Leftover Glow Sticks? 7 Ways to Play with Glow Sticks

Wondering what to do with leftover glow sticks? Trying to figure out what to do with glow sticks that won’t last less than a minute? If you’re anything like us, your kids just open them up and walk away bored. But it doesn’t have to be like that! Check out these fun ways to play with glow sticks for kids.

A standard of birthday party favors, Halloween goodie bags, and dollar store value buys alike, Glow Sticks are always present in our house (even though we hardly ever buy them ourselves).

They’re cheap, exciting and fun, but if your kids are like ours, they don’t really know what to do with them past the “make them start glowing” phase of play. We’re always wondering what to do with leftover glow sticks. And frankly, that just feels like a bit of a waste.

But there are so many fun ways to extend the life of those glow sticks, and turn a 1 minute experience into a whole day of play. So if you, like us, find yourself with an abundance of glow sticks (and not much idea what to do with them) check out this list for novel new ways to play with glow sticks. 

boy playing with glow sticks in tub, text overlay: 7 ways to play with glow sticks

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But First- Are Glow Sticks Dangerous?

First, a few words of caution- glow sticks are filled with chemicals and, as such, the contents are mildly toxic. Kids should always be supervised when playing with glow sticks to make sure that they don’t consume the fluid inside.

glow sticks on a black background

Take particular care to talk to your kids about the importance of never putting a glow stick in their mouth, as chewing on a glow stick could end in nasty chemicals inside their mouth.

If it does happen to you (not gonna lie, it’s happened to us), refer to the glow stick package for instructions or call poison control. According to Illinois State Poison Control, glow stick fluid is only minimally toxic, but you should still watch out for symptoms and try to avoid ingestion to the greatest extent possible. 

How Long Do Glow Sticks Last?

Most glow sticks will only last a few hours, though some will last through the night. On average, glow sticks last 8 hours, though there are also some longer lasting varieties.

glow sticks on a black background

Try to avoid cracking them open until your kids are ready to play with them to avoid disappointment later in the day! There are LOTS of ways to play with glow sticks, and you’re going to want to make use of their glow time.


To extend the life of your glow sticks, try putting them in the freezer between uses. It won’t work for every glow stick, but for some glowsticks, putting them in the freezer will pause the chemical reaction. When you’re ready to play, bring them out, give them a shake, and see if you can bring those glow sticks back to life. 

Glow Stick Walk

It’s getting dark earlier for us this days, and that could mean more time trapped inside the house. But we are always looking for more ways to get our kids outside, and glow sticks present an easy opportunity to do that.

Grab a pack of glow sticks (we like to change it up between necklaces, bracelets, and the thicker, emergency-type kind) and take them outside for a long walk.

kids taking a walk with glow sticks

A glow stick walk is one of our favorite ways for kids to play with glow sticks, and it is SO simple. It adds some novelty to your outdoor stroll, and as an added bonus, it makes it a LOT easier to keep track of your kids outside in the dark.

Glow Stick Bath

This is SUCH an easy twist on our favorite kids’ activity, the bath tub happy hour. Witching hour got you down? Throw the kids in the tub, crack a few glow sticks, and prepare for a sensory experience (that will buy you some blissful peace and quiet).

boy taking a glow stick bath

It’s literally as easy as it sounds- draw a bath for your kids with lots of bubbles, then put in a few glowsticks. Turn off the lights and let your kids (toddlers and up) splash around in the glowy light.

bathtub with glow sticks in it

Related Post: Make Bathtime More Fun with the Best Bath Toys for Toddlers

Hide and Glow Seek

This is a fun twist on a classic kids’ activities. Send your kids to the other room, and hide glow sticks throughout the house. Shut off the lights, and let them find the glowing sticks.

Vary up the difficulty for extra fun. Make some glowsticks a little visible (because isn’t that part of the fun?) and some of them harder to spot.

mom hiding glow sticks under a pillow

When you’re done, let the kids hide them for you or for each other to extend the glow stick play

Alphabet Practice

Sneak in a little learning in a way that your kids will appreciate. Glow sticks are great for low-stress play based learning, and can add some motivation for even the most reluctant learners.

Sort glow sticks by colors, or use them to build shapes or letters. (This set, with its varying sizes and lots of connectors, is extra good for this). Count them, make patterns, and even perform basic addition and subtraction. 

glow sticks spelling out letters

You can also use glow sticks to practice prewriting skills. Have kids “sky write” their names (a perfect, low pressure activitiy to help teach kids how to write their names) or their letters. You can also have them use the glow sticks in lieu of pencils in a rice or sprinkles writing tray.

Related Post: How to Do Preschool at Home (Whether You Want to Or Not)

Pretend Play

Glow Sticks are fantastic for pretend play, too. We’re pretty sure your kids have figured out this one on their own, but if they haven’t encourage them to use their glow sticks in their pretend play. 

family playing with glow stick light sabers

Encourage your kids to play with their glow sticks as wands, light sabers, or (if you’re like Power Rangers obsessed Abram) morphers. It’s a great way to practice those imagination skills (and just have some fun in the process).

Glow Dance Party

Kid friendly rave anyone? Let’s talk about one of our kids’ favorite ways to play with glow sticks.

Shut off the lights and hand out the glow sticks. Throw on some kid tunes on your Amazon Echo or on your phone, and shake it on out. 

kid dancing with glow sticks; blurry

Your kids will put a little extra oomph into their dance moves when they’re emphasized by the light of the glow sticks (and get out some of that never-ending energy in the process!).

Glow Stick Balloons

This is a fun way to use up leftover glow sticks that your kids are sure to love! Everyone knows how much kids love balloons…so they’re gonna love these Glow Up balloons even more!

Crack a glow stick and insert it into a deflated or partially inflated balloon. Blow it up, tie a knot, and voila- glowing balloons!

kids playing with glow stick balloons

Play all the classic balloon games, but this time in the dark. Toss it in the air and see if you can catch it. See how long you can keep it in the air. (They might be a little heavier, so it may involve more kicking than hitting, but the kids will still love it…maybe even more.)

You can also play a family friendly “volleyball” game, trying to keep the balloon from touching the ground. The balloons will come down a little faster, adding a bit of extra challenge to a favorite childhood activity.

Related Post: Indoor Activities for Stir-Crazy Kids

Build a Glow Stick Fort

Building a glow stick fort is another fantastic way to take one of our kids favorite activities and put a glow stick twist on it.

Have your kids design their fort however they’d like (we love this Fort Building kit from Amazon, but you can also go old schools with tables, chairs, and sheets or blankets). Then shut down the lights and let them take the glow sticks inside for extra spooky fun.

kids blanket fort

It’s also a great way to incorporate a little STEM into your kids’ day. Have them test different fort styles, and see which blocks out the light the best. Test blankets versus sheets, and challenge them to build the biggest structure possible without letting light in.

What to Do with Dead Glow Sticks?

Unfortunately, glow sticks are not able to be recycled, so once you’ve done all the ways for kids to play with glow sticks you can think of, you may think they’re destined for the land fill. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

a glow stick in the freezer

In addition to extending their life by putting them in the freezer between uses, you can also use your used glow sticks for crafting purposes. Cover bracelets and necklaces with yarn for extra decoration, or use them to lace large beads or dyed pasta.

You can also put them in your playdough center to help build structures, or let your child continue to use them as wands or swords even after their glow-factor is gone. 

Related Post: Got Bunch O Balloons? Try This Recycled Materials Art Project


So grab that pack of leftover glow sticks, and challenge your kids to a full, fun day of indoor play. There’s tons of ways to get a little more life out of those glow sticks, and SO many ways to play with glow sticks for kids.

What would you add to the list? We’d love to hear your family’s favorite way to play with glow sticks in the comments!

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