So many of my favorite childhood memories are of Halloween family fun: sorting and trading candy with my sister, dressing up as Debbie Gibson (it was the ’80s!) and freaking out at the kid dressed (extra authentically!) as Freddy Krueger. My girls love it, too—they start brainstorming costumes in spring and our attic stores twice as much Halloween décor as Christmas.
Letting go of our beloved fall traditions is out of the question, so this year, we’re adapting them. (Some classics, like bobbing for apples, are out—but let’s face it, that’s always been kinda gross.) Here are a bunch of ideas for an at-home Halloween full of family fun.
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Make sure kiddos know the 31st won’t be your average Saturday night by getting them involved in the planning. Along with figuring out their costumes (we’ve got ideas for showing them off below), they can help:
- Figure out a theme. How will you decorate your house this year: Ghost-filled graveyard? Creepy circus? Haunted house? Spiders and snakes?
- Plan the day. Give them a window of time based on their age and your energy level, and let them plug in the activities.
- Choose the menu. Will you fill the dinner table with spooktacular snacks or monstrous munchies…decorate a haunted gingerbread house…or treat yourself to jack-o’-lantern or skeleton cupcakes, black cat cookies or Dracula, Mummy and Things With Eyes cookie pops.
You don’t have to wait for the 31st to start the treating. “Boo-ing” your neighbors is an easy, no-contact way to share goodies, and we make it super easy:
- Say “boo” to your buddies. Get ideas, inspiration and instructions (not to mention free printables) in this post about how to say, “You’ve been boo-ed.”
- Plant some pumpkin treat bags. Turn a little candy, some tissue paper and googly eyes into sweet snack-filled pumpkins—perfect for dropping on doorsteps.
- Share the boo-ze. Grab a bottle of your favorite adult beverage and use these free printable tags to tell a neighbor “You’ve been boo-zed.”
And we love a good countdown…so we’ll show you how to set up your own Halloween Countdown Tree.
Once the Halloween Countdown Tree is up, what’s next? Go all out this year. Make it fun for folks walking through the neighborhood or costume car parades (more on that in a sec). Some ideas:
- Cut simple, oversize silhouettes of cats, bats and spiders out of cardboard from all those deliveries. Spray paint them black and string or set them up all over the exterior of your house.
- Or use white or yellow poster board to cut out eyeballs in different shapes and sizes. Use black construction paper or paint to make the pupils, and put them everywhere: windows, trees, behind the bushes, under the car.
- Chat with your neighbors about blowing out a theme across multiple houses. Turn your block into a mini-zombie village, make each house the home of a classic Halloween character or make each porch a room in a haunted house.
- Repurpose your artificial Christmas trees and wreaths. You can decorate them with Halloween-themed Keepsake Ornaments, wrap them in spiderwebs or cover them with lollipop ghosts and an invitation to take one.
- Draw or write messages on a glass door or windows using Crayola acrylic paint (add a little dish soap for easy removal) or window markers. Or use liquid shoe polish in black for bats, spiders and cats or white for ghosts.
We’ve made birthday parades a thing—so leveling it up for Halloween should be easy. Work with your online neighborhood group or HOA and try one of these ideas:
- Costumed-car parade: Decorate the car and the passengers and designate a time (and a map) for a neighborhood parade. Prizes optional. Or consider organizing a “reverse trick-or-treat” where children in costume stand in their yards and costumed cars drive the neighborhood tossing out treats and trinkets.
- Neighborhood costume parade: Provide a route for kids to walk while adults watch and cheer them on.
- Boo-hunt: Neighborhood “bear hunts” are popular, so try a boo-hunt. Provide neighbors with a list of different monsters, characters or icons to put in their windows. In the week leading up to Halloween, kids can search for everything on the list and either take photos or write down addresses.
- Paranormal pics: Pitch in to hire a photographer to take Halloween pictures on family’s porches—and, of course, encourage themes and costumes. Or ask them to shoot special double-exposures so everyone looks like ghosts. (There are multiple smart phone apps to help you do this effect on your own.)
If your neighborhood welcomes trick-or-treaters, here are some fun ways to keep your distance.
- If you want to keep your distance and still enjoy trick-or-treaters, place candy at the end of the driveway or bottom of the porch steps and sit at least six feet back. Bring the fun by wrapping your chairs in spiderwebs or lights, wearing spooky masks or waving with werewolf hands. Use novelty DANGER tape or lights to create a divider.
- Be safe but silly with a note written in sidewalk chalk or on poster board:
- DANGER! BEWARE! And stay over there!
- Trick-or-treat! Stay back 6 feet! We’ll give you something good to eat!
- We’re happy you stopped! Please take a treat. We’ll enjoy your costume as we stay back six feet!
- Spread the candy out on tables or trays so kiddos can grab a piece without touching all of them.
- Or hide the candy, Easter egg style (think difficulty level—toddler) for kids to find.
- Depending on your skill level, deliver candy using a lacrosse stick or one of those extendable reacher/grabber things.
If you’re celebrating with just your family or the folks in your pod, we’ve got all sorts of ideas for that, too:
- Spooky Movie Night: Spread out on blankets in the family room or the backyard, and watch your Halloween favorites on your TV or projected on the wall. Make it an event with extra-special popcorn (these are “Christmas” popcorn recipes, but no need to wait) or Sweet and Salty Caramel Apples. Choose a movie or two from our list of Halloween movie recommendations based on kids’ ages.
- Set up a video call with faraway family and friends. Show off your costumes and decorations. Take turns telling ghost stories (make one up or search the internet for age-appropriate tales). Bonus points for turning the lights out and holding a flashlight under your face.
- Play a DIY costume game. Ask everyone to write down three to five Halloween monsters or characters on slips of paper. Take turns drawing and reading a slip, then set a timer for three minutes to run around the house finding costumes and props to bring it to life. You can play this in teams or just individuals, in person or by video phone. You can even draw names in secret and let the others guess who or what you are. Most creative and accurate getups win!
- Trick-or-treat around the house. Set up trick-or-treat “stations” in every (yes, every) room of the house—with themed treats, if you dare. For an extra challenge, make kids complete a simple task, answer a riddle or do something silly to earn their treat.
- Try one of these Halloween games or crafts.
Halloween is all about fun. And we might not celebrate this year the way we always do— but even if our candy bags aren’t as full, our hearts will be.