21 Ways To Make October Spook-Tacular

October is a great time to get the family together and have some Halloween fun!

1. Read a spooky story.

Get into the spirit of Halloween with one of the many Halloween-themed books available. Your little one is sure to love the colorful pictures and rhythmical rhymes in Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming. For preschoolers through early elementary school, try Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman or The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams. For older kids, pick a classic like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

Instead of buying pumpkins at the grocery store, head out to a pumpkin patch for an afternoon of fun. Check out Harvest Happenings on page 9 to find pumpkin patches that offer hayrides, corn mazes, and even petting zoos the whole family can enjoy. Remember your camera – pumpkin patches offer great picture opportunities.

3. Transform your lawn into a graveyard.

Cut out cardboard gravestones and paint them grey. For an aged effect, splatter on some black paint. Add some silly sayings such as “I. Emma Ghost,” “Hal O. Ween,” “Barry D. Alive,” or “Frank N. Stein,” and then coat with a clear acrylic sealer. Duct tape a garden stake to the back of each gravestone, and stick them in your “graveyard.”

4. Make caramel apples.

Whether you’re a gourmet who can make caramel from scratch, or your cooking skills are limited and you simply microwave pre-packaged caramel, making caramel apples is a fun and delicious treat for the whole family.

5. Create your own haunted house.

A haunted house can be lots of spine-chilling fun. Get the whole family involved in planning and creating. First, pick a location for your haunted house – the front walkway, garage, hallway, basement, family room, etc. Next, set up some spooky lighting. If you have windows or your haunted house is outside, you may want to use cardboard or drape dark sheets or blankets to block out extra light. Add effect by using a black light or colored light bulbs. Next, bring out the Halloween props. Hang ghosts and skeletons from the ceiling, stretch spider webs in the corners, place jars of floating eyeballs (grapes or Marciano cherries frozen in ice cubes) on tables, etc. Remember to make your haunted house age-appropriate. If you have little ones, opt for more fun and less fright. Finally, add some scary sounds and special effects. A fog machine or witches cauldron bubbling with dry ice creates an eerie ambiance.

6. Start a family tradition.

Put together a slide show of past Halloween photos. Pop some popcorn, sit down with the whole family, and enjoy the show! You’ll be surprised how much your kids love reminiscing about Halloween-past.

7. Get smart – learn about the history of Halloween!

Did you know that Halloween is linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which celebrates “summer’s end”? Traditionally, in Ireland and Scotland, turnips (not pumpkins) were carved into lanterns to remember the souls held in purgatory.

8. Make a scarecrow.

Grab an old pair of jeans and stuff them full of straw. Use rope to tie off the ankles. Next, stuff a flannel shirt with straw. Use rope to tie off the wrists and then tuck the straw-filled shirt into the pants and secure with rope. Get creative on what to use for the head – an old pillowcase filled with straw and painted with a face works, or for a more frightening scarecrow try a plastic jack-o-lantern bucket used for trick-or-treating.

9. Conjure up your own ghost story.

Get the family together and take turns telling a ghost story. Each person gets to make up one sentence, and then it moves on to the next person. You’ll be surprised by the silly, spooky story that emerges. You can kick off the story with something like: “One Halloween night, Gilbert the ghost decided he wanted to go trick-or-treating …”

10. Take a nighttime nature walk.

Arm your little ones with flashlights and head out after dark. There’s a lot to see, even if you stay on the sidewalk. Check out the night sky – can you spot the Big Dipper? Look for spider webs and other creepy crawlies. Maybe you’ll get lucky and spot an owl.

11. Enjoy an old-fashioned Halloween treat – popcorn balls!

Popcorn balls are not only delicious, but lots of fun to make. Use a kid-friendly recipe such as the following:

  • (1) Pop 6 cups of popcorn and set it aside in a large bowl.
  • (2) Melt 1/2 cup of butter and 1 large (16-ounce) package of marshmallows in a saucepan on medium-low heat.
  • (3) Pour the marshmallow mixture onto the popcorn. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula making sure the popcorn is evenly covered.
  • (4) Grease your hands with butter – this is where it gets fun for the little ones. Once the popcorn mix has cooled enough to touch it, form it into balls.
  • (5) Let the balls cool on wax paper and enjoy!

Tip: Get creative and try adding M&Ms, nuts, gummy worms, sprinkles or candy corn to your popcorn balls.

12. Watch a “scary” movie.

Break out the popcorn and get comfy in front of the TV, but don’t go overboard on the scare-factor. For the little ones try Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. For older kids try Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Corpse Bride or The Nightmare Before Christmas.

13. Make ghoulish goodie bags.

Kids can surprise their friends at school, playgroup or soccer practise with Halloween goodie bags. Treat them to some Halloween candy as well as other goodies like glow sticks, ghost-shaped pencil erasers or spider rings.

14. Gross out your little ghouls with touch and feel boxes.

Cut a hole in a cardboard box just big enough for your hand to fit in. Cover the opening with fabric to prevent peeking. Set up three or four boxes, and fill them with all sorts of slimy, squishy, scary objects. Have the kids reach in and feel eyeballs (olives or peeled grapes), worms (cooked spaghetti), severed fingers (small sausages), brains (jello), etc. Listen to the kids squeal with a mix of fear and delight. Be sure to have wet wipes ready to wipe sticky hands.

15. Make lollipop ghosts.

Lollipop ghosts are simple and easy – even your preschooler can get in on the action. To make a lollipop ghost:

  • (1) Drape a white napkin over a lollipop.
  • (2) Tie a purple, orange, or black ribbon around the napkin around the lollipop to create the ghosts head.
  • (3) Use a black sharpie to draw eyes and a mouth.

16. Carve a jack-o-lantern.

Jack-o-lanterns are a Halloween tradition. Whether you go all out with stencils, glitter and a cadre of carving tools, or you simply go for the freehand approach – get your pumpkin and start carving!

17. Toast pumpkin seeds.

When you’re done carving your pumpkin this year, don’t let the seeds go to waste.

  • (1) Separate and rinse the pumpkin seeds.
  • (2) In a medium pan, bring 4 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil.
  • (3) Add the pumpkin seeds and boil for 10 minutes.
  • (4) Spread 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a roasting pan and place the seeds on top.
  • (5) In an oven pre-heated to 375 degrees, toast the seeds until they begin to turn brown – about 15 minutes.
  • (6) Let the seeds cool and enjoy!

18. Do-it-yourself!

Remember the good old days when Mom used to make your Halloween costume?  Get crafty and create your own costumes this year. Even if you don’t sew, there are lots of costumes you can put together – think rock star, pirate, construction worker, or gypsy.

19. Download spooky songs.

Make your own Halloween playlist. Include favorites like “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker, Jr., “Monster Mash” by Bobby Boris Pickett, “Thriller ” by Michael Jackson and “The Addams Family Theme” by Vic Mizzy.

20. Throw a spine-chillingly fun party.

Gather all your little ghosts and their goblin friends for some Halloween fun. Whether it’s a small group or the whole neighborhood, Halloween is a great excuse to get together. Invite everyone to come in costume. If your party guests are preschoolers, stick to fun decorations – bright orange pumpkins and friendly ghosts. If your guests are older, go for something scarier. Plan some creepy crafts, devilish delights, and ghastly games.

21. Plan ahead for safe and fun trick-or-treating.

As it gets dark, drivers have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters dashing across the road. Pick up a few packs of glow sticks so your little ghosts will be illuminated on Halloween night. Plan your route ahead of time, and remember that little ones will go slower and visit fewer houses than older kids. If you plan to let the older kids split off, be sure they have adequate supervision – a plan to go with friends, or have family help out. Have fun watching the little ones ringing doorbells and collecting candy, and have a safe and spooky Halloween!

Jessica Baldis
About Jessica Baldis

Author Jessica Baldis will spend the month of October concocting a plan to secretly extract all the Almond Joys from her three sons' Halloween buckets and hoard them for herself.

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