Levels of Scariness
Creepy or Cuddly?
The key to a successful Halloween party is knowing the right level of scariness. There is a very fine line between the fun scare that gets kids’ hearts pumping and the terrifying scare no one enjoys. Some things will be obvious; young children will be afraid by anything too realistic—and nothing suggesting real violence is appropriate. Talk to the other parents if you are concerned, and base your scariness level on the invited children most easily scared.
A simple rule of thumb is that crying children are not having much fun at your party. Be flexible, keep your eyes open, let children step back if necessary, or simply end the activity and divert to plan B if you notice problems. Realize, though, that because of the very nature of the holiday, trying to eliminate all things spooky from a Halloween party is next to impossible, and could lessen the party’s fun. Trust your instincts, but remember that you will never be able to anticipate every child’s reaction.
Halloween party decorations are simple and lots of fun. No complicated color choices, no worrying about what matches what. The color theme is laid out for you—black and orange. (Unless you get fancy and go for that eerie purple and green combo!) Ghosts, spiders, anything spooky makes decorating a snap, and you can easily make things less scary by hanging friendly-faced ghosts and smiling witches instead of ghastly ghouls and threatening hags. Imagine a scary giant spider looming over the heads of the children as they walk in the door. Now imagine that same spider wearing a pink bow on its head and jewelry on all its legs: instantly, and easily, it’s not so scary.
Go low budget and get black and orange streamers to hang—with such striking colors, you don’t need much more. Toss up a few stretchy spider webbings from the store and throw some spiders on it: It’s a masterpiece. Go elaborate with black lights—kids love the way black lighting makes colors look wild. If you are thinking about a fog machine, be sure to follow all the directions. They are not toys and must be used in a well-ventilated area—we suggest using outside only, but it could make a striking entrance into the party!
Try peeling some apples and carving them into faces a few days before the party. The apples shrink, turn brown and start to look like little shrunken heads. Simple, cheap, and nicely yucky. Cloves embedded deep in the eyes make a delicious potpourri shrunken head. Make amazing pumpkin centerpieces, go all out with glow-in-the-dark this and special effects that; the sky is the limit. This is not a holiday that need be elegant or sophisticated. It’s supposed to be over the top, so go for it! The key to decorating is having fun and making it fun for the kids.
Music for the Monsters
Halloween parties need music. Classics like “Monster Mash,” “The Purple People Eater,” “Love Potion #9,” “I Put A Spell on You,” “Time Warp,” and “Werewolves of London” are winners with children of all ages. Some other suggestions: theme music from Ghostbusters, or Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events are all fun.
Sound effects tapes and CDs are available from most places that sell Halloween supplies—just make sure that it is age appropriate.
Carving a jack-o’-lantern is a great Halloween tradition. Children love to design faces and especially enjoy removing a pumpkin’s mush. Unfortunately, pumpkin carving as a party activity for children has inherent problems. It takes time to carve a pumpkin, even if you’ve already cleaned and prepared it, and little children can’t safely use sharp knives. Your best bet with younger children is to buy small pumpkin-like gourds, and offer children black markers to draw on faces or pre-cut pieces of craft foam or felt and google-eyes to glue on, letting them decorate a pumpkin each. Have a contest for scariest face, weirdest face, etc.
Like most activities for small children, you don’t want to leave anyone out—have as many categories as you have pumpkins—then everyone wins. Consider making ribbons for the kids to attach to their pumpkins to show their award! Another great jack-o’-lantern creating idea is to make large, pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies and bring out a supply of icings, sprinkles, etc. and have a jack-o’-cookie decorating contest.