Family Winter Play After Dark

Family Winter Play After Dark

Getting outside at night offers a sense of calm after a busy day with the kiddos. Family winter play after dark can help calm some of the busiest bodies.

The dark sky, the quiet street, the freshly fallen snow and the crisp night make for a relaxing breath of fresh air and some time to clear the mind (especially if you head out after bedtime for a few moments of “me” time).

There is something about being outside during winter nights that just makes me happy. My all time favorite time to run is at night, after a freshly fallen snow.

The fresh snow makes everything so quiet and the low clouds make everything brighter, making for a truly peaceful run.

Take Advantage of the Night

With winter here we have shorter days and longer nights so, just because it is dark outside doesn’t mean you need to stay inside.

Winter brings an average of 14-16 hours of darkness each day. It might be easy to stay inside because it is dark out, but so much fun can be had when you take advantage of the longer nights.

We hope these activities, tips, and gear suggestions help you to have fun with your family and stay safe while getting outside in the winter night.

Looking for more ways to beat the winter blues? Here are 9 ways to beat the winter blues. You can also check out ALL our winter posts here (we hope some will encourage you to embrace the cold and just get out!)

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Watch a sunrise or sunset as a family

One of the perks to longer nights is later sunrises and earlier sunsets. Unlike summer where you might have to be up at 4:00AM to see the sun come up, during winter you can sleep in a few extra hours and still catch a beautiful winter sunrise.

Summer sunsets can keep kids out way past their bedtime, but winter sunsets happen before some of us even have dinner!

Bundle up the family and head out to catch a sunset with some hot cocoa in hand before settling in for the night. I like to use to check out the sunrise, sunset, or moon phases.

Team Member Kristin’s kids enjoying a winter sunset in Alaska.

Go play under the full moon in the dark

A full moon and a snowy landscape can make for a bright night. This is a great time to get out and go for a snowshoe, hike, bike ride or even go sledding.

The bright moon often gives off enough light that you don’t even need to use an extra light to see. It’s simply magical.

See a whole new sky with a new moon

Opposite the full moon, the new moon is when no moon is visible from Earth, meaning dark and starry nights. Grab a star chart and head out of town to a spot where there is minimal light pollution and check out the sky.

Look for shooting stars, constellations, or even the aurora borealis!

You can bundle up and hike to a good spot or view from a cozy car, especially if you have one of those panoramic moon roofs. Just don’t forget to be courteous to other night sky viewers and make sure you keep your headlights off once you are parked.

Wondering where a good, dark place might be? Look here to see if you have a Dark Sky Park nearby.

Get Out and Play in the Dark

It doesn’t matter when or how you do it, but getting outside and playing is a great way to spend time together as a family. Here are some games and activities you can do under the winter night sky.

Nighttime Capture the Flag

This summer time classic has gone to the night. Check out this glow in the dark version of capture the flag. Then, grab your family and friends, set up your territories and get playing…in the dark!

Enjoy a glow or candlelit event

Many nature preserves or parks often have winter glow or candlelit hikes/snowshoes/XC ski events you can attend.

Ask your local nature center, preserve, or local park system if they offer any events like these. If not, you can always make your own using some of the gear below. Glowsticks are always a hit with kids.

Team Member Jami out on a snowy glow hike with her daughters at their local nature preserve.

Flashlight tag

This summer night classic game can be played all year round. All you need is some space and flashlights. Check out lights we recommend below.

Night skiing (downhill skiing, snowboarding, or cross-country)

Check with your local resorts or ski areas to see what night skiing options are available. They may have lighted downhill and/or lighted cross-country ski areas. They may even have some special events like glow or candlelit.

Team Member Valerie’s kids Nordic skiing by the light of the nearby resort.

Nighttime scavenger hunt

Jot down some things or animals you may see or hear in the night sky. Next, get dressed, grab a flashlight and head outside to see what you can find or hear. This can be tailored to all ages and abilities.

Winter Bingo

For more ideas for outdoor games and toys, check out our Ultimate Outdoor Games & Toys Gift Guide.

Feeling a bit more adventurous and want to get out and go winter camping? Check out this post for some tips and tricks: Winter Camping for Families

Light Up the Night All Winter Long

Winter nights can get dark, early. So, check out the items below to help you stay safe, light the way and have some fun when the sun goes down!

Team Member Jami and her pup Reece all lit up for a run.

Reusable Glow Sticks

The possibilities are endless with some glow sticks. Let the kids run around with them, make snow ghosts, or just put them under the snow for some nighttime fun.

Noxgear Tracer 360 Vest

With a variety of color settings to choose from and a reflective band, the noxgear vest will make sure you are seen when you are out in the dark. Great for nighttime walks and runs. Not suited for rough play as the light loops could be damaged. They even have a Lighthound version for your furry friend.

LED Safety Lights

These lights are handy to attach to almost anything, bikes, strollers, kids. They have a built in clip or come with velcro straps to loop around. Three light colors and three settings: steady, fast strobe, slow flash.

Black Diamond Wiz Headlamp

A favorite headlamp among a few of our kids here on the blog. Its kid friendly design is easy to use and the multi-color LED light is a kid favorite. Strap one on your kid’s head and they might stay out all night.

Cycle Torch Rechargeable Bike Light

This bright light is perfect for attaching to a stroller, kick sled, or your bike. It has three brightness settings and a strobe setting.

Brilliant Stick-On Reflective Strips

These strips are great for adding reflective details to helmets, bikes, strollers, jackets, shoes, or anywhere else! They come in a few colors and are meant to last through the wash.

Light Up Your Backyard

Grab some string lights and decorate your back yard, swing set, or play area. Everything is always more fun under twinkle lights! You can run an extension cord or get some solar or battery powered lights.

Photo courtesy of Kasie Gates

Just Get Out!

Just because its dark, doesn’t mean you still can’t have some fun. Now that you have some ideas for things to do or ways to light up, get out and play under the night sky! Don’t forget to share your adventures with us!

Burley trailer with the LED safety lights.

Related Articles:

Play in the dark as a family all winter long

Feature photo courtesy of Lisa Stockie.

© 2020, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.


  • Jami and her husband Greg were born and raised in Michigan, but now call Appleton, WI home. They have two little girls, Kylie and Nora, and two Springer pups, Reece and Lucie. They love getting out as a family camping, hiking, hunting, running, biking, and just playing outside. Jami and her family love spending free time in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula looking for adventure. Jami mostly stays home with her girls but also works part-time as an Athletic Trainer and a Personal Trainer. She also enjoys helping other families get outside as much as possible.

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