As we inch closer to the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere, we mark the period when we experience the shortest amount of daylight. Just because it gets dark early does not mean our outdoor adventures need to end! Here are 10 fun ways to play outside in the dark!
For this activity, you will need one small flashlight. Select one player to be the firefly. The firefly takes the flashlight and hides. They hide with the flashlight off. The remainder of the group counts to 30 and then set out to find the firefly.
The firefly moves around and flashes the flashlight very quickly every 60 seconds.
When the firefly is caught, a new firefly is selected.
Flashlight hide and seek
This activity requires a flashlight. One player is chosen as the seeker and has the flashlight. They count to 50 while the other players hide. The seeker then uses the flashlight to try to find the hidden players. Once all the players have been hidden, a new seeker is chosen.
Night sit spot
Sit spots are special spots to sit and observe nature. By returning to this spot repeatably, you will notice new and interesting things. Sitting and observing in your sit spot at night will reveal a whole new world! You should sit quietly without any flashlight or lantern. If you are new to sit spots or would love to add some writing to your sit spot practice, check out my Sit Spot Unit.
Star or Moon Gazing
Stargazing is endlessly fascinating! Choose a clear night and head to a place away from city lights if possible. Research a few constellations ahead of time and then try and locate them in the night sky. Look up major astronomical events and see if you can observe them.
Watching the moon phases and recording them can be a great shorter activity, especially for younger children. Try to go out every night to observe the moon and record what you see in a notebook. Discuss the changes you see! Pair with nonfiction and fiction books about the moon and night sky!
Ghosts in the graveyard
This game is a favorite of my kids! It is a fun twist on hide and seek and tag! Here are some great directions on how to play https://www.wikihow.com/Play-Ghost-in-the-Graveyard.
Is there anything better than a campfire? Make sure that campfires are allowed where you plan to have one. I suggest starting when it is still light out. Have children collect sticks and fallen wood. Making treats such as hot cocoa, popcorn, hotdogs, or ash cakes also adds to the fun!
Here is an excellent use for holiday lights! String your lights around your backyard to light up an area to play. This works exceptionally well if you have a swingset or treehouse! Fences, bushes, trees, and decks also work well. Stringing lights up gives makes playing in the backyard totally different!
This activity requires a little preparation. Shadow puppets are shapes (person, animal) made from thin cardboard and taped onto a stick. I suggest making a few puppets the day of and then taking them out for a puppet show when it is dark! For the show, you will need a flashlight and a flat light colored surface (side of the house or a sheet pinned or hung up). Shine the flashlight on the sheet and hold the puppets carefully in front of the light. You will see the shape on the light-colored surface. Here is an excellent tutorial.
We don’t have this LED Frisbee yet, but it looks like a great way to play outside in the dark any time of the year! They also make light-up versions of basketballs and volleyballs!
Kids love to perform! By putting on a performance, skit, or talent show at night, kids can experience being in a spotlight right in the backyard! Use a strong flashlight to spotlight the performer on the “stage.” If you want more time to prepare, let your attendees know about your plans to have a “show” so they can prepare!
I hope these ideas help you get outside this winter! What are your favorite ways to play outside in the dark?
My new book Wild Learning: Practical Ideas to Bring Teaching Outdoors will be published in April 2023 and is available for preorder! It is full of ways to help teachers and homeschoolers take learning outside in any setting!