My childhood home resides at the end of a very long driveway set back in the woods. It gives off a “Haunted House” vibe on its own, so Halloween decorations were never really necessary. The rustle of animals scurrying through fallen leaves mixed with the mass of trees surrounding the house was creepy enough without adding fake cobwebs (ours were real) and ghost-shaped cardboard cutouts. Throw in a moonless night, and no one was knocking on our door for fear of a possible “trick” with their treats.
Needless to say, we were usually left with a lot of left-over candy. Coming home after a night of collecting more candy than we could ever eat, my sister and I were delighted to add the leftovers to our already ridiculous stash (with a few pieces taken by our chocolate-loving mom).
Flash forward to the present: I am now the chocolate-loving mom (one does not survive having a new baby at the height of the pandemic without becoming addicted to sweets). Naturally, I’ve been looking forward to taking my little pumpkin trick-or-treating and claiming the candy for myself, but for those who choose to opt out of the traditional candy collection, here are some fresh and festive ways to celebrate Halloween.
Books for Treats
Gather up your little ghosts and ghouls for 13 nights of Halloween storytime, complete with snacks, cozy blankets, and a new book every day. From fright-free stories for little readers to twisted tales for tweens to suspenseful stories for teens, books can be just as sweet a treat as candy!
Have a Ghostly Candy Hunt
Fill glow-in-the-dark plastic eggs with candy and hide them around the house. Turn out the lights and set your kids loose for a spooky Halloween candy hunt. You can also use flashlights and candy if you don’t have plastic eggs at home.
Decorate Your Own Haunted House
Skulls, bats, and spiders — oh my! Decorating this sweet and tasty Haunted Manor Cookie Kit will have your family screaming with fright, er… I mean delight.
Host a Family Pumpkin Carving Party
Gather up the carving tools, ready your pumpkin, turn up the Halloween tunes, and carve away! Instead of the traditional triangle eyes and toothy grin, find inspiration from your family’s bookshelves with these stencils featuring beloved children’s book characters. Painting pumpkins is a fun alternative for kids too young to handle sharp tools. And don’t forget to roast those pumpkin seeds for a delicious seasonal snack.
Halloween Scavenger Hunt
Print out this fun outdoor activity, and have fun taking a walk around the neighborhood searching for things on the list. Add in flashlights and play at night for an extra dose of spooky.
BOO Your Neighbors
Secretly leave a goodie bag filled with treats on your neighbor’s doorstep. Be sure to include a cute poem and instructions on how to keep the fun going. Kids love the treats and the mystery of it all, but being the one who gets to “BOO” is so fun!
Visit a Drive-Thru Haunted House
For older kids who love a good scare, drive-thru, contact-free haunted houses are a novel approach to spooky hayrides. Encounter frightening creatures, menacing characters, and terrifying special effects — all from the comfort of your family car.
Host a Whodunit Mystery Game Night
Purchase and print out one of these kid-friendly whodunnit games, have your kids get into character (bonus points if they dress the part), and prepare for a night of mystery and intrigue. Your family will love this immersive experience that fosters creativity and imagination.
Trunk or Treat
During trunk or treat events, families decorate the back of their cars for Halloween and gather in a parking lot for kids to trick-or-treat from car to car. These are often RSVP events to control crowds, but also be sure to follow the CDC guidelines. Check out your local school websites and town newspaper to see if there will be any in your area.