Editor's Note: We recognize that the circumstances surrounding Halloween 2021 are different than those of 2020. We hope these ideas help families stay curious and explore, at their own comfort levels.
There’s no denying things have been peculiar in a lot of ways. With Halloween around the corner and trick-or-treating discouraged this year, many families are trying to make alternative plans for spooky fun. Here are eight ideas — plus seven book recommendations — to help make this Oct. 31 festive for your little ones.
Make a Halloween Piñata
Since Halloween is all about the candy, a piñata is a great way to deliver the goods with a bang. Use a blindfold and a bat or stick to allow your child to hit the piñata while an adult maneuvers it from a sturdy tree branch. Give children a small sack (or Halloween bucket) to gather the loot. No place to hang a piñata from or don’t want to partake in its destruction? Why not give making your own piñata a try? All you need is some construction paper, a small box and your creativity. Here are instructions on how to make a robot piñata, but feel free to make whatever spooky character you wish!
Give Boo Baskets
Similar to Easter baskets, boo baskets contain an assortment of festive treats. Consider including a list from the following: a book from the list below, a game, socks, a glow bracelet, temporary tattoos or other small gifts to round out the sugar coma.
Relax With a Candy Mandala
This is a great activity to do for before or after Halloween. Use an assortment of candy to create edible art by placing concentric circles of similar candy (in varying shapes) around each other. You’ll be surprised at how beautiful the finished product looks. You can also add in found autumn objects such as leaves, acorns, rocks or pinecones for added texture and variety.
Decorate Spooky Zoom Backgrounds
Never underestimate the power of dollar store finds. Gather an assortment of bats, spiders, crepe paper, skulls and other items to create a festive background for chatting with family and friends.
Make a Craft or Sticker Countdown
There is no end to Halloween-inspired crafts online and many of them can be made using common household objects. Similarly, we ordered this sticker countdown this year that starts 13 days before Halloween and allows space to write some of our favorite holiday traditions. You can also easily create your own with stickers from any major retail store.
Go on a Scavenger Hunt
For older kids who can read, a scavenger hunt, be it elaborate or small, is such a fun way to engage critical thinking. Hide clues around your house, yard or neighborhood and have a sweet treat at the end. If you’re feeling extra creative, make a few of the clues in haiku. Need a refresher on haiku? “Boo! Haiku” by Deanna Caswell is a great one. Want to know how to make one without the book? Find instructions on how to haiku here.
Print Past Halloween Photos
There’s something special about displaying holiday-specific images around your home. Make this the year you print out images and display them in simple frames or with clothespins and twine. Your kids will love reliving Halloweens past.
Read Spooky Stories Aloud
Since encouraging kids to read is always a good idea, here’s a list of some of our favorite Halloween books.
“A Tiger Called Tomás” (Ages 4-8)
Written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns
Originally published in 1963, “A Tiger Called Tomás” is about a shy boy who sits on his stoop watching — but never interacting with — his neighbors and the world. When his mother buys him a tigre (tiger) costume for Halloween he is persuaded to wear it out for the evening. As Tomás travels from door to door he is surprised when his neighbors exude warmth and friendliness towards him, inviting him inside, offering homemade treats and calling him by name. Stunned that they know who he is behind his mask, Tomás continues his trick-or-treat rounds slightly perplexed. What he eventually realizes is that he is seen and that he does matter.
“Boo! Haiku” Ages 3-6)
Written by Deanna Caswell and illustrated by Bob Shea
Mysterious clues told in haiku introduce kids to all our favorite scary characters like ghosts, witches, spiders and skeletons, while providing a short lesson in Japanese poetry and syllables. Try pairing this book with a related Halloween craft or scavenger hunt, as suggested above.
“Gustavo, The Shy Ghost” (Ages 4+)
Written and illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago
It’s tough being a ghost when nobody seems to notice you. Still, Gustavo tries and tries to make friends without much success. In a stroke of genius, he sends out party invitations to his peers, inviting them to his violin concert at the cemetery. But will anyone show up? Technically a Dia de Los Muertos book, we’ll never tell if you read it throughout October.
“I Love My Fangs!” (ages 3-7)
Written and illustrated by Kelly Leigh Miller
A young vampire loves his family trait: sharp, pointy fangs. However, when one of his fangs gets loose and falls out he is devastated. Then, a sneaky creature tries to steal it from him during the night and he goes NUTS! This humorous not-Halloween-specific tooth fairy tale is a hit with my toddler.
“Paint by Sticker: Halloween” (Ages 5-9)
These boredom-busting sticker books are ideal for nimble fingers. My six-year-old often uses them during quiet time. Match the sticker to the corresponding number to create spooky Halloween images like ghosts, a spider, bats, pumpkins and more.
“Stumpkin” (Ages 3-7)
Written and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Orange as a traffic cone and big as a basketball, poor little stemless pumpkin, Stumpkin, is keenly aware of his missing top. As all the other pumpkins gradually depart the market shelves, becoming jack-o-lanterns in new homes, Stumpkin can’t help hoping he won’t be left behind. With creative suspense, “Stumpkin” is a newfound classic that is guaranteed to put a toothy grin on your face.
“The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt” (Ages 4+)
Written by Riel Nason and illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
When every other ghost is a sheet, haunting feels heavy when you’re covered in a quilt. However, on Halloween night only Little Ghost can provide the comfort one girl needs. A celebration of what it means to be different, this 2020 publication is definitely worth seeking out.