Scary Sleepover Games: Harmful or Harmless?

Paige Geis Bradshaw

For many kids, making it through their first sleepover with friends is an essential rite of passage. Pizza and soda for dinner, popcorn and movies before bed, and to make the night complete, some scary sleepover games!

While most of these classic children’s games are harmless, they may leave a more serious impact on younger kids and children who struggle with anxiety or fear.

If you want to send your child on a sleepover without these worries, read on for scary sleepover games to watch out for, tips for helping your child handle them, and alternative sleepover games they can play instead.

What Are Some Scary Sleepover Games?

When your child comes home from a sleepover with their friends, you’ll naturally want to hear all about it. As you listen, you may be surprised to hear that some of the games they played are the same ones you played as a kid!

On the other hand, kids are creative and thinking up new ways to play all the time. Here are some of the most popular scary sleepover games today’s kids love to play:

Bloody Mary

This one is simple, but it can be scary. Each child takes turns going into a room with a mirror on their own. They then turn off the lights, face the mirror, and repeat “bloody Mary” three times.

If she doesn’t appear in the mirror after that, the child must turn around three times and see if she shows up then. Those who have claimed to see her say she looks like a witch!

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board

This game requires one child to lie on their back on the floor, while the other children kneel around them. All the children then place two fingers from each hand underneath the child on their back, each chanting “light as a feather, stiff as a board” while trying to lift the child into the air.

After repeating this a few times, it’s said that the children may see the child on their back drift upwards as if they’re light as a feather!

The Midnight Game

To play this creepy game, each child will write their full name on a piece of paper and place it in front of a wooden door. Then, a lit candle will need to be placed on each piece of paper. Before midnight, the children must knock on the door 22 times with the 22nd knock being exactly at midnight. Then, they’ll blow out the candles and open the door.

Legend says that by doing this, the children have let The Midnight Man into the world. He disappears at 3:33 AM. He’s believed to be close when he blows out a candle in a child’s hands; if the candle won’t ignite again, the child must sprinkle salt around themselves for protection.

Ouija Board

Covered in numbers and letters, a Ouija board is supposedly a way to communicate with the dead. Players place their hands on the board’s pointer, then ask questions aloud. If a spirit is nearby and wants to respond, the spirit will move the board’s pointer to spell out answers.

The Pencil Game

To play this game, each child will draw an “X” on a piece of paper. Two sides of the “X” must say “yes” and the other two must say “no.” Then, each child will put two pencils over the “X” and address a ghost named Charlie. If the children ask “Charlie, Charlie, are you here?” and one of the pencils rolls to a “yes” on the paper, then a ghost is supposedly in their presence.

The Triple Mirror Game

In this game, children light a candle and place it on the floor of any room with a door. They will then line up three mirrors in a way that reflects the door into each mirror. Rumor has it that this arrangement—along with the candle—will create glimpses of a ghost in one of the mirrors.

Dangers of Scary Sleepover Games for Little Ones

These games aren’t your basic board games or classic card games. In fact, they can be quite detrimental to little ones who are still learning how to regulate their emotions, discern right from wrong, and listen to their inner voice.

Some sleepover games involve playing in the street, lighting candles, or attempting to summon ghosts. In addition to the potential physical harm young children may suffer as a consequence, the object of these games can also spark substantial fear.

To any adult, silly sleepover games are just that: silly. But to children who don’t yet know any better, these games can feel very real and cause stress or anxiety.

It may be time to talk to your child about their sleepover experience if they’re displaying any of the following signs:

  • Abnormal eating habits
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawn
  • Being unusually clingy
  • Having separation anxiety
  • Changes in sleeping patterns

How to Help Older Kids Handle Scary Sleepover Games

Older children—especially those who’ve already been to a sleepover or two—are less likely to be as emotionally impacted by scary sleepover games. Even still, many children—no matter their age—hesitate to speak up if they feel uncomfortable and don’t know how to suggest other options instead.

Before they head to their next sleepover, chat with your child about what they can do if they don’t want to play scary sleepover games:

  • Keep the lights on. There’s something about the dark that makes things super scary. Tell your child to suggest leaving the lights on if the game seems too frightening.
  • Lighten up with humor. When a game feels a little heavy, encourage your child to use their sense of humor to lighten the load!
  • Shut it down before it begins. If your child knows right away that a game will be too scary for their taste, boost their confidence to shut it down immediately. If the group wants to carry on, let your child know they can sit that one out!
  • Use their voice. No matter what your child is feeling about a game, empowering them to use their voice and speak up is a lesson they’ll remember all their life. Plus, as they find it easier to use their voice, they can speak for their hesitant friends, too.

Fear-Free Sleepover Games for Kids

Sleepover games don’t have to be scary to be fun. When it’s your child’s turn to host a sleepover, try these fear-free sleepover games for kids:

Blind Makeovers

While this one may be most enjoyed by girls, anyone can play this game!

This game can be played two ways. In one way, the person doing someone’s makeup must be blindfolded while doing it. Contrarily, the person getting their makeup done can’t look until it’s completed.

Flashlight Tag

Flashlight tag is just like traditional tag, but with beams of light! If the light hits you, you’re out.

This game can be played inside or outside. As long as it’s dark enough to see the flashlight, it doesn’t matter where you play!

Musical Sleeping Bags

If you’ve heard of musical chairs, then you’ll adapt to musical sleeping bags no problem.

Arrange the group’s sleeping bags into a circle. Play some music, then when the music stops, everyone must dash to a sleeping bag. Whoever doesn’t make it to a sleeping bag is out!

With each round, remove a sleeping bag. There should always be one less sleeping bag as there are people playing the game. The person who lands on the last sleeping bag wins!


This game is almost the opposite of hide and seek. One person hides while the rest of the group searches for them. When the hiding spot is found, you stay there until only one person is left trying to find it!

Two Truths and a Lie

If you’re a bad liar, this game is not the game for you!

Form a circle with your group. Each person will say three things about themselves: two are true, and one is a lie. Then, everyone in the circle tries to guess which statement is the lie!

Would You Rather

This game will leave the group laughing! Each person will take turns asking each other what they would rather do. For example: Would you rather eat crickets or spiders?

Usually, the two choices are either equally bad or totally ridiculous. However you play, it’ll be a fun one!