In a year marked by reworking holiday traditions, Halloween—the first big event in many families’ holiday seasons—may feel like a bit of a question mark.
Don’t despair: with a little imagination, there are many ways outside of the ordinary for your family to create a fantastic Halloween. Whether you’re looking for trick-or-treating alternatives or ways to modify your family’s experience, these not-so-spooky suggestions are sure to inspire an evening to remember.
#1: Embark on a Halloween Hunt
Take a page from Easter’s book with your very own Halloween hunt. Pop pieces of candy or other treats into plastic eggs—Halloween colors and glow-in-the-darks are fun options—then hide them around your home. All that’s left is to unleash your trick-or-treaters and let the egg haunting begin.
“Our neighbor is collecting a variety of candy from all of us, then creating ‘treat bags’ for each family. That way, the kids can have a bunch of different candy as if they were trick-or-treating,” says Salina, mom of two. “We’ll hide the candy, then the kids will dress up and we’ll get hunting.”
For a different take on this idea, consider hiding the entire treat stash somewhere really, really good. Equip kids with flashlights, queue up a fun Halloween playlist, and turn the lights down low for the search of the season.
#2: Create a Tiny Neighborhood
“My daughter came up with a really creative and fun plan for our family,” says Ashley, mom of two. “She is creating a cardboard neighborhood in our backyard using boxes we have been saving. She is going to decorate the houses and cut little doors in each. We will put a small bowl of candy in each one and the girls will be able to trick-or-treat in our tiny backyard neighborhood.”
#3: Explore Other Doors
Typical trick-or-treating involves knocking on the doors of neighboring homes. But what if those doors were a little closer to home?
“I’ve always had really little kids at Halloween in past years, so we’ve done short trick-or-treating stints and then finished up in our house,” says Maggie, mom of three. “One person will be in each room with a bowl of candy, and then my kiddos knock on the door, say ‘trick or treat,’ and move candy from one bowl to the other. It always brings about lots of ridiculous giggles.”
Part of the beauty of this idea is that the doors don’t even have to be real.
“A friend of mine recently shared that she’s going to use cardboard to make a bunch of doors to put around her backyard,” says Emily, mom of two. “Her kids will knock on each of them, and the adults will open the cardboard doors in costume to dole out some candy.”
#4: Build a Haunted House
“I’ve been toying with the idea of creating our own haunted house,” says Hope, mom of two. “My girls love designing things, so it could be a fun activity for them, even if we’re the only ones to go through it. I plan to show them the videos that people have done of their remakes of Disneyland rides for inspiration.”
Older kids might enjoy turning their haunted houses into DIY puzzle rooms. To help get ideas rolling, these escape room puzzles are great launching-off points.
#5: Show Off Those Costumes
Depending on the kid, the Halloween costume selection process can be incredibly intensive—and those awesome costumes demand to be seen.
“We’re thinking of a costume ‘parade’ in front of some of our kids’ friends’ houses,” says Matteo, dad of three.
Want to get more kids in on the action? If your family is in a pod with others, get the group together for a shared strut. Alternately, you can ask the families in your neighborhood if they’d be comfortable collaborating on a socially-distanced costume walk.
For another take on this idea, consider throwing a “Trick or Talent show,” suggests Liz, longtime camp director and established super-aunt. “At the end of each act, performers get a round of applause and a treat!”
#6: Design a Candy Contraption
You may have seen photos of candy chutes designed to distribute sterilized treats from a distance. If that’s your family’s speed, ask your kids how you might introduce your own spin.
“We have a neighbor who has a balcony,” says Hope. “Every year, he puts a piece of candy in a cauldron that’s rigged to a pulley system. When kids arrive, he lowers it down and they can get their piece of candy. I always look forward to this house each year, and it’s perfect for this year!”
#7: Crank up the Cozy
If you’re looking for age-appropriate movie recommendations that are in keeping with the Halloween theme, check out this round-up from Common Sense Media.