Halloween has always felt like a holiday gate to me.  It signifies putting summer behind you and welcoming the cooler days of fall.  It is approached joyfully, with a trail of candy following behind you.

A pumpkin and ghost statues celebrating halloween

Once you open it and step through, there are even more ‘goodies’ on the other side – delicious Thanksgiving fare, and twinkling lights on Christmas trees.

This year, although we still are looking forward to stepping through the gate, there is a veil of trepidation that makes us a bit slower in reaching for the latch. Do we celebrate first? Or just quietly open the gate and step through.

With the mask mandates and the questions of whether or not to allow our children to go door to door in search of sweet treasures, we are in a quandary. 

On one hand, costumes include masks.  On the other, most of these masks aren’t designed to prevent the spread of disease, and often there is a crowd of youngsters at every door. So, what should you do?

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Spooky pumpkins for a Halloween party

Have an Old-Fashioned Halloween Party

If you are concerned about allowing your children to go trick or treating, one alternative is to have an old-fashioned Halloween party at home. You can limit the number of guests, but still allow your young children to have a fun time. 

Even better, the ones who are too old to go door-to-door can join in on the fun, or even be Halloween Party Helpers!

First, choose whether or not this will be a ‘family only’ affair, or if you plan on inviting a few others. If you do invite others, be sure to limit it to a safe number.  Consider whether the party will be held indoors or outside, and determine how much space you have to allow for separation. 

Party Games for Halloween

Second, have games that will allow for proper social distancing.  Some games you can have that accommodate this well would be:

bobbing for apples at a Halloween party

Bobbing for Apples

This game is advisable for an outdoor party.  Just fill a large bucket, barrel or galvanized trough with water.  Place apples in the water.  (A good suggestion is to get soft apples, as opposed to the firmer baking apples!)

Each guest can take a turn trying to grab an apple with his or her mouth only.  If several guests are successful, have an Apple Bobber Play-Off.

You will need to keep a few towels handy for this sport.  And possibly a hair dryer, if the weather is cooler!

If the mask-mandate has you concerned about multiple mouths ‘dipping’ in the water, this is one game you can omit. Or try hanging an apple on a string. Allow each person to have their own apple and try to grab it with their mouth in midair!

(Be sure an adult is standing by the barrel at all times while it is full of water.  This is a safety precaution, and may prevent any unforeseeable problems. Once the game is finished, empty the barrel of water immediately!)

balloon pop game for a Halloween party

Pop the Pumpkin (a balloon game)

For this game, you will need a cork bulletin board, thumb tacks, orange and black balloons, small slips of paper, a pen, and a good set of lungs.

On the slip of paper, write the name of a prize*.  Place the prize slips inside each balloon. Blow them up and tie them off.  Then very carefully push a thumb tack through the very end of the balloons and attach them to the corkboard.

Allow each party guest to throw one dart at the balloons, until they are able to pop one. Find the prize slip and award them that prize.

*For the prizes, you may want to do the majority as a miniature candy bar or small gift.  Make three to four of the prizes a ‘medium-size’ prize (a larger piece of candy or slightly larger gift), and only one large, grand prize. 

witches hat toss for a Halloween party

Witches’ Hat Ring Toss

You can either purchase a witch’s hat and rings at a party store, online, or possibly a Dollar Store.  The rings can be plastic plates with the centers removed.

Set the hat up in the center of a large ring.  Allow each guest two chances to ‘ring the hat’.  If you have more than one who are able to do so, have an Elimination Round until only one player wins the Grand Prize.

pin the tail on the cat Halloween party game

Pin the Tail on the Cat

Or a smile on a pumpkin.  Or a hat on a witch.  Pinning games can be fun, and easy to do.  You can create your own with construction paper, or purchase one already made for you.

To play, hang the pumpkin, cat or witch on the corkboard you used for the Balloon Pop.  Prepare the smile, hat or tail with a pin pushed into the appropriate space.

Blindfold the player, and spin around two times. (With all the candy and treats they have consumed I wouldn’t spin them more than three times!)  Turn them to face the board and let them try to pin the object into the appropriate place.

The winner is the player who comes closest!

plastic pumpkins filled with candy as prizes for a Halloween party

Make it fun with Prizes

Offer prizes for the winners of each game.  You will need Consolation Prizes (for any player who participates, but doesn’t win), and a Grand Prize for the winner.

The only prize exception to the rule is for the Balloon Pop game.  For this one, you will need several small prizes, 3 to 4 medium and one large prize.

Prizes can consist of different things.  Here are a few examples:

Small –a piece of candy or a small plastic toy or ring

Medium – a cellophane bag or small plastic pumpkin filled with candies; small flashlight; puzzle; small toy

Large/Grand – A Super-size candy bar, or a book of coupons for ice cream treats

crafting bags for a Halloween party activity

Keeping Track of the Goodies

Provide each guest with a bag to collect their winnings.  These can be regular small paper bags, small brown paper bags with handles decorated ahead of time, or you can go all out and make small drawstring bags made with colorful Halloween fabric.

You can also hand out the plain paper bags with handles, and allow the kids to decorate their own as one of the activities.  Have markers, stickers and other craft supplies handy to do this.

a table filled with Halloween cupcakes, candy corn, pumpkins and streamers

Snacks and Refreshments

No party is complete without goodies to eat. For snacks and refreshments, try a few of these:

  • Trays of cookies
  • Cupcakes
  • Miniature Popcorn Balls
  • Trail mix ( an easy one is mix together raisins, honey-roasted nuts and dried fruit)
  • Candy Corn
  • Caramel Apples

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The Halloween Party Grand Finale

As a grand finale, offer a ‘campfire’* and tell spooky stories. Serve premade S’mores to complete the effect!

Throughout it all, just make certain you are able to accommodate the mandates for personal gatherings, masks and social distancing.  If planned well, you can still follow the rules and allow your kids to have a safe and happy Halloween!

*Rather than risk a fire hazard, build your ‘campfire’ out of yellow, orange and black construction paper cut into flame shapes.  Pin them on a wall or board, and decorate with construction paper firewood!

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Looking for More Holiday Posts?

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How To Bottle Christmas Spirit in a Jar

Celebrating Thanksgiving – 7 Tips for Singles & Small Groups

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Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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