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 two lock-ins each year, and the kids always ask when the next one is coming. Our budget for this event was $500, but we aimed 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 around 10 first-time guests, 58 kids total, and 11 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 Super-Sized Food Lock-in Schedule. It is very detailed, including a service with a themed message I wrote about being hungry for more of God.
I was so excited about the theme in Kid’s Church this month that I decided to use the same theme for our lock-in. Super-sized food is so much fun, and the possibilities are endless for games. The biggest problem was not feeding the kids too much with this theme. We were able to use our May set design props and decorations for the service time and for our photo booth. The kids loved being able to touch and take pictures with the giant food decorations. Check out my Super-sized Food Set Design post for details on all of the decorations for this event.
For the outdoor games, we split the kids into two groups and sent each group to a different game and switched after 15 minutes so everyone would get a chance to play both games.
Outdoor Game 1: Super-sized Volleyball
For this game, you will need a large inflatable beach ball and a smaller rubber playground ball for each child playing the game. I bought the large inflatable beach ball from Walmart for $4.99, and bought 24 rubber playground balls at the 99 cents store for 99¢ each. This game is played exactly like volleyball with one major difference. The kids cannot use their hands to hit the volleyball, they must use the rubber balls. This game is best played with an actual volleyball net, but you could also use cones to mark off the center of a field.
Outdoor Game 2: Super-sized Marshmallow Dodgeball
You will need to buy the biggest marshmallows you can find for this game. I bought six bags of the really big ones that are 90 calories each at Walmart. I put cones down the center of our field and placed the buckets of marshmallows in the middle of the teams. This game is played exactly like dodgeball, but using giant marshmallows instead of balls. Just a warning, you’d think it wouldn’t hurt to be hit in the face by a marshmallow, but when a 6th grade boy is throwing it, it will leave a mark. Make sure you tell the kids no face shots. It was getting really dark by the time we got to our outdoor games, so our pictures didn’t turn out too great.
Service Game: Spaghetti Toes
We played this game during our service time with one kid from each team. You are going to need about four pounds of cooked spaghetti, separated into two shallow containers, and a big box of whoppers for your “meatballs”. Make sure your spaghetti is completely cold before mixing the whoppers into it for the game. We gave the kids 2 minutes to pull as many “meatballs” out of the spaghetti using only their bare feet. Have the kids who played this game go to the bathroom to wash their feet afterward. Their feet will be very slippery.
Large Group Game 1: Hot Baby Food
We broke the kids into two groups again for both Hot Baby Food and Fruit Salad to make the groups smaller and more manageable. You will need quite a few flavors of baby food with all of the labels taken off. I bought about half fruit flavors and half veggies and meat flavors to make it more fun. This game is played just like Hot Potato except when the music stops, the kid who is holding the baby food has to choose whether or not to eat a bite of it. We gave the kids 1,000 points for their team if they could eat a whole spoonful. You could also give a small prize. Don’t make the same mistake I did, and buy the glass jars because they look “cooler”. We had one break open on the ground. No children were hurt, but there was a mess to clean up. Play it safe and buy the plastic ones.
Large Group Game 2: Fruit Salad
This game is a classic, and doesn’t require any props to play. Simply have the kids sit in a circle in chairs and assign the kids different fruits. You will probably want to stick to no more than four or five fruits to keep it simple. The leader stands in the middle and calls out a fruit. All of the kids with that fruit assigned to them must get up and find an empty seat. Each round a chair is removed and someone is left standing, and is out. Keep playing until you get down one or two kids.
Activity 1: Food Necklaces
I have used this “snacktivity” at some of my other lock-ins, and it definitely had to be done at our super-sized food lock-in. It is probably my favorite snacktivity (a snack that is also an activity) and all you have to do is buy any type of string, yarn, or twine, cut it into necklace lengths, and tie a lifesaver to the end (to keep all the food from falling off). You can use any food that has a hole in the middle. We used multigrain cheerios, chocolate cheerios, fruit loops, lifesaver gummies, peach ring gummy candies, white and milk chocolate covered pretzels, and mini fudge cookies. The kids have so much fun making huge necklaces they can eat. I always like to do this one right before we watch a movie because the kids can eat it while they watch the movie, and it’s a nice wind down/transition activity.
Activity 2: DIY Photo Booth Props
This idea actually just came to me one day as I was driving home from work. I had another idea in mind, but just wasn’t completely satisfied with it. For this activity you will need jumbo popsicle sticks, hot glue, craft foam, and a little creativity. I couldn’t find a template I was happy with so I decided to just free-hand my shapes. I made popsicles, cupcakes and ice cream cones. These are very simple shapes to cut out, and if I can do it, you can too! Once the shapes were cut out, we simply hot glued them together and to the popsicle sticks. We set up tables for the kids with the photo booth props, stickers, and markers for them to decorate them. After they were done decorating their props, they were able to take a picture with their props at the photo booth we set up. The kids loved it! Make sure you reserve half of the props if you are doing this activity in rotations. Our girls barely got any of the props to decorate because the boys used them all up.
Dinner: Super-sized Nachos
It might be a bit of a stretch to eat nachos for dinner, but this was a special occasion so anything goes! Since our theme was super-sized food, we obviously had to have some epic food at our lock-in. I promised the kids twenty feet of nachos and I delivered. We created two 20-foot food troughs for this event. One was for our nachos, and the other was for our ice cream sundae, and they were actually really simple to make! We bought four 10-foot plastic rain gutters at Home Depot for only $4 each. We may have had to drive with the trunk open to get them back to the church, but it was totally worth it. Bring a truck if you have access to one. Don’t bother wasting the money on the connectors or end pieces for the gutters. I just used some gorilla tape to connect them together and close off the ends, and it worked like a charm. After putting them together and closing off the ends, we covered them entirely in aluminum foil. The foil made it more sanitary to eat out of and kept the nachos warm. We provided food baskets for the kids to put the nachos in, but we also let them eat the nachos directly from the trough. They loved it and it was pretty hilarious to watch!
Dessert: Super-sized Ice Cream Sundae
This was probably the coolest and most risky part of the whole event. I told the kids we were going to have a 20-foot ice cream sundae, but I was a little afraid we wouldn’t be able to pull it off. We made a 20-foot food trough just like the one for the nachos for our ice cream sundae. I believe the foil was helpful in keeping the ice cream from melting. This might not be a problem for most other areas of the country in May, but in the desert, it was 106 degrees on the day of our lock-in. We decided we were going to have to scoop the ice cream inside, then move it outside for the toppings and eating. It took four people to scoop the ice cream and carry it outside. Once outside, we put chocolate syrup, sprinkles, whipped cream and cherries all over it. We were all so excited that it came together! We stuck a bunch of spoons all around the sundae, and let the kids dig in. It was totally crazy, messy, and awesome all at the same time.
Breakfast: DIY Donut Bar
I was a little bummed that I wasn’t able to find a way to super-size our breakfast food, but making it a DIY bar still made it awesome. We gave each of the kids a plain donut, and let them pick their frosting color (blue, pink, vanilla, or chocolate). After they received their donut and frosting, they could go over to the sprinkles station to frost their donut and choose their own sprinkles. It was a fun way to turn breakfast into a snacktivity.
To top the whole event off, the kids got to turn me into a Human Sundae. We ended our team competition between the boys and the girls at the lock-in, and the winning team got to throw the toppings on me. It was a win for everyone because the losing team still got to watch and enjoy the show. This is not my first time being a human sundae, but it is never pleasant. It’s absolutely worth it to see the kids and parents’ faces light up while it’s happening, though. We timed it so that the parents would be showing up to pick up their kids while I was becoming a human sundae. Everyone loved it!
Lock-ins are a lot of work, and you will definitely leave the event totally exhausted and ready for a 24-hour nap. In my opinion, though, they are totally worth it to see kids making new friends, leaders having a great time, and parents getting a well-deserved night off from their kids. Check out my other posts about the other lock-ins we have done for more great ideas: Blacklight Lock-in, Reverse Lock-in, Roller Disco Lock-in
What are your favorite things to do with kids at a lock-in?