Thinking of throwing your own Halloween party? Here's a step by step planner to make it easy. From frightful food recipes, to ghoulish games, creepy music, right down to the decorations and invitations!
Oh PS. There's even a 'shortcut' for each, because sometimes, we all just like a good shortcut.
Thinking about throwing a Halloween party this year? Blogger Shannon Hunt has some great ideas to help you plan your event.
At our house it starts around the first week of summer vacation. My daughter comes home from the library with an armload of books about—queue some “Werewolves of London” music here—Halloween. By the time the first week of school rolls around, she’s pestering me to get out the Halloween decorations. If there’s no sign of spiderwebs or black cats by October 1st, she can get a little, ahem, “witchy”!
Of course, I can’t really blame her as she comes by this love of the haunted holiday honestly: when she was just five months old, she “helped” me host a Halloween party for the moms in my pre-natal group. As precious pumpkins and darling doggies drooled (and, I admit it, screamed) in their costumes, I decided that this was a holiday I could sink some Dracula-sized fake teeth into. As my children have grown, so has my collection of Halloween party decorations, recipes, and games. Get ready to scare, uh share, in our favourite tricks and treats. And, don’t worry, if some of these ideas seem so complicated they have you turning over in your grave, I’ve also included some bare bones shortcuts.
Our Halloween parties start with an eerie invitation. One year, we sent out Martha Stewart boxed “severed” fingers tied with a ribbon to remind guests to attend our party. I got these awesome invites at Michaels, but you can make your own with this how-to from Martha.
Other years, we printed out invitations and attached them to a plastic skeleton or rolled them up scroll-style and inserted them into the band of a plastic spider ring. You can even attach your invitation to a Halloween cookie or a piece of packaged candy. Anything edible disappears faster than you can say “Boo” and gets kids jazzed up about the coming party—or maybe the sugar does that!
Bare Bones Shortcut
If you’re short on time (or you don’t want to hand out invitations in person), you can opt for a free on-line invitation like the “Halloween for Kids” invitations found at Evite.com.
Dungeon of Decorations
For Halloween, our basement is fully transformed into the “Castle of Creep”. Our dungeon of decorations was all bought at Michaels or the dollar store—usually I wait until things are on sale after Halloween. My daughter’s only rule regarding decorations: not too creepy! We have ghostly signs, strings of pumpkin lights, “flaming” cauldrons, hairy spiders lurking in webs, full-sized witches, and even a family of black paper mice scampering along the baseboards. Last year, I decided it was a good idea to cover the walls in themed plastic coverings! The rotting wood and peeling wallpaper effect looked boo-tiful, but what a lot of work—and tape.
Bare Bones Shortcut
Black and orange balloons and streamers are a cheap and easy way to make your party space scream “Halloween”. So is plastic “Caution” or “Keep Out” tape from the dollar store. If you plan to blow up lots of balloons, buy yourself a plastic balloon pump. I discovered this trick after almost hyperventilating one year!
At our parties, food disappears faster than you can say “bone” appetit! I display our menu in a scary font to announce the creepy specialties of the haunted house. Here’s a sampling of our favourite frightening foods.
In photo: Left: Spider Bites ; Right: Fiendish Fingers
Mozzarella cheese strings with green pepper “nails”
Ritz crackers and peanut butter with pretzel “legs” and chocolate chip “eyes”
Apple “mouths” with slivered almond “teeth”
Cream cheese covered bagels decorated with red gel and sweet pickle. How To: Spread cream cheese on mini bagels. Cover the bagel hole with a slice of sweet gherkin pickle. Use red decorating gel to add “veins” and “pupils”.
Make a dip of your choice (in this case, we did guacamole) and carve a mini pumpkin into a face with a wide open mouth on the side of a tray. Scoop the dip from the mouth into a line, to look like the pumpkin is spewing it up!
Bare Bones Shortcut
If all that sounds delicious but way too involved, here are some easier options. Note that you can make the food sound themed by adding a catchy name tag that's
Green grapes already look like eyeballs and sliced kiwis are pretty creepy, too.
For vampires who prefer something less meaty! Don’t forget to include some brain-like cauliflower. Sometimes I use a small, hollowed-out cauliflower to hold the veggie dip.
Bugles corn snacks (they look like witches’ hats), Goldfish crackers, gummy worms, kettle corn or popcorn, and candy corn all get gobbled up at our parties. Give snacks like popcorn a Halloween twist by mixing in some candy corn or candy pumpkins.
A party isn't complete until you bring out the sweets!
Witch Finger Cookies (A personal fave)
Use your favourite short bread recipe, but the trick is to use green dye and bake them in the shape of a finger (add knuckle lines with a toothpick for a more realistic finger). Then you can add a bit of jam to the ends as the glue to hold a fingernail on, which you can use a full almond (like above) or sliced almonds.
Chocolate-covered shortbread cookies topped with Hershey’s kisses
Cookie and pretzel “brooms” drizzled with chocolate
Bare Bones Shortcut
Sometimes, time isn't on your side. Luckily stores are filled with Halloween-themed candies that are cheap, so it's easy to pick out some candies and chocolates and throw them into some bowls.
- Candy Corn
- Chocolate Pumpkin Balls
I tend to go a little (okay, a lot) overboard on the entertainment—a grown woman should not spend her nights shoving Tic Tacs into balloons! There are hundreds of good Halloween game ideas, and over the years, we’ve done everything from “Pin the Wart on the Witch” (when my daughter was younger) to a mystery role playing game (last year when she was in grade 5). Here are some of our favourite activities and games from parties past. I’ve separated the games into several categories because sometimes it’s a good idea to intersperse relay games with stationary games.
These games allow children to wander around the room and do things at their own pace or sit together in a group.
Candy Corn Count
Children guess how many candies are lurking in a jar. How To: You need a clean glass jar and your favourite Halloween candy (candy corn works well). Count and record the number of candies it takes to fill the jar. Make a simple game sheet to record the players’ names and guesses. Put out a pencil so children can write down their name and their guess. Announce the winner of the jar of candy toward the end of the party. (Apologize to the parents after the party!)
X Marks the Spot
Children mark their scary spot on a poster. How To: Put a small mark on the back of a Halloween-themed poster and hang it on the wall. Have players write their names on small labels and stick them on the poster. Reveal the scary spot and give a prize to the child whose label was closest to the mark.
Gross Food Guess
Children feel the “body parts” hidden inside paper bags. How To: Put the items below into paper bags. Have children sit in a circle, and then announce each body part in turn and pass the bag around. Let children put their hand inside the bag to feel—and peek if it makes them more comfortable! If you want, you can tell a simple story (for example, about a witch who fell apart piece by piece) before handing out the bags.
“Body Part” and Corresponding Item for Paper Bags
- Brain: cauliflower
- Eyes: black olives (dry well)
- Hair: damp yarn
- Ears: dried apricots
- Skin: dried orange peel
- Teeth: unpopped popcorn
- Nails: plastic nails
- Rat teeth: slivered almonds
- Spider legs: pipe cleaners
- Worms: gummy worms
Children act out a Halloween-related charade to earn a small candy. My daughter and her friends ask to play this game every year. I like to think it’s because the game is fun, but I suspect it’s because of the candy prize.
How To: Cut orange pumpkins and white ghosts out of construction paper. Write “Trick” on most of the cut-outs and “Treat” on just a few. Write a charade on the back of the “Trick” papers. Here are some ideas: vampire getting out of a coffin, walking like Frankenstein, witch getting on her broom, black cat stretching, dressing in a Halloween costume, giving candy to trick-or-treaters, carving a pumpkin.
Put all the cut-outs in a plastic pumpkin and have a bowl of candy standing by. Players take turns pulling out a paper. If they get “Treat”, they get to pick a candy. If they get “Trick”, they have to act out a Halloween charade to earn their treat.
Not sure how to make teams so it doesn’t take forever or hurt feelings? Here’s one idea: write words relating to vampires and witches (or other iconic Halloween characters) on slips of paper. Toss the papers into a plastic pumpkin, and have each child pick out a slip of paper. Based on what the paper says, the child is either on the vampire team or the witch team. (Vampire-related words: blood, fangs, stake, coffin, Transylvania, Dracula. Witch-related words: broom, cat, cauldron, spell, warts, frog.)
Teams race to wrap their mummy from head to toe. How To: Divide players up into small teams (three or four players). Have each team pick one player to be the mummy. Give each team several rolls of toilet paper. The first team to completely wrap their mummy wins (leave holes for their eyes and mouths of course).
After the mummies break out of their wrappings, this game devolves into a huge toilet paper fight at our house. I never realized how much fun kids can have throwing toilet paper at each other (and at any parents who are unlucky enough to stick around). The room will look frightening when they finally finish, but hand out a few plastic bags and make it a race to clean up—the only thing left will be the smiles.
Teams race to pop balloons and collect “maggots” (Tic Tacs). How To: Here’s where the Tic Tacs come in! You need several packs of Tic Tacs and one balloon per child playing the game. Put four “maggots” (Tic Tacs) in each balloon and then blow the balloons up and tie them. Divide the balloons equally into two big garbage bags (one bag for each team). If you have an unequal number of players, one child will have to take two turns.
On race day, put the balloon-filled bags at one end of the room. Have the teams race relay-style to pop the balloons (you can decide how they will pop the balloons) and collect their maggots. The first team to return all their players and maggots to the starting line wins.
Ghost Poop Relay
Teams race to move “ghost poop” (mini marshmallows) from one plate to another using only straws. How To: Give each player one straw. Give the first child on each team a set number of mini marshmallows (we use about five). Have teams race to move the marshmallows down the line from player to player using only their straws. The first team to move their pile of ghost poop to the end of the line wins.
Teams race to pass a pumpkin without using their hands! How To: Divide children up into teams and have them race to pass a small pumpkin down the line from player to player using only their necks.
Teams race to decorate pumpkins with sets of Mr. Potato Head-type plastic Halloween parts (noses, ears, eyebrows, mouths, etc.). How To: I bought my plastic pumpkin parts at Michaels, but I’ve also seen them at Wal-Mart and the dollar store. You can use generic parts or Mr. Potato Head Halloween parts.
On race day, place two good-sized pumpkins at one end of the room. Divide children up into relay teams and give each team an equal number of plastic parts. Have players race out one at a time to add a piece to the pumpkin. The first team to finish decorating their pumpkin and get back to the starting line wins.
Bare Bones Shortcut
Make eating, dancing, and chatting the main “activities”. Without working your fingers to the bone, you can also:
- Have the children hold their own costume contest (you can provide some small prizes).
- Announce random prizes throughout the party. For example, a prize for the person wearing the craziest wig, a prize for the person wearing the most orange (or other colour), a prize for the person who looks the most transformed.
- Put out pumpkins and let children use Sharpies to “graffiti” them.
- Put out a plastic tablecloth and let the children have fun making their own snack or take-home treat. You can buy a Halloween cookie (or house) decorating kit or candy bracelet making kit.
- Play the Mummy Wrap Game (see above). All you need is toilet paper, and if you give the children permission to throw the toilet paper afterward, your game planning’s a wrap!
Set the mood with some spine-tingly tunes. You can intersperse these Halloween classics with some of your child’s favourite songs:
- The Addams Family Theme Song
- Boris the Spider
- Scooby Doo Theme Song
- Werewolves of London
- The Purple People Eater
- Witch Doctor
- Haunted House
- Monster Mash
I hope these ideas get your cauldron bubbling and inspire you to host a Halloween party this year. We’ve already sent out the invitations for our party—we’re going to try palm reading and fortune telling this year! Oh, I feel a prediction coming on already…I predict that the day after Halloween I’ll be at the library, trailing behind my daughter who is gleefully hauling home an armload of books about—queue some “Jingle Bells” music here—Christmas.
Additional Halloween Resources
ChatterBlock is full of resources to help parents make the most of Halloween. Check out these helpful links:
- Check out our up-to-date listing of Halloween Events in your city
- Surviving Halloween Without Candy: Concerned about your kids consuming too much candy on Halloween and the days that follow? Find out how to achieve a happy (and healthy) balance.
- Halloween Movies for Kids: Not sure what to fire up on Netflix when your kids ask for a Halloween movie?