top 10 neighborhood night games for kids and families to play


If you’re lucky and live in a fun, safe, kid-filled neighborhood, night games could happen spontaneously and often.

We have a farm and our nearest neighbors are a good stretch of the legs down the road, though, so there aren’t usually many kids to play with, unless we make a concerted effort to invite friends over. When we do, though, we have a blast!

And sometimes, we play them ourselves, since just our family is enough people for a pickup game of basketball, tag or kickball. However it happens, night games are one of the highlights of our summers.

Some of these are best played before the sun goes down, and others are more fun in the dark. Here is a list of our favorites:


1. Sardines. One person (or a pair if the players are young) goes out to hide, while everyone else counts to 50. Then everyone else finds the hidden person and hides with them. So it’s kind of like reverse hide-and-seek, and you usually end up with a huge group of people smushed into a small space, thus the name.

2. Mission impossible. My kids made this game up, and it is super fun! Before beginning, decide on an obstacle course through your play zone. For example, in our yard our kids choose to:

  • start at the corner of the patio
  • walk (or run!) along the patio wall to the fort
  • climb up the slide and jump off the other side
  • run around the garden
  • touch the truck
  • touch the fence

Once the course is decided, ‘it’ stands someplace that they have a pretty good view of most of the course and shouts “Mission Impossible!”. ‘It’ then closes his eyes and counts to 20 loudly enough for all of the runners to hear. At the count of 20 everyone has to drop and hide. The runners should always be thinking strategically and be near a bush to jump inside or a vehicle to drop behind. It should also be a decently large course. ‘It’ opens his eyes and tries to spot someone. If he does he has to yell the runners name and location, and then the runner will be out. Repeat over and over until someone reaches the final destination and shouts “Mission Concluded.” The winner becomes the new it.

3. Kick the can. One person is designated ‘It’ and an empty can is placed in the open playing field. With eyes closed, ‘It’ counts to an agreed upon number, and the other players run and hide. ‘It’ then tries to find and tag each of the players, always keeping a watchful eye on the can. Any player who is tagged is sent to the “jail,” usually in plain sight of the can. The rest of the free players attempt to kick the can before being tagged out. If they can kick the can without being caught, they set all the captured players free.

4. Cops and Robbers. The objective is for the robbers to get from point A to point B without being captured by the cops. This is especially fun if you have an entire farm to play in, or you could play through a neighborhood, with the permission of all the neighbors. First choose a starting point and an ending point, a significant distance away from the ending point. Choose two players to be the cops. Everyone else is a robber. Starting at point A, the cops give the robbers a 1-minute head start toward the final destination. The cops are equipped with flashlights and roam the streets searching for the fugitives as they run and hide their way to point B. When a robber is captured by the cops, they then help search for the remaining robbers. The winner is the first robber to get to point B. You could make it more interesting by enforcing certain boundaries or routes, or a time limit.

5. Flashlight Tag. One person is ‘it’ and has a flashlight. Everyone runs away from ‘it’ while ‘it’ counts to 10. Then ‘it’ runs around and tries to find everyone. Once you are caught in the light of the flashlight, you are caught. The last person to be tagged by the light wins and the person that was tagged first is ‘it’ next.

6. Ghost in the Graveyard. The object of the game is to find the ghost – a player who is hiding.  The player who finds the ghost’s hiding spot, yells “Ghost in the Graveyard” to alert the other players.  The player who finds the ghost is safe.  All the other players must race back to base.  The ghost tries to tag someone before they do and that player is ‘it’ for the next game.

 7. Alien Invasion. You need a large field or neighborhood to run through. Designate a gathering area (a shed or a porch or something) as the objective. Pass out glow sticks to everyone but the alien(s). If you have a large group you could choose several aliens. The glow sticks must be worn visibly, not hidden. The townspeople start at the farthest spot from the designated gathering area, wearing their glow sticks and try to make their way to the gathering spot without being caught. If caught, the alien takes their glow stick and they join the aliens. Aliens don’t wear glowsticks.

8. Stop the Smuggler. Find a “jewel” (a unique rock) to use. It should be small enough to hide in your hand. Define an area for play and divide your group into two teams – the Smugglers and the Coast Guard. One of the Smugglers is given the rock. The Smugglers try to go from one end of the playing field to the other without being tagged by a member of the Coast Guard. If they are tagged, they must show both opened hands and sit until the round is over. The Smugglers may pass the “jewel” to each other as often as they like but must carry it in one hand at all times. When the Smuggler with the jewel is found, the round ends and the game begins again, with the Smugglers and the Coast Guard changing places.

9. 1-2-3 Pickle. Choose 2 safe zones at opposite ends of a large field. One person is ‘it’ and stands in the space between to the two safe zones. ‘It’ shouts 1-2-3 Pickle and all of the players run from the safe zone they are in to the opposite safe zone, while ‘it’ tries to tag them. Anyone tagged stands where they were tagged, feet glued into that position, but may lean and use arms to tag runners in subsequent rounds. This game is just the right speed for little people.

10. Firefly Hide and Seek. Use a small pocket flashlight for this fun version of hide and seek. One person is the firefly and hides in the dark while the other players count to fifty. The firefly moves around from hiding spot to hiding spot turning the flashlight quickly on and off again every minute or so. When someone catches the firefly, they grab a flashlight and become a firefly, too, until eventually everyone is a firefly. The last person to become a firefly is the next rounds first firefly.




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