Who’s in? 5 Kids’ Games at the Cottage from Flashlight Tag…to the Dogman

August 22, 2022
5 games to play at the cottage
A tiny firefly lights up at dusk in a field of tall grass.

It’s the perfect summer night – the sound of the kids laughing, not a screen in sight, and the family playing together. When you finally make your way to the summer cottage or find yourself with everyone home on a summer night, here are 5 games to keep the family unplugged and offline!

Catching fireflies.

Who doesn’t love to see that sudden flash of gold on a summer night – the fireflies are out! Fireflies (sometimes called lightning bugs) can be found May through September, and if you’ve never caught a firefly in a mason jar, you have to try!

Turn off all the outdoor lights, grab a flashlight and a jar, and head out into the night. Stay calm and they will usually flutter right around you. To attract fireflies closer, try clicking your flashlight on and off in a way that mimics their light pattern. Some people recommend putting blue paper over your flashlight, as it supposedly attracts them even more. You can usually catch them by simply cupping them in your hands (carefully!) or using a butterfly net.

Once you have caught one, place it in the jar and watch it dance through the glass. Try putting a slice of apple and a handful of grass in the bottom of the jar to create a temporary little home for your fireflies to climb and play on. Remember to only keep them for a short while and release them before you go to bed!

Flashlight Tag

Ah, a classic! This game is just like it sounds – here’s a Grandpa Shorter’s blog with rules to play by. And here are two other flashlight games to play:

Flashlight Limbo – use the beam of light (instead of a pole) to limbo under. Compete to see who can go lowest and not topple over backwards!

Shadow Charades – create animal shapes with your hands in the light. Try making a “dog” or “bunny” silhouette in the light. Make sure the “dog” is close enough to “chomp” the “bunny”!

Ghost Stories (or The Dogman Song, if you dare)

Games to play at the cottage. Image shows classic marbles from Grandpa Shorters Gifts

Grab a Michigan ghost stories book at the beloved Petoskey bookshop, McLean & Eakin, to read around the campfire. Or… if you dare… have you heard of The Legend of the Dogman? This song is local folklore about an unearthly dog that walks upright in the Northern Michigan woods.

Play the song for the kids, in the dark, around the campfire. (Preview this first for younger kiddos – it is quite spooky!) Listen for mentions of little towns you’ve been to in Michigan. If you’re truly in it to win it, instruct someone to scamper through the woods on all fours, in the distance, halfway through the song. (Just kidding, don’t do this! You will never be forgiven.)

Classics like Grandpa played

No childhood is complete without a game of jacks or marbles. You can find assorted games at Grandpa Shorter’s Gifts that take the kids back in time – and perhaps give them a chance to learn a thing or two from the older generation. Or pull out a deck of cards, sit outside on a picnic table and play games by lantern light. Games everyone can play are War, Crazy 8s or, if you really want the kids to argue, Old Maid. (Use the Queen of Hearts as the Old Maid if you are using a regular deck of cards.)

Yahtzee – to remember!

Yahtzee is another classic that every kind needs to learn how to play. But – try this! Start a tradition of writing each person’s highest score on the inside of the game’s cardboard box. Date it and thereafter, everyone has a chance to “win” against themselves – and each other. Keep updating the high score over the years. Plus, for laughs, never use your real name on the scorecards. “Yahtzee Queen” might work for the moms – and the kids will love coming up with their own fun names. Then tuck the used scorecards back in the box as keepsakes. Someday you’ll be sorting through them and laughing, remembering the phase each kid was in at the time and laugh at their young handwriting

. For Yahtzee variations, let players have a “mulligan” each game, or roll four times each turn instead of three. For real action, play a speed round and see how fast you can finish a game, competing over 3 different attempts. The dice (and fun!) will be flying!

Enjoy being together as a family – with these fun (and spooky!) ideas!