Throwing a Halloween party for children is one of the best ways to make sure your kids have a safe and memorable time on All Hallows Eve. While throwing a holiday bash in your home can seem like an overwhelming task, it doesn't have to be.
Djuana Berlin, an event coordinator from Tucson, Arizona, and the author of "How to Plan a Party or Event," believes there is one simple trick to throwing a successful party, any time of the year: "plan, plan, plan!" Writing everything down is essential in the planning stage. From crafts to games to food, planning everything in advance down to the last detail is essential for making your Halloween party a success.
Budgeting is one of the least glamorous aspects of planning a Halloween party for kids, but it's one of the most important. You need to be able to strike a balance between what you want and what you can afford. If you know that you are going to throw a party well in advance, you can set aside a certain amount of money per week to cover the costs. You can also purchase non-perishable party supplies like paper goods and decorations well in advance of the event. Local department stores typically start displaying Halloween merchandise about a month before the holiday. However, online merchants sell seasonal goods all year long, so you can start shopping for your kids' Halloween party any time of year. It's also a great way to ensure that you have all the arts and crafts supplies you will need for the party.
Focus on the Children
Mike "The Music Man" Slattery is a professional children's entertainer in Massachusetts. He has one excellent suggestion for parents who are throwing a Halloween party for their children:be involved. "Sing, dance and be silly with your kids every chance you get. They grow up way too fast and will soon reach the age where those opportunities will no longer be there. It's a time to help your child celebrate being a kid!"
Choose a Theme
Themes can make parties particularly memorable and fun. Since you will be throwing a Halloween party, you can keep things simple and let Halloween be your only theme. However, there are plenty of more specific themes that lend themselves well to a Halloween party, like vampires, Star Wars, science fiction, pirates, ghosts or zombies. Remember to tailor your theme to your audience. You want to make sure that it's fun for all your guests, so make sure you choose a theme that isn't too scary for the age group that will be attending.
For older kids, throw a BYOP (bring your own pumpkin) decorating party (or carving, depending on the guests' ages). Lay out a large workspace to allow each child to decorate their pumpkins with paint, stickers or other accessories, or have them carve out designs with adult supervision. After the kids scoop the guts out of the pumpkin, pop the seeds in the oven for a snack to enjoy while they decorate. When everyone is finished, hold a contest for the best pumpkin in different categories (scariest, most colorful, most unique, etc.)
Decorate Your Haunted Home
Decorations should go along with your theme. For a general Halloween theme, ghosts, skeletons and jack-o'-lanterns will do. If you're going with the haunted house theme, transform your home by lining the corners of the room with cobwebs and placing big, plastic spiders in them, playing spooky music, adding special lighting (like black lights) to darken the room and placing scary pumpkins lit with LED candles throughout the space. You can also add some cardboard coffins and Styrofoam headstones for a haunted graveyard outside. Be sure the room isn't so dark that the kids are bumping into the furniture.
For littler ones, nothing says party like a bunch of balloons. Rent a helium tank and blow up balloons in different shapes and sizes. Go with traditional orange and black balloons or coordinate them with the rest of your decorations. Tying several balloons to your mailbox or porch makes it easy for guests to identify the party location once they reach your street, and balloons give your home a festive look. Indoors, attach balloon bouquets filled with plastic spider rings, candy or other goodies to every chair at the table, and allow children to take them home after the party.
Make Food Fun
"If you plan on serving food at your party, then make it simple," advises Berlin. "Finger foods are easy to prepare and are easy to serve. Some examples would be pizza pockets or bagel pizzas. You can make themed food items like little lightsabers out of pretzel rods with bacon wrapped around them to make the handle. You then bake them in the oven until the bacon is crispy. This is perfect for a space or sci-fi party." This finger food is also great for a Star Wars-themed Halloween party. For more Halloween kid-friendly food ideas, visit Care.com's Halloween Pinterest board.
There's nothing wrong with letting the children participate in some of the food preparation. Lay out a variety of toppings and allow each child to prepare his or her own personal size pizza. You can even create pumpkin (pizza) pies. Pre-cut different veggies to make them look like pumpkin eyes, noses and mouths and let the kids create a scary pizz-o-lantern. Carefully bake the pizzas in the oven and let the kids eat the food they helped to create.
When it comes to dessert, try out some ice cream witches. Scoop out a ball of mint ice cream for each guest and place waffle cones on top to create a witch hat. Give the kids toppings and frosting in which to create their witch's face and hair. Use gum drops for eyes, Twizzlers for hair and candy corns for noses. For the older ones, check out these edible eyescicles. The recipe uses pudding, jelly beans and Life Savers to create a creepy, yet delectable treat. Anything fun that allows the kids to participate in preparing (or playing with!) their own food will give them a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Keep Kids Busy
Games are an excellent way to keep kids busy during a Halloween party. You can have them bob for apples or play hide-and-seek. If you have a safe yard that is surrounded by a fence or isolated from the road and other dangers, play a Halloween version of tag where the "it" person is the zombie. Once the other kids are tapped by the zombie, they become zombies, too, and help in the hunt to find the rest of the human kids. Or play the All Hallows Eve equivalent of an Easter Egg hunt. Fill small plastic pumpkins with candy or prizes and hide them throughout the yard. Have the party guests collect them in a basket, trick or treat bag, or other Halloween-themed reusable container.
Another option is to have children try to identify different objects while blindfolded. Cold spaghetti, Jell-O, gummy worms and peeled grapes all have interesting textures that lend themselves to squeals and laughter when playing this identity game.
Everyone loves prizes, so hold a costume contest and make sure every child gets recognized for his or her creativity. In addition to best costume, look for most colorful, spookiest, most unusual, etc. You should be able to create enough categories so that every child comes out a winner.
Create Lasting Memories
Arts and crafts are a good idea for giving kids memories of your Halloween party. If you aren't afraid of cleaning up a little mess after your guests go home, then painting is a great option. Kids love to paint Halloween masks and trick or treat bags that they can use in the future. Visit Care.com on Pinterest for more great kids' crafts.
Witches hats are fun and easy to make. Supply plenty of black construction paper, glue sticks, glitter, paint and other items that can be used to embellish the finished hats. Have the kids roll the black construction paper into cones, trim the bottoms so they can stand flat on the table and cut out circles for brims. For smaller children, you can supply pre-cut paper or supervise the cutting with safety scissors. Using the glue sticks, the children can secure the cone-shaped hat in place and glue the brim to the bottom. Once the hats have been assembled, encourage children to decorate them.
For a really simple craft, buy black or orange plastic buckets from a toy store or arts and crafts supply store. Let children to decorate their buckets using construction paper cut-outs of ghosts, jack o' lanterns, black cats, witches hats and other creepy Halloween-themed objects. Provide safety scissors and adult supervision for smaller children or supply pre-cut shapes that they can affix to their buckets with glue. For an added treat, fill each child's bucket with candy or other suitable surprises when they are done.
Send Home Something Special
Halloween party favors are a must for children of any age. While it might be fun to send each child home with a pumpkin, they can be heavy and difficult for little hands to carry. Instead, provide each child with a small gourd that looks like a miniature pumpkin. This can even be turned into a fun arts and crafts project if you let the kids decorate their mini pumpkins with paint, stickers and glitter. Gift bags are also always a great party favor. Include Halloween-themed merchandise like stickers, toys and candy.
Tracey Parece is a bibliophile, audiophile, writer and photographer from Boston, Massachusetts. Her work can be found here.