Looking for ways to celebrate one of the year's most fun holidays with your kids? Plan a costume party for them! Halloween get-togethers can be a wonderful alternative for parents concerned about taking small children door-to-door for tricks or treats. Not sure where to start? Follow our seven steps below and you'll be sure to have a ghoulishly good celebration.
1. Keep it devilishly simple
Make the celebration short — the same length you would for a birthday party (about an hour and a half for tots under 6, about two hours for those between 7 and 12). This allows enough time for a costume parade, a few activities and some nibbles. Holiday-themed invitations, silly decorations and easy party games are the key to memorable and fun festivities.
2. Send out invitations at least two weeks in advance of the party
Your local party store or invitation web sites offer Halloween invites, or, better yet, you can make easy cards at home. Those handy with scissors can trace and cut out a spider or web (think of the fold-and-cut process used for paper snowflakes) — or a simple witch hat or pumpkin "carved" from construction paper.
3. Don't make it too scary
While it's great fun to transform your home or other location into a haunted house to set the mood, keep in mind the age of the littlest party guests. While black lights and eerie music can be amusing for elementary-age kids, it can frighten impressionable preschoolers. And you'll be sure to hear from parents whose children wake them in the middle of the night with nightmares.
4. Have fun with decorations
There are fabulous party decorations available that work with all ages — from creepy cobwebs and smiling bats to carved jack-o-lanterns, broomsticks, and friendly skeletons — that can be purchased from local party stores or five-and-dimes. You can also set your kids to work by taping butcher paper to the walls and letting them decorate their own haunted houses or graveyard scenes, complete with flying ghosts, red devils and witches.
5. Transform your kitchen into a laboratory
Rubber fingers swimming in tomato sauce, crumbled chocolate cake topped with gummy worms or eyeball deviled eggs are a few ways to create a spooky setting. Rubber bugs, pieces of fur or other objects with a distinctive feel work well in shoeboxes or drawers. Instruct guests to speculate the ghoulish item inside and award prizes for guesses that are right on the money.
6. Keep everyone busy
Have handy crafts and games for younger guests, and try filling a vat with fruit and let older kids bob for apples. Purchase
little pumpkins at the local farm, pass out magic markers and have a face-drawing contest. Play a game of Halloween character charades or pin the tail on the devil. Try to "catch" white skeleton heads — white balloons with faces drawn on in magic marker — with nets. Divide the kids into teams and enjoy a "mummy wrap" contest. Put plastic spider rings around the house for a great take-home favor.
7. Prepare a selection of spooky treats
Don't let all the little werewolves go home hungry. Please their picky palates with a Halloween-themed meal instead! From Pumpkin Ravioli to Polenta Fingers and 'Blood Red' Tomato Sauce, the recipes below are sure to be the perfect end to a spooky celebration. To make the day extra fun for your kids, have them help you whip everything up.
- Pumpkin Soup Served in Individual Roasted Pumpkins
- Pumpkin Ravioli
- Mini Man Burgers
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Ranch Dip and Baby Carrots
- Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage
- Haunted Candy House
- Pumpkin Seed-Crusted Chicken
- Candy Bar-Stuffed Baked Apples
- Deviled Eggs
- Polenta Fingers and 'Blood Red' Tomato Sauce
- Spider Cupcakes
- Mini Pumpkin Spice Cakes with Orange Glaze
- Salsa Cheddar Dip with Witches Hats