. This has been highly popular at several outdoor parties.
Night Time Capture the Flag
This is an exciting game that can get children’s adrenalin going! Best played in scrubby grassland, the game aims to raid the other camp, steal their flag and return it safely to base. Split the children into two groups, tell them to choose a base camp, and give each team a flag. No torches are allowed – except for the adults who keep to the ground in the middle to collect any lost soldiers!
To make nighttime adventures enjoyable and safe for everyone, we suggest that you do the following:
Before You Go
- Plan your route – only take children for night walks along routes you are familiar with; even a well-known path can seem exciting and new at night.
- Timing – choose your time depending on what you wish to see – dusk is best for mammals, but real darkness is better for star gazing.
- Suitable clothing – encourage the children to wear dark, non-rustling clothes and sensible soft-soles footwear.
What to Take With You
- Torches and spare batteries – but try to encourage the children to switch torches off and use their night sight!
- As an alternative to torches, make your tea light lanterns by attaching a string to a jam jar to make a handle. Decorate the jar with colored tissue paper for a festive effect.
- A picnic and a warm drink
- A simple first aid kit
It is important to keep everyone close together and to have an adult at the front and back of the group. We have found that even a rowdy group of 12-year-old boys will settle down once they are released into the darkness of the night. Even the most macho of boys will not want to be the last one in line.
- If you are anxious about keeping an eye on the children, give them each a fluorescent armband or attach a glow stick to their clothing.
- Children holding candle lanterns should be carefully supervised
- Always leave a place as you found it
Night walks can be exciting because you might see different creatures than you would during the day. The best time to see wild mammals is at dusk. You might not even have to go far from home; my children stood outside the door of their grandparent’s house one night and saw hundreds of pipistrelle bats fly out from a crack in the roof. You could also use a torch to look at a tree stump, an anthill, or even a patch of your garden to find out what creatures are active at night.
Jo and her family went for a walk in the Lake District one winter night. At first, the children were reluctant to leave the comfort of the fire, but they were soon transfixed by finding moon shadows. Everyone began leaping around trying to make their shadows climb on top of each other’s heads – and the shadows were transformed into wolves and other imaginary beasts of the forest! It was a night they all remembered for a long time.
Lay on a grassy hill or at the beach to see the stars and moon on a clear night. Have everyone lay down in a circle with their heads together and look up at the sky. Pass around binoculars to get a better look. Try to spot shooting stars and make a wish when you see one.
The text describes how to find glowworms. They can be found in rough and unimproved grassland areas from about two hours after sunset on warm, dry summer nights.
You can use light to attract moths, which will let you get a closer look at these beautiful and interesting creatures.