Play in the Dark – 10 Ideas

3 November 2013 · 7 comments

in 10 Outdoor Ideas Series, Early Years Outdoors, Outdoor Play, Science Outdoors, Urban

The clocks have gone back an hour. This now gives us great opportunities to enjoy the dark nights. Playing outside in the dark helps children use all their senses and learn:

  •      How animals and plants behave in the night time
  •      How to be safe outside in the dark – what to wear, how to look after oneself, how to seek help if needed
  •      About the different seasons and changes such as the days getting shorter
  •      That the dark is not always truly dark – different shades of darkness exist

One of the most enjoyable community activities is to hold a Star Party, to learn about the night sky. Read this blog post for more information. Meanwhile enjoy the activities suggested below…

shadow silhouette

1) Watch the Sunset

The best way to learn about the stars is to watch them appear on a clear night just after the sun sets. Get a comfy insulation mat, snuggle into a sleeping back, lie down on your back and watch the show! Look out for man-made flying objects and UFOs too. There are lots of astronomy apps which can be used to assist you in identifying the constellations.

As the sun goes down, it can also be a perfect time to explore silhouettes and enjoy the outlines of different landscape features. Or creating the perfect pose 🙂


2) Moonlight Shadows

On a bright clear winter’s night when there is a full moon or thereabouts, go for a walk in a park or other place where you can look at the shadows made by the moon. In what way do they differ from sun shadows?


3) Adjust your Eyes

It’s easy to go glitzy and bring on the light festivals when it’s dark. Arguably, we miss more action than we see when torches, fires, lights and lanterns are present. They stop our eyes from adjusting to the dark. Go for a light free walk in a natural space where there are no street lights and see the world of darkness. Is it as dark as you thought? It is a good idea to choose a path which everyone has walked beforehand in day time and have a torch, just in case.


4) Nocturnal Minibeasts

Use a torch and Investigate tree stumps, log piles and other places where minibeasts congregate. Look underneath stones and logs. There may be lots of minibeast activity happening. Who are the night time party animals?  Look and see what happens when a light is shined on these places. Often it is the scurrying of minibeasts which gives a clue to their existence. Do an experiment to find out whether minibeasts prefer light or dark places to live. Design a fair test.


5) Be a Nocturnal Animal

Find out about animals which are nocturnal. Look for evidence of nocturnal animals, e.g. foxes, badgers, owls, bats, etc. Remind people to wear quiet clothes which do not rustle and footwear which doesn’t clomp. Is it possible to move silently along at night? How does this feel?


6) Become Invisible

Is it true that if you close your eyes you become invisible? Does it depend upon whether it’s night or day? Experiment with a friend. Does the dark dim people’s outlines?


7) Shiny, Happy People

Decorate yourself with lots of reflective material, glow sticks, freebie wrist bands and dangly reflectors. Make sure that you really light up the streets when cars pass or you walk under a lamp. Is it better to be dripping with reflectors or to just wear reflective material and items in one or two places on your body?


8) Light Trails

Along a path or in your outdoor space, hide reflective bands and discs. Let your friends see if they can find the exact amount by searching for them with torches.


9) Light Lanterns

Create little lanterns from glass jars or willow withies and paper. Decide where is the best place to hang them outside. What are the pros and cons of using torches versus tea lights? The light source will affect the type of lantern which can be made. Snow lanterns are a lot of fun too. Do a Google search for some wonderful images.


10) Shadow Puppets

Create a shadow puppet theatre in the dark. What materials will you need? Where is the best place to position a torch? What material creates the best effect? It can be a lot of fun, if our bodies are the puppets…

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Lilinha Espindula November 3, 2013 at 12:59

Lots of lovely ideas, I’m sure little man would like most of them, especially making himself shiny! #countrykids x


Juliet Robertson November 4, 2013 at 13:07

Thanks Lilinha – you are right – most children do like making themselves very shiny!


Coombemill November 4, 2013 at 12:16

Some wonderful ideas there for night time play. Perfect at this time of the year too. We have just been having our Halloween celebrations which ran into lots of nighttime fun. Thank you for sharing some great ideas on Country Kids


Juliet Robertson November 4, 2013 at 13:08

Yes – your Halloween photos were great. For anyone who wants a look, see the post here:


jag planetpals November 4, 2013 at 12:52

Always great ideas. great earth science ideas. would love to share on google+ but dont see a button!


Juliet Robertson November 4, 2013 at 13:11

Thanks for your feedback. The G+ button is below every post along with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Stumble Upon, etc.

The three big buttons at the top LH column just go to my FB, Twitter and Pinterest pages.

What I really miss is the Joliprint pdf button – sadly the company that did this folded earlier this year and it was so handy.


Emma @ P is for Preschooler November 20, 2013 at 21:10

I never thought about all these ways to play in the dark! Since it’s getting dark so early now these will come in handy!


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