Night Time Fun!
Nighttime games can liven things up—and maybe boost mental health. For most children the dark is a scary place. When the lights go out, imaginations run wild and our visual and auditory senses become more active. Since the connections between the Amygdala and Frontal Cortex, which are associated with regulating emotion, develop through early childhood and teen years, over time children are better able to manage their responses to more intimidating situations. Engaging in activities that are mildly risky, or scary can be especially helpful in a child’s chaotic life, as well as mentally preparing them to take bigger, more necessary risks when they enter adulthood.
Parents can help their children build these skills through different types of play in the dark. If there is structure and supervision within these activities, it is easier for children to feel safe.
Here are some fun after dark activities that your child will enjoy:
- Flashlight Tag: This is similar to the traditional game of ‘Tag’ except, the person that is ‘it’ uses a flashlight to tag other players ‘out.’ This can be modified where all players have flashlights and you must touch a player with the light to get them ‘out.’
- Sardines: Think of it as hide-and-seek backwards. Choose one person to be ‘it.’ The other players count to 20 while ‘it’ hides. Using flashlights, the players look for the hidden person. As each person finds ‘it,’ they hide alongside the person that is hiding. The last person the find the hider is ‘it’ in the next round.
- Glow-in-the-dark Games: Use the glow-in-the-dark paint, pens, stickers, or glow-sticks to play simple games like hopscotch, hula hoops, limbo, scavenger hunt, or bowling in the dark.
- Shadow Puppets: Use either a wall, or a fence and set up flashlights facing the ‘screen.’ Children can experiment with their hands to make the multitude of animals, or cut out figures and glue them to popsicle sticks to move through the light.
- Catch Fireflies: Catch fireflies carefully, treat them gently and release them into the wild when you’re done, and you’ll be able to enjoy these fascinating creatures without causing any harm. Always place them in a “ventilated” container and never keep them for more than a day.
- Make Smores: With adult supervision, children can make Smores or roast hotdogs over a camp fire.
- Dance in the Dark: Play music your children enjoy. Announce it is time to dance, then yell “Freeze.” All must freeze in the middle of their dance moves. Then shine flashlights on the children to show their funny poses to all.
- Star Gazing: Set up lawn chairs, blankets or sleeping bags away from lights and large trees and look up at the stars. There are mobile phone apps that tell you what you are looking at when you point your camera at a particular set of stars. Also, ask your children to tell you what shapes they see in the stars.
Night time activities for children have many benefits. One benefit is helping them think about risk while making it fun. This will help your child understand they are capable of doing more than they think!