Alternative Activities For Halloween
If you live in the city or maybe a very rural area, Halloween, and the trick-or-treating that inevitably goes along with it, may not be a great holiday event! It can even be one that many Christians avoid due to the historical and legendary meanings behind the origin of this "holiday". Whether these be the reasons or if you are just tired of the same old gruesome costume parties, here are some alternative activities ideas that may just be what you need!
Hayrides and Bonfires
If you have access to a country setting these ideas will be easy for you! Plan a hayride or a bonfire....or both!! These can be a great get-together for teens and young adults as well as those older folks among us! Very young children may not enjoy the quiet laid back setting that these invite, but teens like the mystery and opportunity for snuggling that it provides almost as well as adults do!
The best hayrides are those with horses pulling a large wagon or trailer filled with hay bales, hay, and blankets. We have had tractors and even pick-up trucks pull flatbed trailers with a hay bale railing and a hay filled center. It is a cozy, cuddly way to spend some time under the stars with a sweetheart. One thing that can help make it memorable is to add a CD of old campfire songs. There are several older country groups like The Sons of The Pioneers and Roy Rogers that sang the songs that really set the mood. Have a route mapped out for the driver that includes back roads and lots of star gazing opportunities. If you have teens on this, be sure to supervise and keep count of your attendees. Losing a teen along the way will make for a very frightening evening that is NOT welcome. One year we experienced a teen who jumped off and walked home when we went by his road. Talk about panicking!! We had a tough hour before we found him at home asleep!! It could have been so much worse, but I plan to avoid that happening EVER again! Another tip I offer is be sure that all children under 12 be accompanied by their parent. It is less than wonderful to have a child suddenly become afraid when traveling near the woods and in the dark. If their parent is along, they are much happier and so is everyone else. Typically we only have hayrides for teens and adults to avoid this happening.
Hayride snacks might include a trail mix made from nuts, pretzels, raisins, cheese crackers, cereal and M&Ms put into individual quart-size zipper lock baggies. We have also had popcorn, granola bars or haystack cookies. The important thing is to have items that can be easily handled and distributed with minimal clean-up. Drinks that work well are apple juice boxes which have been heated in warm water before setting out and kept warm in a cooler. Yes, a cooler can keep items warm as well! The warm apple juice leaves a feel of hot cider which is another great drink to have when returning to the party central location. This is when the bonfire begins!
Make sure to check ahead in your area for requirements for building bonfires and keep an eye out for burn bans. In our area, October tends to have had enough moisture that it is rarely an issue, but it never hurts to check! Your local fire department will be glad to advise you of any requirements or safety issues involved. Be sure to have plenty of firewood available and ready to add to the fire. Another recommendation is to have one person in charge of the fire for the entire evening. It can be disasterous to find out that no one is actually "minding" the fire. Fires are like toddlers...they get away and out of control very quickly!! However, when supervised constantly, they are a great joy! Have a fire extinguisher on hand and know how to use it. The person responsible for the fire should also have on hand a cell phone and the number to the local fire department. Having the emergency equipment handy almost guarantees there will be no need for it!
All bonfires require the necessary s'mores! Have the ever delicious graham crackers, marshmallows and hershey candy bars handy! A handful of sharpenend sticks or weiner roasting forks will be needed to get the marshmallows toasted and ready for s'moring! These are the best and messiest treats to have! Be sure to have a couple of packages of wipes handy, but avoid the ones with lotion on them. It is awful to taste the lotion on your marshmallows! Cookies like the haystacks are great to have on hand as well as hot cider or hot cocoa! If you are having a warmer night for halloween, you can serve cold cider and get that fall feeling!
Pumpkin Patches And Corn Mazes
Visiting a pumpkin patch and picking out your very own pumpkin is a cherished memory of many children. The pumpkins can be painted, drawn on, carved or simply displayed just as they are! While the children are picking out a pumpkin of their own, be sure to grab one for your table. They make great flower vases for fall decorations and often will make it all the way to the Thanksgiving table! Be careful to protect them from frost and save the carving for the night before and it is possible! The pumpkins range in size from the very small 2 inches to very large. Be ready to spend some serious time pouring over the many shapes, sizes and colors of the pumpkins. While you are there, you may want to take this opportunity to take some awesome snapshots of the family! Most pumpkin patches "dress up" the farm for this time of year with scarecrows, flowers and, of course, pumpkins!! Some even serve hot cider! Take advantage of the decorations and capture the memories to share! Many pumpkin patches offer alternative activities for young children like a hay waller (area filled with loose hay to roll around and play in), a hay bale maze, or even a corn maze.
A corn maze requires the supervision of an adult for small children and can be great fun for all ages. We have one that has educational stops at various points in the maze. You read the information provided and fill in the blanks in a card you receive at the starting point. It makes it an informative and fun day for all! Be watchful for snakes as they can thrive on the mice that love to live in the mazes. It is rare to spot them, but it is possible! Corn mazes can vary in complexity, so check to see how easy it is to get through before turning children loose in them! They can be great fun! The average costs in our area range from $5 per person to $15 per person. Some are open at night and are really a kick to try!! The hay bale mazes are generally shorter and often have areas that require crawling through them, so be prepared! One suggestion is to make sure that everyone has on tennis shoes or boots. The mazes often have muddy areas and then again....snakes. Closed toe shoes are preferred in both of these cases!
Cookout And Barbecue
Schedule a family friendly cookout or barbecue and build bonds and memories! Grilling burgers and roasting hot dogs over an open fire makes for a fun evening for the entire family. Grill steak or pork chops and it is a barbecue! Wrap your veggies in foil and throw them on the fire and your meal becomes a fall favorite!
Plan for the evening and make it a memory! Invite the grandparents and make them part of the entertainment! Begin the evening with food, of course, and everyone will fade into a pleasant demeanor. Set up games for everyone like badminton, horseshoes or an area for kicking a soccer ball or tossing a football. Kids of all ages will enjoy the time to play without the need for competition. When taking a break, ask grandma or grandpa to share some of their memories and childhood experiences. It is good for everyone to have the opportunity to learn and share the past together. Children can talk about their day, school and friendships. Elders can share the same....it is great! It helps to bring together the generations and build lifelong bonds.
Build a fire and roast marshmallows. It doesn't have to be a bonfire, but a small fire can bring out the storyteller in all of us. It opens the sharing of laughter and conversations. Be watchful and follow the suggestions above for fire safety and it can be great! If you don't have a fire pit, there are ways to improvise. My college son used an old wheel rim he got from a salvaged vehicle. It worked out great and takes minimal space. Make a circle from bricks, concrete blocks or rocks. Build the fire "teepee" style for maximum fire with minimum wood. Have blankets and jackets available to ward of chills and grumpiness!
Themed Costume Party
You can have a costume party with a multitude of themes and avoid the nightmare that can come with Halloween! Try a Renaissance party. Make your home a castle and invite the princes and princesses to come! You can play games like rolling a hoop with a stick, make streamer sticks, decorate the renaissance hats for girls and shields for boys, among many other things. Serve drumsticks and corn on the cob along with apples and you have a truly royal meal! Face painting is a must and stencils and markers make that an easy activity for even the most creatively challenged artist!
Try a storybook character theme for younger children and you will be amazed at how many kiddos break out the books! Give books for treats and the reading will continue to last after the party! You will be surprised at how many different characters there are out there. Have a parade of characters and let each one share who they are and why they chose that character. Kids love show and tell and will feel special being the center of attention! My granddaughter was the perfect "grouchy ladybug"! It introduces a variety of stories to children who might not have otherwise heard them before. This is an excellent alternative in educational settings as well. Serve Clifford's puppy chow mix or sugar cookies made to resemble Raggedy Ann's candy heart. Pick something that reflects the books you give for party favors and the kids will remember and reflect on the party every time they read the book!
photo and text copyright 2011 Deborah M. Carey