Over the past few years, Halloween in the UK has gone from something nobody took very much notice of, to something of an annual event. As far as many children are concerned, it’s right up there with Christmas, birthdays, Easter and summer vacations.
All of a sudden, it’s exploded with decorations in every supermarket and adorning every street. There’s the costumes, the face paints, the pumpkin picking fields, the trick-or-treating, the Halloween parties and the school discos.
And while we have a long way to go before we reach the dizzy extremes of Halloween celebrations in the USA, we’re definitely getting there!
Of course, Halloween 2020 will be a rather different affair. Most of the locally organised Halloween trails have been cancelled, as are discos. The weather is widely predicted to be absolutely dreadful and, (as social distancing couldn’t be assured), trick-or-treating had been cancelled to.
If like me, you have a house full of disappointed children, there are still plenty of activities you can do to try and make up for yet another thing being cancelled because of the pandemic.
So if you’re stuck for inspiration, here are just a few ideas for things you can do with your own little monsters.
Pumpkin picking. Rest assured, in most places, pumpkin picking has not been cancelled this year (as long as none of the pumpkin fields are flooded with all that predicted rain – it is 2020 after all). You can still bundle your children up in their hats, coats and wellies and take them off to fill a wheelbarrow with the huge orange fruits (Yes, that’s right. A pumpkin has seeds, so weirdly, just like a tomato, it’s a fruit instead of a vegetable). A lot of pumpkin patches also have hay bales to climb and corn mazes to explore which make for fantastic photographs and mean you can spend a good few hours running around in the fresh air.
Halloween themed treasure hunt. Treasure hints can be a lot of fun even if you have really little children. For the faint of heart, organise the hunt inside the house. Hide paper clues with cryptic messages written on them everywhere you can think of. Try and be as creative as possible! Think, inside the fridge, stuck to a plate of cookies in the oven, inside a book, a toy box or the dogs bed…………….. Solve each clue to find the next. The last clue comes with a spooky reward of your choosing.
If there’s enough of you, divide yourselves into teams - I have enough children that I can in fact do this, but even if there’s not many of you, it’s still a lot of fun. If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, weather permitting, move the treasure hunt outdoors. Hide the clues underneath rocks. To make it easier for little children to find the clues (or just if you’re very forgetful), paint the rocks with washable poster paint. They don’t have to be works of art. Just daub a brightly coloured spot onto the top of each. They should be dry in 5 minutes and it’ll wash right off in the rain.
Halloween Baking. You don’t have to be a huge fan of pumpkin pie to get busy baking Halloween treats. Roll out some sugar cookie mixture and cut out some simple Halloween shapes using cookie cutters and decorate with icing. If you don’t have cutters, keep the shapes simple– cat faces, pumpkins, skulls and witches hats. If you want to make it really, really easy, cut out circles and make creative monster faces. Use icing, strawberry laces, edible eyeballs and sprinkles. There’s our personal favourites, cake pop pumpkins , gingerbread mummies and skeletons, and of course (for those of you who REALLY want to experiment with actual pumpkins) – pumpkin spice syrup which will keep you in Autumnal latte’s until Christmas.
Halloween party decorations Yes, I know you can buy Halloween decorations just about everywhere and yes, I am well aware that often, by the time you’ve bought craft supplies, you might as well have bought every decoration Sainsbury’s has to offer – but – there is nothing quite like cutting, sticking, fingerpainting and throwing glitter around for keeping small people entertained for hours!
Plus, they really do love the things that they make. We usually still have sugar paper bats hanging around when the Elf on the Shelf arrives.
Halloween themed movie night.
Movie nights can be tricky, particularly if you have children at different ages and stages, but I’ve honestly found that the best way to handle it is to pick something animated (because until the age of 7, anything with real people in it, is for boring grownups) that the younger children will love and the older ones won’t mind. Older children tend to appreciate the whole family movie-night experience more than little ones with a limited attention span. Try Hotel Transylvania (any of them), The nightmare before Christmas, Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween movie, or the animated version of The Adam’s Family (2019).
Add giant marshmallows, jelly sweets, popcorn and compulsory red drinks to make it as authentic as possible (it’s only once a year).
Halloween Party This is actually much easier and a lot less daunting than it sounds. It’s not too difficult to come up with Halloween themed party games – because all you really have to do is adapt regular party games.
Hide eyeball sweeties in cooked spaghetti and let them hunt for them, pin the spider on the spider web, bob for apples, hang doughnuts from the ceiling or a door frame and see who can eat theirs first. Look to Pinterest for inspiration!
And Halloween themed food is pretty easy too. Keep it really easy with a picnic style buffet (because what child doesn’t love eating sat on a blanket on the floor?), or if you have the time, be a little more inventive. Use Halloween cookie cutters to make scary shaped sandwiches and let them eat all those tasty Halloween cakes and cookies you’ve baked. If you want to go all out, let them make their own costumes.
If you are the kind of person who wants to carefully carve your pumpkin to a work of art that will be the envy of all your neighbours – skip this bit. Or if you’re looking for an easy option, paint the pumpkins instead!
Pumpkins can be great fun to carve, but they’re not the easiest things to do well. Especially if you have a gaggle of small enthusiastic “helpers”. The easiest things to do is remove the tough outer skin yourself and then let your children finish it off and remove the gooey insides. If you want, pop the seeds into a colander or strainer, wash them to remove any pulp and then roast to make a tasty snack.
Make slime Not strictly a Halloween activity (slime is apparently fun all year round), but my children have never, ever got bored of making slime since it became a craze a couple of years back. You can make all sorts of slime too, in every shade imaginable. You can even scent it with essential oils. Make with regular PVA glue and gel food dye, transparent glue and glitter, or (always a firm favourite here), add shaving foam and then play! As long as they keep it clean, it will keep inside an airtight container for months, providing endless entertainment as long as nobody welds it to anything they’re not supposed to (duvet covers, carpets, etc).
Unless you’ve been living under a rock yourself, it would be pretty hard to be unaware of the hidden rocks game that has been played by children up and down the UK for a few years now. The idea is simple. Paint a rock in whatever design you like (bright and simple tends to work best), write your location on the back (ie: Weymouth Bay, UK) and then add the year (2020).
If you want your design to last, apply a layer of varnish with a brush or with spray varnish.
Go on a walk and hide your rock somewhere where it will be found, then go on a scavenger hunt to look for more coloured rocks that other people have hidden. Once found, re-hide.
A lot of areas now have active local Facebook groups where people post a photograph of a rock every time they find one (which is the source of much excitement for the painter of the rock), but it’s not necessary to play the game. It is a good excuse to get everyone out of the house for some fresh air and it’ll keep them entertained for hours.
Decorate the house. I’ve been making wreaths and garlands for my front door for years now. It’s really not that hard with only some garden wire, natural brown garden twine and some carefully foraged I mostly collect from the garden (I have a miniature willow tree that has a mind of its own and needs pruning several times a year), but I have also been known to buy a few bits and pieces from the supermarket, I ask friends if they have sprigs of holly going spare and I even ask on our local Facebook group to see if people in the village are getting rid of seasonal branches after pruning. Wreaths and garlands are ridiculously easy to make. Make them extra spooky by using tangled, bare branches and twigs. Decorate with eyeballs, bats, skulls, spiders………….. you get the idea
You can buy wire or grapevine wreath rings which are great because you can recycle them making new wreaths whenever you like, but you can also easily make your own wreath rings out of cardboard or by bending a metal coat-hanger into a circle shape.
I’ve even seen massive wreaths made using hula hoops for wreath rings and miniature ones made using the lids off of mason jars. The foliage and decorations everywhere can be a bit messy, but it’s well worth the effort.
11. Pumpkin Hunt I reserved this one for last because this one is relatively new and came about because of Covid-19. Due to the lack of trick-or-treating this year, a few locals came up with the idea of having a Pumpkin treasure hunt around the village – we did something very similar with rainbows during the lockdown. The idea is that children paint or draw a pumpkin (or rainbow) and stick it up in a front window at home. Children can then go for a walk with you, spotting as may pumpkin pictures as they can. Make sure they put up a pumpkin picture of their own! If you want to make it extra spooky, go around in the evening with a flash light, just like you would if you were going trick-or-treating .
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