Bring on the Goosebumps with 9 Spooky Halloween Activities for Kids Big and Small
There are pumpkins on porches and cobwebs on doors. It’s almost Halloween, and your young ghosts and goblins can’t wait to celebrate! But there’s more to this fall holiday than costumes, jack-o’-lanterns, and trick-or-treating. Introduce your children to the spooky day’s history and have some fun with Halloween activities for kids and adults.
Celtic Halloween History and Traditions
Many Halloween traditions originate from the faith practices of the ancient Celts living in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man—now part of the modern United Kingdom.
Their religious beliefs centered on the natural world. Autumn was the time to celebrate the harvest and acknowledge the changing seasons, moving from warm summer to chilly winter. They also believed that during this season, the division between the world of the living and the dead was at its thinnest, and the souls of the departed could cross over to communicate with those they left behind. On the night they believed the veil to be thinnest, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, which took place on October 31.
Many of Samhain’s traditions focused on protecting yourself from troublesome spirits and welcoming friendly ghosts. The Celts believed that dressing up in costumes frightened away wicked spirits. In the middle ages, Samhain traditions expanded to include jack-o’-lantern carvings. As Christianity began to spread in the British Isles, these festivities’ significance shifted thanks to the introduction of the Catholic observance of All Hallows’ Day on November 1, now widely known as All Saints’ Day.
Samhain became known as All Hallows’ Eve, a cultural holiday that brought communities together to relax and rejoice in a successful harvest before the solemnity of the next day’s celebrations. Instead of frightening spirits, children would dress up as saints and go door-to-door to ask for sweets. Over time, these traditions continued to evolve, becoming the celebration we know today.
Now that you’ve had a taste of the traditions behind the modern-day take on this age-old holiday, let’s explore some engaging, kid-friendly Halloween activities for home, outings, and parties.
Howlingly Good Halloween Activities
From Halloween crafts to outings and games, there’s plenty to keep everyone in the family engaged and entertained this spooky season. Here are some ideas for activities to enjoy with your kids this October:
Zombie Rock Painting
Looking for some fun Halloween crafts for kids? Give zombie rock painting a try. Send your kids out to bring home a selection of rocks. The more irregular the shapes, the better! Help the kids coat the stones in two to three layers of green acrylic paint. Once that’s dried, kids can glue on some googly eyes and add creepy features using paint pens.
Once the rocks are finished, let your kids decide how to use them. Your zombified stones could line your driveway or create a Halloween-themed DIY game of tic-tac-toe.
Make a Witch’s Broom
This DIY Halloween decoration is a great opportunity to take the family on a walk and will look amazing on your porch. Head out with your kids in search of colorful leaves in all shapes and sizes and find a foot-long stick for each family member making a broom. If the leaves don’t change colors where you live, that’s okay—you can pick up craft leaves at the store or paint green leaves orange, red, and yellow yourselves.
Once you return home, help your kids use masking tape or glue to attach the stems of the leaves to the bottom of the sticks. Fan the leaves out to form the shape of the bristles of a broom. When all the leaves are attached, wrap and tie a piece of yarn or twine around the stick to help secure the leaves. Then your witch’s brooms are ready to show off to the neighbors!
Icky Halloween Bins
Need a delightfully icky Halloween party activity? Create ooey-gooey fun by building a series of sensory bins (boxes or plastic storage containers work well) and have kids of all ages try to guess what’s inside. Cover the boxes in black construction paper or craft paper to hide what’s inside and make them spookier, then cut a hole in the top of each box large enough for a kid to put their hand through. Inside the boxes, place peeled grapes for eyeballs, candy corn for monster teeth, pumpkin insides for brains, and applesauce as ghost slime. Or bring some Halloween science into the mix by creating a bin full of homemade slime. Just make sure to protect clothes and surfaces to avoid any potential messes.
Hold a Wild Hunt
There are many Halloween games for kids, but heading out on a spine-chilling scavenger hunt is bound to be a favorite. Create a series of spooky clue cards to hide inside or outside the house, depending on the weather. Each card should contain a riddle that participants need to solve, leading to the next clue and, eventually, a prize at the end. The hunt can be a timed race or a cooperative activity in which participants help each other solve the puzzles and move forward in the search together. Prizes can include Halloween candy, a special jack-o’-lantern, or the winner’s choice of the next spooky activity.
Keep It Traditional
Not all great Halloween activities are newfangled—some are very old. Keep tradition alive with these classic staples of the holiday.
Probably the best-known Halloween tradition—after trick-or-treating, of course—is the annual jack-o’-lantern carving. These Halloween decorations are an unmistakable sign that says: We have candy, trick-or-treaters! Purchase a pumpkin to share as a group or get one for each family member. If your children are too young for pumpkin carving, they can turn their gourd into a piece of Halloween art with paint, glow-in-the-dark stickers, glitter, and glue.
Dressing up has long been a part of Halloween, tracing all the way back to when the Celts observed the holiday of Samhain in ancient times. Instead of buying a costume from the store, host a DIY Halloween costume party with family and friends. You can almost guarantee no one will arrive dressed the same! Here are some homemade costume ideas to get you started:
- Goldfish: Start with an oversized orange hoodie, then glue orange painted coffee filters or paper plates on it to make scales, and googly eyes onto the hood to create a goldfish.
- Bride of Frankenstein: Do you have white pants, a white long-sleeve top, a white curtain panel as a cape, a black-and-white wig, and white face paint? Then you have a Bride of Frankenstein costume!
- Pot of gold and rainbow: Put together a blue sweatsuit with rainbow stripes up the sleeves and legs and an old pot painted gold to use as a bucket to hold candy. You’ve made a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
- Salt-and-pepper shakers: Wear all white clothes (for salt) or all black clothes (for pepper) plus a giant cardboard S or P attached to the chest and back. Colander helmets top off this fun take on salt-and-pepper shakers that’s great for two kids who want to trick-or-treat together.
Going door-to-door for sweets was originally part of All Hallows’ and All Saints’ Day traditions. Dressed up in their saintly costumes, children would visit neighbors, who would hand out “soul cakes,” spiced cookies made with cinnamon and allspice with raisins or currants tossed into the batter. Over time, this tradition merged with Halloween practices and evolved—now, we give candy instead of baked goods.
If you live in a quiet neighborhood and trick-or-treat before it gets dark, bring a camera and have your family members do silly poses with their favorite decorations and costumes from around the block. Maybe they’re running from a ghost or peeking out from behind a cardboard tombstone! When the night is over, you’ll have a load of pictures to create a Halloween scrapbook with your kids the following weekend.
The Celts were in tune with seasonal changes and noticed when the nights started getting longer. They tried to push back against the darkness, especially on Samhain night when ghosts were believed to be about, by lighting large bonfires to burn through the night. Bonfires can be dangerous with kids around, but you can still get in on the spirit of the celebration—and invite friends and neighbors to take part! Brew some hot chocolate, grab some blankets, roast marshmallows in the oven or a microwave, and enjoy family-friendly ghost stories or songs around a collection of jack-o’-lanterns. You don’t need a big fire to chase away the darkness!
Shivers Up Your Spine
Long ago, Halloween celebrations were thought to keep away monsters and spirits. Keep that tradition alive by bringing the family together to tell their own not-so-spooky tales. The stories could be based on family legends or borrowed from Halloween books at the library. Or you could give things a modern twist by popping some popcorn, pulling out your favorite Halloween snacks, and hosting a movie marathon of kid-friendly Halloween flicks in your living room, complete with blankets and pillows.
Make Some Memories
The fun-filled time your family spends creating or choosing costumes, decorating, trick-or-treating, and handing out candy together will become happy memories your children will look back on as they grow. Try to take pictures and videos to commemorate the moments, including carving or painting pumpkins, doing Halloween-themed art projects, and playing spooky party games. Create a collage of your and your kids’ favorite photos to store with the Halloween decorations and admire every year.
Like Halloween, there are many cultural festivals and traditions just waiting to be explored. Why not head south of the border and discover how to celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Children will enjoy creating the perfect Easter basket to usher in spring or organizing a Thanksgiving feast with an international twist. And don’t forget, you can keep the global connections coming with our World Edition subscription box. Your young explorers will enjoy being exposed to the world’s traditions through games, stories, and hands-on activities that will give them an appreciation for their home and the experiences of others in far-off places.