Like most things impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Halloween may look a little different this year. Cases are still climbing in many states, and that’s giving families doubts about being able to trick or treat safely.
A survey by Party City shows 96% of parents still plan to celebrate Halloween this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be taking the kids around the block for traditional trick-or-treating. Around 70% of respondents say they’re looking for alternatives to trick-or-treating, either by having a creative Halloween celebration at home or organizing parades or other neighborhood events.
To get some ideas on clever, COVID-friendly ways to celebrate, we spoke with parents around the country to see what fun activities they’re planning to make Halloween magical while still keeping pandemic precautions in mind.
1. Create a “haunted” egg hunt
Egg hunts are a popular way to celebrate Easter in the spring. Why not replicate the idea with a Halloween twist? Jeena Morgan, a mom of five from Pocatello, Idaho, says she’s planning to send her kids on a “haunted hunt” for candy if it isn’t safe enough to trick or treat. “It will be like an Easter egg hunt, but with scary music and spooky stuff, followed by a scary movie and popcorn afterwards,” she says.
This idea can work for single families staying home, or it can be a way to allow neighborhood trick-or-treaters to stop at your house for candy while still maintaining social distance. “Scatter the eggs on your lawn, and kids can respectfully pick up one or two,” explains Kim O’Neill, a mom of one from Enid, Oklahoma.
2. Organize a parade of costumes
For kids, costumes are a major part of any Halloween celebration, and it’d be seriously disappointing if they didn’t get to show off their new Paw Patrol mask or fake mermaid tail. The solution? “Have a parade of costumes. Then we all buy our own candy to enjoy,” says Angela O’Brien, a mom of two from San Antonio.
The parade can be organized with kids in the same neighborhood or apartment complex, and they can stay socially distanced while they march down a safe, designated route. Parents can play music, blow bubbles and wave glow sticks. There are a million ways to customize the event for your specific area and needs.
3. Have a neighborhood decorating contest
This may be the perfect year to go all out creating that front lawn fake graveyard or making the door of your apartment look like the entrance to a haunted mansion. Terra Lindquist, a mom of three from Cottage Grove, Minnesota, suggests communities go all out and then tour the neighborhood to check out one another’s handiwork. “It can be like looking at Christmas lights, but with Halloween decor,” she notes.
Families can check out the decorations while driving around and sipping pumpkin spice lattes or hot chocolate, or they can take a socially distanced walk to see it all. Social media tools like Facebook or NextDoor could even be used to vote on the best decorations.
4. Do a Halloween door drop
Skip the door-to-door trick-or-treating and deliver Halloween goody baskets to your closest family or friends instead. “I’m going to put together little treat baskets with candy, a card and some cute Halloween trinkets to leave on people’s doorsteps,” says Mary Shelton, a mom of two from Dallas. “It’s something I’ve done occasionally during other years, but this year, it seems like the safest way to share treats.”
The baskets can include items like glow sticks, silly glasses, favorite candies or kid-made crafts. You could even do a themed basket with popcorn, movie theater-style boxes of candy and a spooky DVD or a gift card to purchase a movie from a streaming service. The gifts don’t have to be extravagant, and you can make a small list of people who’ll receive them. The idea is just to create a simple surprise that brightens the Halloween season for the ones you wish you could celebrate with.
5. Host a bubble party
Hosting a bustling party may not be safe right now, but you can still party with the people in your house or with the other people in your quarantine bubble. “I’m having an immediate family-only Halloween party,” says Kirsten Garrett Hill, a mom of three from Portland, Oregon. “It will have dancing, lots of food and a costume contest. Also, I will have different candy stations around the house so the kids can still trick or treat.”
While it’s true that Halloween won’t be “normal” this year, there are so many ways to update existing traditions and experience the joy of the holiday. With a little creativity, the spookiest day of the year can still be an exciting celebration that brings families, friends and neighbors together, even while they’re standing at least six feet apart.
6. Make a Halloween candy chute
While some are skipping trick-or-treating entirely, others are figuring out ways to make the tradition no contact. “I don’t feel comfortable risking our health for a sugar buzz,” says Farrah Alexander, a mom of two from Louisville, Kentucky.
Instead, her family is working on crafting a candy chute to deliver treats to socially distanced trick-or-treaters. “I plan to take turns with the kids sending packaged candy down the chute and carefully sanitizing our hands before handling,” she says.
A candy chute can be made from a decorated cardboard tube or a piece of PVC pipe. One West Virginia dad named Andrew Beattie recently went viral after sharing pictures of his own candy chute creation. He explains that the experience can be made “completely touchless” if you pour candy directly from the factory sealed variety bags and instruct trick-or-treaters to catch it in their buckets, rather than in their hands.
7. Get a visit from the Great Pumpkin
Kids who are into Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy may be excited to get a special visit from another magical creature this year: the Great Pumpkin. “Our family really likes the old school Peanuts Halloween special ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’,” says Megan L., a parent of two from Seattle. “So in that spirit, we’re going to hide candy throughout the house so on Halloween morning when the kids wake up, we can pretend the Great Pumpkin came and have the kids go on a candy hunt.”
The Great Pumpkin may be a one-time game to make this Halloween extra special, or it might become a family tradition for years to come. And, as Megan explains, the Great Pumpkin comes with the added bonus of not having to worry about kids eating their entire trick-or-treat haul immediately before bedtime.
8. Create your own Doll in the Hall
Megan has another idea to inspire some Halloween fun. Her family moves a spooky doll around the house a la Elf on the Shelf. She calls it Doll in the Hall.
“It’s actually a new tradition we’ve been doing for the past couple of years, but I think it’ll work really well for quarantine Halloween,” she explains. “We found a really creepy-looking doll at a thrift store, and every day we take turns moving it so the rest of the family can be surprised by discovering it.”
If you have younger kids, you could skip the creepy doll and substitute a more light-hearted Halloween character, like a friendly witch doll or a little stuffed pumpkin toy. Kids will get a kick out of seeing what silly mischief the doll gets into each night, and who knows? The doll may even deliver a special surprise on Halloween.
9. Have a spooky movie marathon
There are so many classic Halloween movies. Why not watch those instead of trick-or-treating? “My kids and I are each going to pick a movie for the family to watch, and we’re going to spend the afternoon and evening having a movie marathon,” says Anna Lee, a mom of two from Omaha, Nebraska.
To make the night even more fun, they’re also going to dress up in costumes and make special Halloween-themed snacks, like pumpkin pie, banana ghosts with chocolate chip eyes and “mummy dogs” that are hot dogs with biscuit dough wrappings. The options are endless. You could even hold a vote on who picks the best movie or comes up with the best snack. Winner gets a king-sized candy bar?
10. Make a DIY treat calendar
“I ordered a plain wooden advent-style calendar with little drawers,” says Chloe Yelena Miller, a parent of one from Washington, D.C. The best part about this idea is that it’s also an art project. Kids can help decide how to decorate it or use their favorite characters and colors to personalize it.
“Our 7-year-old has started to decorate it with drawings of ghost-type Pokémon,” Miller says. “He’s so excited about the idea!” And while these sorts of calendars often have a small candy offered as a treat each day, you can also customize it with small toys, holiday-themed erasers, stickers and other fun, non-candy surprises.