Friday, August 12, 2011

How to Throw a Kid-Friendly Halloween Party

When I was a wee tot, I loved Halloween, even the scary side of it. When my friends were dressing in princess costumes for trick or treating, I was looking for the scariest costume I could find for a little girl.

That was decades ago. I'm now a grandmother to a wonderful grandson who loves Halloween, but dislikes the scary stuff. Witches, skeletons and scarecrows all give him nightmares. This got me thinking about creating a kinder and gentler Halloween party for little kids, say preschool age to about second grade--one that is heavy on the fun, but light on the fright.

If you're planning a Halloween party for a group of younger children, and you don't want to scare the pants off them, these ideas will come in handy:

Host a party for little ones during the day. This is naturally less scary, and if parents have plans to attend their own grown-up Halloween party in the evening, this won't interfere. If the weather is nice, you can have the party in the back yard.

If you want to have a party later in the day, arrange to take the children trick or treating early in the evening as a group (you'll want the help of a few parent volunteers). Then have all the kids back to your house for an hour or two after gathering treats throughout the neighborhood.

Encourage everyone to come in costume, but don't make the party about the costumes. Wearing a funny hat or a colorful wig can be just as much fun as wearing an elaborate costume.

Decorate for fun. Smiling pumpkins and happy ghosts are more fun for little ones than ghouls and goblins. Crepe paper in orange and black can be hung or arranged on tables. A table cloth in a fun motif, such as candy corn, happy jack-o-lanterns, or falling leaves will help set the tone and get the kids in the mood for Halloween fun. Or just go to the fabric store and buy some inexpensive orange fabric to cover your table with it. Disposable plates and napkins can easily be found in Halloween colors to complement your decorations.

For food, keep things simple. You can do anything from ordering in or making pizza, to creating a sandwich smorgasbord, to grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. Don't worry about making the food look gross or scary. If you want, you can call the pizza something catchy and Halloween-ish like "petrified pizza", or the hot dogs "horrifying hot dogs". Don't forget about the "screamingly scary sandwich smorgasbord". Serve punch that is "frighteningly fizzy". You get the idea.

Play Halloween music in the background--fun Halloween music. The Monster Mash, The Purple People Eater, Ghostbusters, and The Addams Family theme song are good examples of fun and friendly Halloween music. Let the kids make up their own funny dances to the songs, or teach them the words and let them have a Halloween sing-a-long.

For additional entertainment, you can have the kids play pin the nose on the pumpkin, or the tail on the black cat. Or purchase or make your own Halloween pinata and give each child a try at whacking the filling out of it. You could also have your young guests decorate Halloween cookies to take home. Just use Halloween cookie cutters to make a batch of sugar cookies before the party. Have orange, white and black frosting ready for use, and let each child decorate a few cookies.

If you want to give party favors or goodie bags to your guests, avoid the cheap plastic toys and more candy. Instead, give a small box of crayons and a coloring book, or a small package of Play Doh to each child.

For young Halloween revelers, keep it light and keep it playful. The scary and spooky stuff can wait a few years.

Lenore Ravenwood holds a degree in Landscape Horticulture and is fascinated by everything Halloween. You can visit her blog, Raven's Rest Halloween at

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