Halloween: That one day a year when your child can wear a Stormtrooper costume and it’s not a dead giveaway that you’ve lost yet another morning battle with your toddler.
Also, it’s the perfect excuse for decorating your walls with flying bats, hanging Kleenex ghosts from your mantel and serving punch overflowing with spooky fog. Halloween just might be the second best holiday (c’mon, Christmas always wins).
I have six children and have dealt with the aftermath of terrifying masks and horrific decorations, and anyone who enjoys scaring 3-year-olds with an “It” clown mask is a cold, cold soul. I am a firm believer in children’s Halloween parties being fun and festive as opposed to scary and gruesome.
Having a costume party for kids is as easy as pumpkin pie when you try these ideas:
- For small crowds of monsters, personal pizzas are fun. In place of pizza dough, use English muffins or fat sections of French bread. On a long table with a spot for each child, place all the ingredients on plates and let them assemble as they see fit. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted.
- For larger crowds, pre-wrap hot dogs in crescent-roll dough strips so they look like mummies. When people start arriving, stick them in a 350-degree oven until they turn golden and add ketchup for eyes. Easy finger food for a crowd.
- Draw jack-o-lantern faces on mandarin oranges and stick chocolate chips in bananas to get a ghost face. Wrap juice boxes with white masking tape and stick on googly eyes and you have a mummy! Kids will love all the thoughtful touches and it takes no time at all.
- Foggy punch – fill a large punch bowl with, well, punch (or lemonade or water if you’re really boring) and add a chunk of dry ice.
- Apple bobbing! Get a dollar-store plastic tablecloth (orange or black of course) and put it on a hard floor. Get a clean storage bin, fill it with lukewarm water (because no one wants to dip their face in ice-cold water on an October night) and add apples. Kids LOVE this activity. If this grosses people out, you can always tie a string around an apple stem and hang the apples and ‘bob’ this way, replacing the apples as they get bitten.
- Cake walk – with a large group of young children, cake walks are a hit. Have different favors, not everything has to be a baked good, and let everyone win at least once. Kids are easy to please. No need to spend a lot of money.
- Blind touch – fill shoeboxes with different items: grains of uncooked rice (dried mealworms), sheets of nori (dried insect wings), green peas (frog hearts) and boa feathers (witch’s hair). Wrap up the boxes in black paper and label. Gross, but not scary.
- Crazy play – the most fun kids have is running wild with their friends. You don’t need to have a long list of activities planned for a great party.
- Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes – head to the local pumpkin patch and have your kids help you pick out tiny pumpkins and huge pumpkins. Choose green, orange, and white pumpkins. Carve a couple, but don’t worry about making them all look like jack-o-lanterns. They’ll be perfect just the way they are.
- Orange and black – sticking to a color theme is sometimes the easiest thing to do for decoration. Hit up the dollar bins for tablecloths, paper plates, cups, and napkins. Use glue and orange and black glitter to coat one side of a clothespin for hanging things like signs, orange lights, and for holding up any food labels. Paper straws add the perfect amount of “cute” to any party and are inexpensive (and available at almost any big-box or craft stores and, from what I’ve seen lately, discount stores like TJ Maxx and Ross).
- With double-sided tape, stick black construction-paper bats all over your walls and windows. It adds more than you might think. To make things a little spooky, add fangs. (for a printable bat template, head over to www.inland360.com)
- I’m here to tell you that favors are absolutely unnecessary. One less thing to worry about. Instead, have a bowl full of candy near your door and as kids leave, tell them to take a piece or two. Parents will thank you.
In this world of competitive parenting, don’t forget to take a step back. Parties should be fun, not stressful. Food should be easy and delicious, not picture-perfect. Six-year-olds will rate your party on how hard they played with friends and if they got to wear costumes, not on the level of Pinterest-worthy decor and fancy invites.
But that’s not all. Adults need to party, too.
Kids are fun. They’re cute. They’re the reason for parties. Blah, blah, blah.
Do I sound a little bitter that my six children get to have all the fun and I’m left to serve tiny juice boxes to 6-year-olds and clean spaghetti sauce off my walls at the end of it all?
I’m not bitter, but I do know that adults need to have fun, too. If you have kids, get a babysitter sometime during October and host a Halloween party for your grown-up friends.
- Costumes are a must. Adults love dressing up for halloween and don’t let any tell you any differently. If you’re dressing up with your spouse or a friend, the possibilities are endless: Wayne and Garth, Homer and Marge, Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega, Bob and Linda … most adult characters can be conjured up using clothes and items you have at home. On your invite, don’t forget to add “COSTUMES REQUIRED.”
- Food and drinks are easy with adults. (Good) guests will ask, “What can I bring?” Be prepared to let them know. If you’re serving alcoholic mixed drinks, you can provide the alcohol while your guests are in charge of mixers (for a couple great drink recipes, head over to our website at www.inland360.com). For non-alcoholic options, you can host the drinks and let your friends help with the food. “Could you pick up some chips? … How about something hot? … An appetizer would be amazing.” Guests are happy to help, especially if it’s as easy as stopping at the store on the way over. Don’t forget to provide forks, plates, and napkins.
- Games. No. No games. Adults don’t want to head to a party and be expected to participate in games. This is the truth and sometimes the truth hurts. Want to have things available for guests to play if they want? That’s OK, but don’t push them.
- Indoor/outdoor space is nice and breaks things up a little bit. If you have a firepit, light that baby up. Have a basket of s’mores supplies – they are cheap and fun. If you don’t have a firepit, but have a patio, borrow a portable one from a friend. Throw some blankets over chairs and make sure your guests know there is outside space available.
- Decorations can be minimal and still be perfect. Halloween is so easy to decorate for, so don’t stress. If you’re offering wine, print up some labels (Google “Halloween wine labels” for free options). Go to the dollar store and get some fake spider webs and hang them from the corners of the ceiling. At the craft store get some tiny red jewel stickers and place them over the eyes of the photos hanging in your home. Plastic spiders are festive, too. If your party is the week of Halloween, here’s a tip: local craft stores will have huge sales on all their Halloween stuff the week of, so wait until then to do decoration shopping.
- If you will have alcohol available, offer taxi service for any guests who shouldn’t be driving. Please and thank you.
I once held a party for my friends on a Friday and I had the start time as 5:30. I had forgotten that: a) people who work a traditional work day are barely done by 5:30, and if they are they might still be running around getting kids, and b) adults can stay up late. At 5:30 we had one couple arrive. The next couple didn’t arrive until 6:45. Do you know how uncomfortable it is for guests to be the only one there for over an hour? Words of advice: start your party at 7 p.m. or later. If you have a babysitter, you can party all night long.
Have a spooktacular time! (Any time you can use ‘spooktacular,’ do it).
Prasil is a Clarkston mom to six. She survives on spontaneous adventures, Bravo programming, happy hour and early bedtimes. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.