There’s a lot to love about Halloween, a fuss-free holiday that pairs two of my favorite things: dressing up and gorging on candy. (True, my kids throw up almost every year after trick-or-treating, but I feel that it’s the price I pay for a month of eating candy corn.)
I love haunted houses and corn mazes. I love watching my husband deal with seeds and gunk when he carves our jack-o-lanterns. (I refuse to carve, see below.) But lately I’ve been feeling that we need a few new traditions. So I’ve asked friends and scoured the Internet, and here are a few of my favorite easy and inexpensive ideas:
1. Glitter pumpkins
Love the fun of carving jack-o-lanterns but despise the mess? Glitter pumpkins are perhaps the perfect Halloween craft: They are simple to make and look beautiful when finished. To get started, you’ll need craft paper, spray adhesive, colored glitter and a spoon. (In Utah County, Hobby Lobby is a great source for colored glitter.) To work the magic, first lay down craft paper to catch excess glitter. Spray the pumpkin in sections with adhesive, then use a spoon to coat with colored glitter. A full tutorial from HGTV is available here.
2. Haunted (candy) houses
Gingerbread houses are way more fun when they look spooky, particularly when adapted using this easy “hack.” Use a hot glue gun to assemble graham crackers into the shape of a house. Hot glue the house to a paper plate and let cool. Use store bought icing to frost, or mix 1 pound confectioners’ sugar, 5 tablespoons of meringue powder, and a ½ cup of water to make a stiff, glue-like icing. (See Martha Stewart’s recipe here.) Use whatever Halloween-themed candy you’d like to decorate, and make sure your children understand they SHOULD NOT eat their creation.
3. Halloween “Minute to Win It” family night
“Minute to Win It”-style games make for a lively party. For this game night, family members have one minute to complete a series of challenges. Halloween-themed games could include seeing how many spider rings you can toss into a plastic cup, or trying to wrap up, mummy style, in a roll of toilet paper in 60 seconds. Click here for more ideas for games.
4. Witches’ feast
On Halloween night, have an early dinner to fill your kids up before they head out on for their trick-or-treating sugar fest. Here are some menu items that embrace the Halloween spirit:
- Witches’ brew: Place a large stainless steel bowl inside a plastic cauldron, fill with apple juice. Using metal tongs, add dry ice one pound at a time to make your “brew” bubbly. Be careful when ladling the drink that no pieces of dry ice are served. In Utah County, I can usually find dry ice at Smith’s Food & Drug locations.
- Soup in a pumpkin: Serve your favorite soup recipe in individual pumpkins. To get started, wash and hollow out small baking pumpkins, reserving the stems. Sprinkle the insides with ½ teaspoon each salt and sugar, and then bake the pumpkins for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. You can find a recipe for these pumpkins and butternut squash soup here on the Food Network’s website.
- Mummy dogs: Cut up crescent rolls to look like bandages and wrap around a hot dog. Bake in the oven, then dot with mustard to add eyes. A recipe from Pillsbury is available here.
- Banana ghosts and apple vampire teeth: Add some fruit to the celebration by cutting up apples and filling with peanut butter and cashews to make lips with fangs. For ghosts, cut a banana in half lengthwise, and add chocolate chips for eyes and a nose.
5. Ghost stories and Halloween s’mores
Roast marshmallows one last time before winter sets in, using ghost-shaped Peeps in place of regular marshmallows. (You can also substitute chocolate for honey graham crackers for spookier s’mores.) If you need inspiration for terrifying tales, Alvin Schwartz’s “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” series will provide all the freaky folklore and urban legends you’ll need. Or you can try these other Halloween stories here.
6. Light up the night
Frankly, this tradition is about safety, but it’s one your kids will love as well. Prior to Halloween night, buy each child a package of glow sticks to use as bracelets and necklaces. Insist they wear them as part of their costumes, so motorists can see them in the dark.