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15 Ways to Celebrate Halloween if You’re Not Trick-or-Treating 🎃👻

Halloween celebrate Halloween celebrate

Like everything else in the world right now, Halloween will look a little different this year. It’s on a Saturday. With a full moon. The night before Daylight Saving. In the middle of a pandemic.

Local guidelines for trick-or-treating will vary. The CDC shares some resources, and the kind folks at Hershey’s have released a handy guide. But we have every reason to think positive because, come on, every mom knows all you really need are the two C’s: candy and costumes. Here are some great ways to get your Halloween on — starting now — even if you’re not trick-or-treating this year.

Decorate like you’ve never decorated before…

There’s no such thing as being too extra during the Covid-times holiday season. Whether you want to take the DIY or store-bought route this year, hop on that broom and do it up. Check out our pumpkin carving and other decor tricks to get started decking out your house. One friend posted pictures of the “Halloween tree” in her front yard. In August. Get the kids involved making paper chains. Maybe this is the time to spring for that fog machine?

courtesy Toby Lowenfels

… and costume hard.

If ever there was a year to let your little one’s imagination run wild, this is it. Time to mom up and try to follow through with whatever their little heart desires. Of course, this is easy for me to say from my perch of privilege where my kids just want to be bedsheet ghosts. But still. Do what you can on the costume front. Then do a family photo shoot or costume contest via Zoom. DIY a photo booth to show off the costumes.

courtesy Toby Lowenfels

Make ‘Boo Bags.’

Anyone who’s braved a trip to Target lately might have seen the Boo Bag merchandise they’re pushing. Also known as Ghosting (but not that kind of ghosting) or Boo-Gramming, the idea is simple. You put together a bag of treats, including a note and some stickers or whatever, then deliver it anonymously to a neighbor or friend. According to my extensive research, this practice dates back to 2011 but has been made more relevant during the Covidian era.

Whack a piñata. (Moms, too. So theraputic.)

Honestly, kids don’t care how they get their candy; the vehicle does not matter. Here’s a sweet one to hang in your backyard and then smash to bits.

Carnival!

Set up your backyard or living room with various activity stations. It’s a good way to break out of daily routines and get everybody into the holiday spirit. Plus, it could fill up to two hours of your long day. Some ideas: bobbing for apples, a ring toss, cakewalk, musical chairs, three-legged race, photo booth, or this spooky bean bag toss.

Backyard movie party.

What’s more fun than a spooky movie night? Nothing, so long as there’s candy! Just be careful here because the sweet spot is to get them into the Halloween spirit without giving them nightmares. As always, check Common Sense Media for age recommendations and content. Some kid-friendly choices that are currently streaming:

  • Hocus Pocus
  • Addams Family Values
  • Casper
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • The Little Vampire
  • The Spooky Tale of Captain Underpants Hack-A-Ween
  • Super Monsters: Vida’s First Halloween
  • True: Tricky Treat Day
  • Ghost Patrol
  • Spookley the Square Pumpkin
  • Super Monsters Save Halloween

Take a Halloween house tour.

Here’s a Covid-friendly activity that gets everybody out of the house: go look at other houses. Set off on foot or pile into the car and take a drive to look at decorations. Bring some—you guessed it—candy, and queue up a Halloween music playlist or a cauldron-y audiobook.

creative candy distribution

Stage a candy hunt.

Kids are natural born scavengers and love hunting for treasures. On the off chance that your kids have not had enough candy yet—how dare you—why don’t you set up an Easter Egg-style hunt in the house or yard? If they’re already reeling from the sugar—good work, mom!—then stuff some Halloween stickers or trinkets inside the eggs. Kick it up a notch by using glow-in-the-dark eggs.

Books, spooky-style.

I know, this is obscenely simple, but I tried it the other night and the kids were mesmerized: Read together by flashlight. Some favorites: Christopher Pumpkin by Sue Hendra, Ghostly Tales from Folklore by Alvin Schwartz, How to Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green, and The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams.

If the mask fits…

Face mask-decorating is the quintessential 2020 activity. Get in the costume-y spirit by finding some reusable face masks then zhuzhing ’em up with fabric markers, tie dye, heat transfers or however you do. Just make sure to use safe materials that can cover the mouth and nose without obstructing breathing, and avoid the use of harsh chemicals that should not be breathed in.

Host a neighborhood drive-by trick-or-treat.

Join forces with your neighbors and schedule a car parade on your block for some reverse trick-or-treating. Kids stay in their own yards (supervised) while neighbors drive past slowly and toss treats out car windows. I know quite a few neighbors who will gladly throw candy at my kids. What better way to embrace the most ghostly time of year?

Indoor trick-or-treating.

OK this is a little out there but I saw the idea on a Facebook group and kinda think that mom was onto something by having the kids ToT indoors. Because some kids will really miss the actual act of knocking? It goes like this: everyone in the family disperses into different rooms and closes the door, and then whichever child’s turn it is comes knocking, one room at a time. You open the door, they say “Trick or treat!” then you hand out candy. Absolutely worth a try.

Pumpkin carving (and non-carving).

Make no bones about it, we’ve all had to sacrifice a lot this year, but thankfully, we can still carve pumpkins. So push up your sleeves and go after those pumpkin guts! Then roast the pumpkin seeds. Obviously. Not in a carving mood? Then just trick those pumpkins out.

Don’t forget about Halloween-themed food treats.

For most of us, there’s no in-person school or neighborhood party to bring treats to womp womp. But that doesn’t mean we should skip out on all the fun Halloween snacks! In fact, it’s time to double down. After you’ve secured the candy, take this Quarantine-O-Ween up a notch with even more sugar. Caramel apples and pumpkin-flavored Rice Krispies, anyone? Or, fine, take the healthy route with some clementine jack-o-lanterns. Either way, have the kids help out so all hands are on deck.

Make a real-life impact.

UNICEF USA is launching a virtual Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF experience. You can collect donations for UNICEF virtually while teaching children the importance of giving back and helping others. Teachers, parents and children can register for their digital orange box and participate in fun activities to earn “coins” that amount to a lifesaving impact.

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Toby Lowenfels is a writer and mom of three in Culver City, California. Follow her daily musings at @tobyfels.