10 Endlessly Fun Games to Play in the Dark

updated Sep 20, 2023
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mother and daughter in fort playing shadow puppets

When my kids were little, we had a surefire hack for turning bad moods around: hide and seek in the dark. Maybe it would be the end of a long, hard week, or a Saturday morning filled with grump-inducing chores, but when things got grim or snappy, someone would suggest a game and the tension would flit away with the ensuing laughs.

When you think about the last time you all played together — not just sat around staring at devices or arguing about remote school homework — you might find it’s been longer than you think. And concentrating on a single (fun!) activity as a family can remind everyone that they actually like each other.

You don’t need much more than a flashlight to get the good times going.

For an extra thrill, play games in the dark. Either turn off all the lights and close the curtains or wait until nighttime and roam your backyard or local park. You don’t need much more than a flashlight to get the good times going.

Inside Games

1. Disco in the Dark

Turn off the lights. Tell Alexa to play some ’70s hits. Dance like no one’s watching! Bonus points if you have a disco ball. If not, glow sticks or flashlights can jazz things up.

Need: Music playing device

Optional: Things that light up

2. Statue Tour

Pick a tour guide and tourist. Everyone else assemble in a dark room and pose like statues. The tour guide shines a flashlight on each statue and describes it. For example, “Here is a sculpture of a dinosaur. You can see her mouth is wide open and she is roaring at her prey.” Statues can change poses when the light is shining away. The goal is to make someone laugh, either with a weird pose or a funny description.

Need: 4 or more people and a flashlight

3. Forts

Build a fort with whatever’s handy: couch cushions, blankets, tablecloths. Make the inside cozy with pillows and stuffed animals. Turn all the lights off and scoot inside with a flashlight and whoever will fit. Read books. Tell stories. Make shadow puppets.

Need: Fort stuff and a flashlight

4. Light as a Feather

This classic sleepover game can get spooky, so I recommend it only for older kids. Choose one person to lay on the floor. Everyone else kneels around the body with two fingers from each hand gently underneath the body. The storyteller gently massages the victim’s temples and tells a story about how she died (the weirder, the better). Then everyone chants: “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” over and over again and tries to lift the person. See if it works!

Need: 4 or more people.

Outdoor Games

5. Deer Ears

Go on a nighttime walk or hike. Stop here and there to cup your hands behind your ears to form “deer ears.” Listen carefully. Notice how by making your ears larger and angling them in different directions (like deer!) you can hear more sounds. Tell each other what you hear (A bird? A firetruck? Someone singing?).

Need: Nothing

6. Signals

Pick partners and decide on a flashlight signal (e.g. three short bursts). Spread out in a schoolyard, empty parking lot, or field (set clear boundaries or choose well-fenced areas for safety). Partners try to find each other by flashing their signals in the dark.

Need: Flashlights for everyone

Inside or Outside Games

7. Scavenger Hunt

Hide glow-in-the-dark items like LED lights stuffed into plastic eggs or glowsticks wrapped around tiny toys in the living room or outdoor space (ideally fenced or well-supervised for safety). Tell the kids how many to look for and set them loose. Take turns being the hider and seekers.

Need: Glowing stuff

8. Sardines

One person hides while the others seek. Whenever someone finds the hider, they join them in their hiding spot. The fun happens when the hidden folks are all smushed together while trying to stay quiet so the last remaining seeker doesn’t find them. Make rules about where you can hide (for example, not inside any appliances or past the fence).

Need: Nothing!

9. Grandmother’s Footsteps

“Grandma” stands with her back to the group. Everyone else stands about 20 feet away. When Grandma’s back is turned, players creep forward, but must freeze if Grandma turns around. If she sees anyone moving, she sends them back to the starting line. The first one to tap Grandma’s shoulder wins. Add difficulty by placing dress-up items in the play area and requiring the winner to put on a wig or cape before touching Grandma. Works best with dim lighting.

Need: 4 or more people.

Optional: Dress-up items.

10. Spotlight

Stand in a circle with one person holding a flashlight in the center. When they shine the beam on someone, that person performs a dance, tells a joke, or makes a funny face. Mix it up by writing ideas on paper first and when the flashlight holder picks someone, they read a suggestion and the person acts it out.

Need: A few people at least. Flashlight.

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This post has been updated from its original publication in 2020.