Lock-ins are events that many Kid’s Ministries don’t even attempt because they can seem difficult or daunting, but they don’t have to be scary if they are scheduled and organized. We plan one or two lock-ins each year, and the kids always ask when the next one is coming. Our budget for this event was $400 at first, but we ended up having a lot more kids than we expected so it went up to about $750. We always aim for covering the majority of our cost by charging $10 per child. We increase the cost to $15 per child for late registration one week prior to the event. We don’t ask our leaders to pay since they are giving their time and energy to serve our kids. First-time guests are always free at our events to encourage kids to invite their unchurched friends. We had 8 first-time guests, 66 kids total, and 8 leaders at this lock-in so I would say that it was pretty successful. Instead of going through the entire schedule, I’m going to focus on the theme, food, and activities/games. If you are interested in seeing a full schedule for planning your own lock-in you can reference my fear-factor-lock-in-schedule. It is very detailed, including a full service.
We decided to use our theme we had been using for the month of October for our lock-in as well. We have been doing a series called “Fearless”, helping kids learn how to face their fears with God’s help. We will be releasing our 6-week Fearless curriculum this month. For our fearless theme, we drew ideas from some common fears kids have, i.e. spiders, snakes, darkness, rats, etc. We had a lot of fun creating some kid-friendy “fear factor” games/activities. We were able to use our October set design props and decorations for the service time. Check out my Fearless Set Design post for details on all of the decorations for this event.
For the outdoor games, we split the kids into two groups since we had so many kids. We sent one group outside for games and the other group inside for the indoor activities. I would suggest sending your younger kids outside first because they will get tired the soonest. The older kids will enjoy running around outside in the dark. These games are meant to be played in the dark, so we have no pictures of these games.
Outdoor Game 1: Glow Hide and Seek
Items to purchase: For this game, you will need enough glow bracelets for each kid playing the game. I bought mine in packs of eight at the Dollar Tree.
How to play: Separate kids into teams and choose one team to be the seekers, and one group to be the hiders for the first round. Count your hiders before you begin the game to make sure you have all of them at the end of the round. The seekers should receive a glow bracelet to wear. The seekers will be timed to see how long it takes them to find all the hiders. The seekers must close their eyes for 30 seconds while the hiders hide anywhere in the designated area. Leaders should be posted at doors and exits to keep all kids in the designated area. The seekers must find all of the hiders for the game to be over. Play again switching the teams and time them again. The team with the shortest time wins.
Outdoor Game 2: Glow in the Dark Dodge Ball
Items to purchase: I purchased five of these glow in the dark dodge balls from Amazon. I have used them many times in the dark and under black-light and love how they glow. They are high-quality, and I have never seen them break or tear. You will also need some small cones to designate the sides for your teams.
How to play: Separate kids into teams in a big field or large room. Put cones across the middle of the field/room to mark off the teams. Place the glow in the dark dodge balls between the cones. Play like normal dodge ball. Play until most or all of one team is out.
Service Game 1: Would You Rather (Activities)
Items to purchase: You can purchase these cheap buzzers on Amazon for this game, or just have kids raise their hands. You will need a lot of little items for this game, but they are all extremely affordable. For the first activity, you will need gummy worms and gummy boogers. Dollar Tree sells gummy boogers during the fall season, but if you can’t find them, you could use any green gummy candy or green apple sugar daddy candies for this activity. For the second activity, you will need fake spiders and ice. For the third activity, you will need brussel sprouts, pudding, and gummy snakes. You can find gummy twin snakes at the Dollar Tree in the candy section. I have also seen them at Walmart. For the fourth activity, you will need takis chips and a 4-pack of toilet paper. I purchased both of these items at the Dollar Tree. For the fifth activity, you will need gummy spiders or plastic spiders, cotton candy, and chips. You can usually find cotton candy at the Dollar Tree.
How to play: Choose two kids for each round. Have the kids stand behind the buzzers on the table. The leader will read the question and then the kids can buzz in. Whoever buzzes in first gets to choose what they do, the other kid must do the same challenge to make it fair. The first kid to complete their challenge wins the round. Keep playing with different kids until you run out of challenges.
Would you Rather Questions/Activities:
- Would you rather eat worms or boogers? (No food allergies this round)
Activity: Eating gummy worms or gummy boogers
- Would you rather have frozen toes or frozen fingers? (Anyone can play)
Activity: Pulling fake spiders out of a pan of ice using only their hands or feet
- Would you rather find troll toes or snake with your teeth? (No food allergies this round)
Activity: Pulling brussel sprouts out of water with only your mouth, or pulling gummy snakes out of pudding with only your mouth
- Would you rather be mummified or burned from the inside out? (no food allergies this round)
Activity: Pick two kids from each team to cover the kid in toilet paper as much as possible in 1 minute or eat as many Takis chips as you can in 1 minute.
- Would you rather pull spiders out of cobwebs or walk on broken glass? (no food allergies this round)
Activity: Eat gummy spiders out of cotton candy or walk across chips the fastest.
Service Game 2: Bucket of Fear
Items to purchase: You will need a small bucket for your “bucket of fear”. I purchase all of my buckets at the Dollar Tree. I used a green bucket for this game and taped a sign that said bucket of fear on the bucket. You will need a lot of weird and yummy foods for this game. Here is the list of foods I purchased: gummy worms, gummy eyeballs, banana baby food, peas baby food, Oreos, yogurt, raw broccoli, small Hershey’s bars, sour cream, tapioca, and raw onions. Feel free to change up the foods, and use whatever you want for this
How to play: Have a table set up with all the food on it, spoons, and the Bucket of Fear. Pick two kids from each team to play who really want to eat anything for each round. No food allergies for this game. The kids will have to take turns drawing a paper out of the bucket of fear. They will have to eat at least one spoonful of whatever is on the paper to receive points for their team. If they can’t eat it, the other team can choose to eat the food for the points. Keep going until all the papers have been drawn. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Indoor Activity 1: Monster Bingo
Items to purchase: You will need to purchase a lot of candy to use as bingo markers. I filled small cups with candy corn and pumpkins since I did this lock-in during October (fall), but you could also use M&M’s or any other small candy for this game. I used these monster bingo sheets for this game and created slides using Canva to use as my master call sheet. We had to cut the bingo sheets up and mix up the order of the monsters to use with such a large group since there are only six unique bingo cards. It was a little annoying, but the kids loved this game.
How to play: Leaders will make sure all kids have a bingo card and a small cup of candies to use as daubers. Before beginning the game, make sure the kids understand what bingo is. The leader will call out a monster, and it will flash on the screen. If you have the monster on your card, you can put a candy on it. The first kid to get a bingo (a line up and down, across or diagonal) will win a prize. Make sure you always check to make sure it is actually a bingo. We played different ways each round, i.e. four corners, x shape, plus sign.
Indoor Activity 2: Create a Critter
Items to purchase: You will need a snack cake for each kid for the body of their critters. We used ho-hos and ding-dongs, and it worked out well. You will also need frosting, icing, and various candies for decorating the snack cakes. We purchased candy corn, M&Ms (mini and regular), skittles, two types of mike n’ ikes, and candy eyeballs (found in the cake decorating aisle at Walmart).
How to play: The kids simply choose their snack cake, icing, and candies, and decorate their critter any way they choose. We got the idea for this activity here. We passed out the picture of the sample critters for them to look at for inspiration. All of the kids loved this activity, and of course enjoyed eating it after they were done. Be aware of food allergies for this activity. I was unable to find snack cakes that did not include eggs and wheat.
I had a hard time choosing good movies to fit this theme at first, but then it came to me one day while I was driving to work. The Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University movies are perfect for this theme, and totally kid-appropriate. We always try to have two movie options in case the kids don’t go to sleep during the first movie. About half way through the first movie, we have an intermission. We have all the kids throw away their trash, food, cups, etc. and go the restroom, then we resume the movie. For some reason, almost all the kids were still awake after the first movie, so we watched Monsters University as well.
Dinner: Chili with spider cheese and Fritos
We made sure that all of our food options were allergy-friendly since we had a few kids with egg, gluten, and milk allergies attending the lock-in. Our chili base was vegetarian and simple. We used the giant cans of pinto beans and tomato sauce from Sam’s club, and organic msg and gluten free chili seasoning packets from Walmart to create our chili. We poured all of the ingredients into crockpots and turned them on low. It was such an easy dinner, and even the adults
thought the chili tasted good. We also bought slices of medium cheddar cheese from Sam’s Club and cut them into spider shapes using a spider cookie cutter. I was not the one who cut all of the spider cheese shapes out, but I heard it took about 3 hours to do 52 slices of cheese. However, they were super cute and totally worth the extra effort in my opinion. We bought a bunch of Frito scoops to go with dinner as well. The chili was a huge hit with the majority of the kids.
Monster DIY Popcorn Bar
Again, we wanted our popcorn bar to be allergy-friendly. We offered two options for popcorn: regular buttered popcorn or slime popcorn. For the regular popcorn, we simply bought buttered microwave popcorn. For the slime popcorn, we bought the plainest microwave popcorn we could find (try to avoid butter) and used this recipe. We thought it was really tasty, and a lot of fun. However, a lot of the kids chose to go with regular popcorn. I think the slime popcorn was a lot better fresh. We made the slime popcorn about 7 hours before the kids ate it. If you are going to use this recipe, make it right before serving it to the kids for best results. We bought bright green bowls and buckets, and scoops from the Dollar Tree for our popcorn and toppings. For the toppings, we were aiming for mostly gross but tasty toppings. We found gummy, chocolate and gum eye balls, gummy worms, gummy snakes, gummy boogers, gummy sharks, giant gummy bears, and green apple sugar daddy candies at the Dollar Tree to use as toppings. We also bought some normal toppings like M&Ms and chocolate chips. You can use whichever toppings you like for this fun popcorn bar.
Breakfast: Cereal Bar and Mini Donut Skewers
We bought six different types of cereals in bulk at Sam’s Club, and displayed them in the same bright green bowls from the Dollar Tree we used the night before for the popcorn bar. We made sure to have a couple gluten free options as well. We offered four different types of milk: regular, chocolate, strawberry, and lactose-free. The most popular combination of the morning was chocolate milk on cinnamon toast crunch cereal. We also made mini donut skewers using powdered sugar, chocolate, and crunch flavored mini donuts that we purchased in bulk at Sam’s Club. We used long lollipop sticks from the cake decorating aisle at Walmart instead of regular skewers to avoid injuries. All of the donut skewers were gone by the end of the morning. They were a huge hit!
Human Dirt ‘n Worms
We decided to end our team competition that had been going on for the last four months in kid’s church at the lock-in. The winnning team got to choose between two options: Myself and another leader would eat live worms, or they could turn us into “dirt ‘n worms”. We thought for sure they would choose the eating live worms option, but they changed their minds last minute and went for the “dirt ‘n worms” option. We gave each of the kids an individual pudding cup with crumbled up oreos and a cup of gummy worms to throw at us. I have done many food throwing challenges with kids, and thought this one wouldn’t be too bad. I was wrong! They managed to cake my eyes with pudding, and I ended up with oreos and gummy worms in all the wrong places. It was all worth it to see how much the kids and parents enjoyed it, though!
Lock-ins are a lot of work, and I’ll be honest, they are completely exhausting. However, they are worth your time if you do them correctly. Kids can form new friendships, grow closer with leaders, learn about God, and have an awesome time. We even had seven or eight kids raise their hands for salvation during our service time. I would say that made the whole event worth all the energy we put into it. If you are interested, check out some of my other lock-in themes: Super-sized Food Lock-in, Blacklight Lock-in, Reverse Lock-in, Roller Disco Lock-in
What are you favorite themes and activities to do with kids at lock-ins? Would you consider having a lock-in at your church? Why or why not?