Scary Games to Play at a Sleepover

By Erica Loop
Kids can pretend to be spooky monsters while playing a ghoulish game.
Kids can pretend to be spooky monsters while playing a ghoulish game.

The gang's gathering at your house for a sleepover, and now you’re in charge of the entertainment. You could set the kids down in front the TV to watch a movie. But, that’s not exactly the most engaging party play idea possible. Instead, let the ghosts and ghouls loose with a scary game or two. From ghastly ghost stories to murder mysteries, keep your party guests on their toes with some spooky sleepover fun.

Ghost Stories

Even though ghost stories aren’t exactly games, you can turn these spooky tales into a more action-oriented adventure. Instead of just telling the kids a story, try a do-it-yourself game of mad libs. This is an easy, and engaging, game for kids in grade school and up. Since the children need to know what the different parts of language – such as noun, verb or adjective – are, this isn’t an idea for very young children who haven’t started school yet. Pick your favorite ghost story, type it up and take out some of the key words. Substitute a blank and what type of word should go in the space -- for example, proper noun, pronoun, verb or adjective. Before reading the story, go through the list of words needed by type. After the kids give you their words, read the story using them.

If you have younger guests, try acting out a mildly spooky story with a friendly ghost or goofy ghoul. Use props and costumes to create playfully dramatic scenes

Spooky Scavenger Hunt

A spooky scavenger hunt is a sleepover game that you can adapt for kids of all ages. Set up props throughout the house or outside in the yard. Hang ghost cutouts or foam balls covered with sheets, plastic toy bats, jack o’ lanterns, plastic skeletons or have the adults play parts such as ghoul or vampire. Every station, or adult actor, has a clue that tells the kids where to go next. Make your own creative clues that point the kids in the right direction without coming straight-out and saying where to go. For example, a clue that directs the hunters to a jack o’ lantern may say, “Find me! I’ve got a face, but no body. I’ve got a fire within, but I’m not warm.”

Make the last stop on the scary scavenger hunt a prize. Set out a witch’s cauldron of candy or mini pumpkins that you paint gold, silver and bronze for the first, second and third place winners or end the hunt with a special activity.

Mystery Play

Tweens and teens can set the stage for a scary murder mystery event. Ask the guests to dress in costumes, sending out character cards before the sleepover. Create story or use your child’s favorite literary thriller. Make clues that lead the characters to "who done it." If you’re looking for a storyline that appeals to teens, check out the annual Edgar Awards. Named for Edgar Allan Poe, this award from the Mystery Writers of America goes to the year’s best young adult mysteries. Deck out your house with props and dress in a costume yourself.

Monster Character Games

Younger kids can also get in the acting game. Instead of a more mature murder mystery, preschool and grade school-aged children can play a game of spooky character tag. The child who is "it" pretends to be a ghost, Frankenstein or another monster and chases the other kids. Another option is to play a variation of freeze tag. After getting tagged, the children must turn into scary monsters instead of freezing.

You can also play other spooky character games. Have the children pretend to be monsters as they go through an obstacle course that is filled with faux spider webs or try a monster movement relay race. Keep it more friendly than frightful to make sure that no one gets scared for real. Clearly state the rules, asking that no one yell, growl or "boo" in anyone else’s face.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.