Playing games with your kids is a great way to bond, have fun, and get some exercise at the same time. Playing outdoors in the evening can add an extra layer of excitement and adventure for both you and your children. Whether it’s a game of tag, glow in the dark soccer, or flashlight hide-and-seek, there are plenty of exciting games to play outside at night that will keep everyone entertained!
8 Fun Games To Play Outside At Night With Kids
We’re finally at the point in the year where there’s more sunlight (and warmer temperatures to boot), but who says all the action needs to happen during the day? Not me!
The sun doesn’t need to go down on fun after dark…even if you have kids! In fact, some games and activities are simply more fun at night.
But after your kids hit the age where staying up after dark won’t mess up their schedules, spending some quality time as a family outside after dinner can be a great way to wrap up a day—and this is true at home, but it’s especially true if you’re camping, on vacation, or visiting somewhere special.
Tips for Kids Playing Outside at Night Before You Pull Out the Games…
Before we launch into our top 8 ideas for after-dark games, though, let’s cover some tips for outdoor, nighttime fun to make sure everyone stays safe, knows the rules and is set up for the most fun!
1. Know your space
If you’re playing outside in the backyard, you can probably feel confident about what’s out there (although depending on where you live, it is worth considering what wildlife comes out at night in your area).
However, if you’re playing outside at a campsite or somewhere on vacation, survey the area thoroughly while there’s light outside if you intend on playing games after dark.
You don’t want the moment you discover a hidden ditch to be when your kid falls into it. Find the ditch (and any other potential hazards) beforehand!
2. Establish boundaries
Before you start whatever game you’ll be playing outside at night, establish clear boundaries with the kids by telling them exactly where they can and cannot go.
Find a landmark they can’t pass and put a lantern there, or identify a fence they can’t pass and drape a blanket or sweatshirt over it as a reminder.
If you have several adults, you may even designate an adult to stand at the edge of the farthest boundary and enforce it.
3. Come up with a distress signal
Make sure the kids know what to do if they need help. Establish a signal, whether it’s a yell for help, the blow of a whistle, a flashing flashlight, or a combination of things.
Darkness can be disorienting, so depending on the kid and his or her age, you may ask your child to stay put and call for help rather than try to find you.
Instead of assuming the kids will know what to do in an emergency or trusting that if something goes wrong, then it’ll just all work out, have a quick discussion with the group about exactly how they should signal for help and what they should do while they wait for it.
4. Make sure you have the appropriate gear
If you’ll be running around with the kids after dark, consider what they should be wearing to minimize cuts and scrapes, protect them from insects that prefer dusk and cooler temperatures, and keep them comfortable for the activity and the weather.
Choose appropriate footwear and arm them with gear like
- Kid’s Headlamps
- Glow sticks
It just depends on the activity!
The Best Nighttime Outdoor Activities for Kids
Speaking of activities, now that we’ve covered those basics, let’s get to the best after-dark games for families with kids.
1. Pirates Or Treasure Hunt
To play Pirates, you’ll first need to hide some treasure! One idea is to crack some glow sticks and hide them outside right before you start the game.
Hide the glow sticks according to the age(s) and skill level(s) of your kids.
For older kids, hide the glow sticks in piles of dirt and sticks so there’s just a faint glow, or put them up in trees so they need to climb to get the treasure.
For younger kids, hide the glow sticks behind trees or partially obscured beneath rocks.
You can also hide treasure (come up with something fun you can hide!) and use glow sticks as clues that lead to the end goal. Each glow stick will take them closer to the loot.
A third idea for Pirates would be creating a map that leads to the buried treasure! You can use glow sticks as path markers that correspond to icons on the map, all leading to the treasure, which you’ll mark on the map with a big red X!
2. Nighttime Hide & Seek
When it comes to fun games to play outside at night, my kids always love a good round of hide and seek.
To play, choose who will be “it” first and set that child up with a flashlight, lantern, or headlamp.
As the “it” player closes her eyes and counts to 60 (or whatever number makes sense for the ages in your group), the rest of the players find a hiding spot.
Once the “it” player is finished counting, she tries to find the other players. For younger kids, pair an adult with the “it” player to help.
Once found, players are “out” and must stand in a designated area until the next game.
Once the “it” player has found everyone, the game begins again with a new “it” player (possibly the first person to be “out” in the last game).
3. Flashlight Tag
Choose who will be “it” first and set that child up with a flashlight.
As the “it” player closes her eyes and counts to 30 (or whatever number makes sense for the ages in your group), the rest of the players spread out.
(Unlike hide and seek, the players aren’t finding a permanent hiding spot; the goal is to stay out of the beam of the flashlight for as long as possible by running from hiding spot to hiding spot.)
Once the “it” player is finished counting, she tries to shine her flashlight beam on other players, calling out the name of the person she’s caught as she does.
If a player is tagged with the beam of light (and his name is called out), he is “out” and stands in a designated area until the next game.
Once the “it” player has tagged everyone, the game begins again with a new “it” player (possibly the first person who was “out” in the last game).
Looking up at the stars can be a wonderful activity with kids, especially if you’re somewhere where the sky is very dark!
Turn off all lights and allow the group’s eyes to adjust to the darkness for about 10 minutes.
Consider buying a star chart ahead of time and using it to point out some constellations to the kids. If you don’t have a star chart, you can simply ask what the kids see and find interesting.
Telescopes with tabletop mounts are another great way to stargaze. Find the moon and let the kids take turns looking through the lens.
5. Glow-In-The-Dark Sensory Play
For an after-dark sensory bin experience, fill bins with:
- Dried beans
- Sand (or another material)
Then, hide glow stick bracelets or other glow-in-the-dark items inside.
Let the kids dig and play to their hearts’ content! This is one of our favorite games to play outside at night.
Tip: You could also add small measuring cups and bowls to the mix for them to use as tools in their sensory play.
Even if you don’t have a campfire, sitting under the stars and telling stories can be a memorable nighttime activity for families.
You can go around the circle, allowing each person to tell a story (either a made-up story or sharing an experience they’ve had).
You could also start a story with one sentence, then go around the circle asking each person to add a new sentence to a story! Things will get silly fast!
Take this activity up a notch by adding an instrument and singing songs together.
If you have a special treat or drink to share together, this is a great activity for it since you’re sitting down and relaxing.
7. Capture The Flag
In Capture The Flag, each team tries to capture the other team’s flag and bring it back to the team’s own territory without getting caught.
Split your group into at least two teams and define each team’s territory. Choose items as “flags” and let each group hide its flag within its territory so the flag is at least partly visible.
Start the game by gathering everyone in a neutral area.
Once the game starts, some team members go into enemy territory to search for the flag, while other team members stay back to protect their own flag. Discuss before the game how far away guards must stay from their own flag to make the game winnable.
If tagged by an enemy team member, a player must go to jail (an area defined before the game) until released by a member of his own team. Team members can release each other from jail by clapping hands.
Once a player has captured a flag, she must make it back to her own territory to win the game!
8. Nighttime Sports
Sports like glow in the dark soccer can totally work at night for some added fun! Add glow stick bracelets around kids’ ankles and set up a lantern for each goal.
Give every player a headlamp (or don’t…whatever works best with your group and space!), and split the group into two teams.
Select goalies for each team and define what “making a goal” will look like on each end of the defined playing field.
Add in an element of playing pretend, if you’d like, by pretending one team is made up of lions and one is made up of monkeys. Have fun with it!
So there you have it, some super fun games and activities to play outside at night with kids! What do you think?
Would you be willing to let the kids stay up late to enjoy one of these experiences together as a family?