Halloween Party Ideas for Babies and Kids
Give a Halloween twist to some old favorites, and use your imagination. Instead of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, try Pin the Tail on the Black Cat, or Pin the Wart on the Witch’s Nose. Like most games, you can adapt the rules depending on age to create a better experience. Toddlers can stand directly in front of the cat, be blindfolded and still find it a challenge to properly place the tail. For preschoolers, we’ve found that blindfolding them a few feet away and having them try and take a few steps forward is disorienting enough to make it fun. Older kids need the full blindfold, turn around three times rule to make it challenging for them. One fun adaptation is to have the rest of the children help the blindfolded one, by asking them to give the blindfolded child encouragement, like saying “Creepy” when the tail is off target and “cuddly” when it gets closer to the right place.
Ghost, Ghost, Boo
Ghost, Ghost, Boo is an adaptation of the classic Duck, Duck, Goose game. All children but one sit in a circle with about a one-foot space between each child, and the remaining child is chosen as “It,” “Grave Keeper,” or whatever fun name occurs to you. The Keeper walks around the circle, lightly touching each child’s head and saying either “Ghost” or “Boo.”
When the Keeper says “Ghost,” everyone remains seated and the Keeper continues around the circle. When Keeper says “Boo,” the tapped child stands and tries to tag the Keeper before he makes it all the way around the circle to sit in the “Boo” child’s vacant space. If the Keeper makes it back to the seat without being tagged, the tapped child then becomes the Keeper. If the tapped child tags the Keeper, he sits back down and the Keeper continues the game.
The Keeper cannot “Boo” the same child twice in a row. When Keeper, some children will never get around to actually “Booing” anyone. Make a rule that they may only go around the circle three times and must stay near the circle. If rambunctious running is out of the question, have the chase portion of the game be done on tiptoes, hopping, or some other slower movement.
Children must have at least a basic reading level to play this classic word game, so be ready to help with some of the logistics of this game for less advanced readers (make sure they have the proper number of spaces for letters and place the letters properly.)
On a chalkboard or large piece of paper, the person who is “It” draws a simple gallows or a big circle to reserve space for the figure drawing. “It” chooses a word and keeps it secret. Beneath the drawing space (or gallows), “It” places a short horizontal line representing each letter of the secret word. Leave room to write the letters on the lines.
Children then take turns guessing letters. If a child guesses a letter that is in the word, “It” writes the letter on any line representing that letter and the child continues to guess until he or she has either identified the word or guessed a letter not in the word, at which point it’s another child’s turn to guess a letter. Any incorrect letters earn the children a body part on the drawing. The child who guesses the correct word first wins, and becomes “It.”
Traditionally, the hanged man is a simple, featureless stick figure. But you could make it a witch or other Halloween figure. For extra fun, let the guessing children decide what body parts and features get drawn. If the drawn figure is completed before anyone guesses the word, the current round of the game is over and the person who is “It” slowly writes in all missing letters. The first person to shout out the word then becomes “It.”
Ghost in My Graveyard, Ghouls Are Over Here!
This is a spooky adaptation of the swimming pool game, Marco Polo. Choose someone to become the Grave Keeper. Make a clearly defined, small “graveyard” area, and have parents make sure all children stay within this area. Any “ghosts” stepping out of the graveyard will have to stand still during the rest of the game, and this makes them easier for the Grave Keeper to find.
The Grave Keeper is placed in the center of the graveyard and is blindfolded because, of course, it’s a very dark night and he can’t see the way ghosts can! He counts to 10 out loud while the other children tiptoe (sneaking is important—no running!) away from the Keeper. After he counts to 10, the Keeper says, “Ghosts in my graveyard!” and all children must then answer, “Ghouls are over here!” The Keeper then tries to locate the other children by following their voices. Every time the Keeper calls out, the other children must answer audibly. Ghosts may move about the graveyard quietly, but they may not run or leave the graveyard. If they do either, they must stop and stand in one place until a new Keeper is caught, and they must continue to answer the Grave Keeper’s calls. When the Keeper touches someone, then the game begins again, with the caught ghost now serving as graveyard Keeper.
Catch the Fly
This is a simple and amusing game. Take a ball of yarn (black, orange, or white) and wrap it around the room. Loop it around furniture, objects in the room, and so on. This is your web. It does not need to look like a web, but it should circle the room a few times going in different places, doubling back on itself, and so forth. Next, cut a length of the same yarn for each child. The younger the child, the shorter the length (four yards worked well for 4-year-olds). On one end of the piece of yarn, tie a plastic spider. On the other end, tie a present—candy if you like, or maybe a plastic insect. Hide the present and head back to the starting point of your game by weaving the piece of yarn through the web and room. This is a simple treasure hunt. Children take their spider and follow the string to their present. This game is extremely age adaptable: Shorter lengths of yarn and less complicated weaving will make this easy for even very young kids.
Everyone is a ghost buster—the object of the game is to find as many ghosts during the party as possible. The winner at the end of the party gets a prize. Ghosts can be little cut outs, which are easy to hide, or if you aren’t trying to limit the amount of sugar, lolli-ghosts are good for this game as well. Lollipops are covered with a white tissue, which is tied around the top of the lollipop with a piece of string so that the folds of the tissue fall around the stick like a ghost’s sheet. Eyes are optional.
A classic Halloween party game is to create bowls of nasty feeling objects and to tell a story, with blindfolded children reaching into these bowls to feel an appropriately yucky substance. For example, you tell the story of Zombie Zed Who Walked Even Though He Was Dead. You describe his hair and then put their hands into bowls of cold, cooked spaghetti to let them feel Zed’s hair. (Before I mention that angel hair pasta is actually perfect for this, I should say that this never fails to upset the very young, so stop right here if you’re planning a party for preschoolers!) Got a crowd of 7- or 8-year-olds? Then do this and put the effort into it, because it will be their favorite game of the night! For eyes, peeled grapes or whole olives (no pimentos). For hands, fill a latex glove with gelatin and chill until set. Clean and bleach a chicken bone for a bit of Zed’s skeleton. Think yucky, slimy, and touch. Do not use raw meat or raw eggs though!
Telling ghost stories is another classic Halloween activity. Turn off the lights and use a flashlight to make it scarier if you want. Instead of a campfire, look into the relatively cheap light-up cauldrons found in party stores. Make stories age appropriate. Some of our recommendations include The Teeny Tiny Ghost, by Kay Winters and Big Pumpkin, by Erica Silverman, are excellent for the preschool set.
Make your own story. Sit in your reading circle and start the story: “It was a dark and stormy night…” Tell the story for a few minutes, and then, at an exciting moment, stop and let the next person continue the story on their own. Pass an object like a flashlight or pumpkin to each storyteller as it becomes his or her turn. In shy crowds, have adults ready to jump in with a little help.
A variation is to have picture cards, divided into Characters, Locations, Actions, etc., and deal one of each category to each child and they must make up and tell a short story (even a sentence for the younger ones) about the cards they were dealt. One great way to go is to keep one category all very Halloweeny—for instance all the characters be related to Halloween—Mummy, Witch, Goblin, Ghost, Skeleton, Vampire, Trick-or-Treater, Bat, Spider, Werewolf, Gargoyle. Consider letting your Location and Activities vary a bit more. In your Locations, you might want a haunted house, a cemetery, but consider tossing in something incongruous, like the beach. Imagine what silly things can be said about a Werewolf at the beach! This helps tone down the scare level for younger ones, and you can even manipulate the cards to create silly scenarios for the more easily spooked children.
Playing with words, silly rhymes and sounds are a favorite activity for children and can be a blast at parties. See who can say these quickly three times:
Which witch wants Winnie’s watch?
Good ghosts go galloping gratefully.
Slow snakes slither, speedy spiders spin.
Make up your own, or check out Creepy Crawly Critters and Other Halloween Tongue Twisters (An I Can Read Book) by Nola Buck.
The key to success for any party is to plan ahead, organize yourself, anticipate everything, and then realize that you can’t anticipate everything. Remember that if you’re relaxed and having fun, your guests are more likely to have fun. Dress up and get into it. Enjoy. It’ll be a real treat!
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