Advent-style countdown calendars for Halloween are becoming more and more popular. The problem is, how do you fill them? You don't want to do just candy, as the whole holiday is a sugar fest. So what then? You just need
31 ideas for your Halloween countdown calendar, and I've come up with so many good ones that I kind of want to do them myself.
Yes, some candy will be in the treat bags, but that's really in the minority. For these calendars, it's all about experiences — many of the nights will feature a different theme and idea that centralizes your family and their connections during the celebration through theme nights, coupons, and games. There will also be some trinkets, stickers, and other easy items to fill the calendar so that parents don't get overwhelmed with the need to fill every minute of the month with something special.
Basically, what you're looking for is a good mix of experiential gifts peppered in with simple treats and activities that balance each other out, while still delighting your children. It might seem like you have to spend a long time figuring it all out, but that's what I'm here for. Let me take the drudgery out of this for you.
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Obviously, there has to be a
Hocus Pocus night. That means running amuck. Place a coupon for "One Hocus Pocus Theme Night" and you can put your kids in costumes with popcorn popped and at least three glasses of potion punch.
One night will be "family game challenge." That means three-legged races, pin the nose on the Jack-o-lantern, beer pong when the kids go to bed, all of it. Keep all the games fun and off the screens (for just one night, I'm not cruel), and see what you can make of it.
Fun fact: popcorn balls are stupid simple to make, and if your kids are over the age of like 6, they can help. One night, put a
recipe for popcorn balls on the card in the calendar, and then go to town.
If you really want to get wild, you can roll in Halloween candies into the balls, or drizzle them with chocolate. My kids like them dotted with red hots.
One night, add a coupon that reads "you're a zombie now." Everyone puts on their worst and most worn clothing, dirties their faces with makeup, and eats "brains." (Jell-O or pudding colored red.) You talk in choppy sentences and stay away from wily sheriffs.
This is a link for five rolls of stickers. Give as many or as few as you want to your kids, and depending upon their personality, they will either have all their notebooks covered by bedtime (my brother) or they will hoard them for years because they can't decide the perfect placement (me).
I love paint-by-number kits, and so do my kids. I have no artistic skill, but I turn into a real Picasso with some paint by number. My children like doing something better than their parents, and they're not wrong — they really are better at it than I am.
Make Your Own Pizza Night
Halloween pizza is my favorite. Mostly because I love making bats out of black olives and ghosts out of cheese, and you could make Jack-O-lanterns out of bell peppers. The whole thing is made to be fun for the whole family, but it's also wildly delicious, which is the best sort of bonus.
Witch night means one thing: potion. Potion, depending on the weather, is either soup or punch. You just pick your poison, and put the recipe in the calendar. The trick is, you have to do it while wearing a witch's hat, and you have to do it by naming everything something ridiculous. Orange juice is "blood of a phoenix" or something similar. You can round the night off by watching
Kiki's Delivery Service.
The night you carve pumpkins is a whole thing. You can put the stencils in the calendar. Or, if you want to, you could paint the Jack-O-lanterns and put the brushes in the calendar. Whatever you do, it could be a ton of fun if you play it right.
I love a good Halloween scavenger hunt. Take a walk through the neighborhood with your kids finding things like "pumpkin with no teeth" and "witch on a door." You could even sprinkle in some things that are somewhat educational, like "fallen oak leaves" and "pinecones."
I love playing with slime, and so do my kids. You can either make it yourself, or you can buy it pre-made. Making it Halloween, you could add in little plastic bat rings or spiders for fun.
Making it yourself makes it a whole craft experience. I would put the slime, or one of the ingredients, into the calendar.
If you are fortunate enough to have a fire pit or an area in your backyard you can build a little fire, nothing says "fall" like a bonfire. I'd put the ingredients for s'mores in the calendar, or maybe a little tinder. Then go outside and get under blankets with your kids and make it a night.
Sugar Cookie Cutout Night
Put some spooky cookie cutters in the calendar, and use them to make some fun cutout cookies to decorate. This is arguably as much for parents as it is the children, because who doesn't love a dang cutout cookie? It's really for the best if you make several extra cookies to eat for the rest of the week.
You've been zombies, but now? The floor is zombies. All night. You need to stay above the brain eaters. The note in the calendar only reads "the floor is zombies," and the game is afoot. Personally, I suck at this game, and I will definitely be the first person in the family to succumb to the undead, but I'll have fun while I try.
Do you remember reading
in middle school? Yeah, don't read those to your kids. Trust me, I still see the pale lady in my sleep. But Peanuts Halloween or something similar? Yeah. Those are good. Put one of the stories in the calendar and get ready for a fun night. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Here's the thing — I'm mostly a lazy creature by nature, and one thing I've learned is that there's a hack for pretty much everything. Do your kids love Reese's cups? Making
Buckeye bark together as a family is the perfect activity and it's a dead simple and similar treat. Honeycomb candy also couldn't be easier if your kids are a little bit older. If your kids are super young? Scooping truffles is the way to go.
I love a costumed evening. For this night, everyone dons a monster costume (zombies, witches, and vampires being the easiest — just glitter the heck out of dad or mom) and have a monster mash. Turn on the music, set your lights to green, and have a fun night of monster themed dancing. (Zombie Zumba, anyone?)
Halloween manis for all. Have you even seen the cute
Halloween nail polish and stickers they have right now? And anyone who says that manicures are just for girls, has clearly never had a good enough manicure to want everyone to enjoy it.
OK, if your kids are older, they can watch the movie
Clue with you, but if not, just play the game along with others like the or other spooky board games. While Clue takes a bit longer, it's a fun family game. In the calendar, you definitely put the candlestick. Goosebumps board game
Making caramel apples is a Halloween tradition for my family, and while the kids don't do the dipping, they do sprinkle the apples with sprinkles, nuts, chocolates, and cinnamon sugar. Sure, it's a bit messy, but it's absolutely worth it. Plus, they keep in the fridge for a really long time. (Hack: you can do apple slices for little fingers that will get too sticky with a whole apple.)
Fall Window Halloween Hangings
One of the few semi-artistic things I can do is
make stained glass out of waxed paper, tissue paper and leaves. It takes time to get it just right, but it's worth it. Plus kids really love seeing their art hung in the windows for the month. It's really sweet.
In the calendar, add a little ghost. In the hallway, set up a
game of ghost bowling with toilet paper rolls and a plastic pumpkin. You could make it harder and more fun by turning yourself into a ghost with sheets before you get down to the bowling. Just make sure to take tons of ghost selfies.
Kids love anything that basically explodes. This kids' science experiment to
make ghost rockets is one of my favorites. In the calendar, you could write something like "take off with the spirits." It's an easy experiment done with alka seltzer, though it's best to do outdoors.
Every Halloween song you can think of is available on YouTube as a karaoke song. "Purple People Eater" and "Monster Mash" and all of the most emo of My Chemical Romance songs that you and your partner can sing together after the kids go to bed. (You know you want to.)
Make small Jack-O-lanterns or just hollow out small pumpkins, and use baking soda and vinegar tinted orange and red to create pumpkin volcanos. Yes, it's very third grade science project, but it's so much fun. Also, why do we do this as a science experiment? Just what exactly are we learning?
Should you have pizza for dinner? All signs point to yes. Should you watch whatever is on Freeform that night? Ask again later. The point is that you will have "the great beyond" via the Magic 8 Ball making all your decisions. Incidentally, this is also how I chose which undergrad to go to, so I can attest to its intelligence. Obviously, what you put in the calendar is a triangle shaped piece of paper reading, "ask me anything."
Did you know that there is such a thing as a happy tarot deck? Seriously, you could give each other the most stars and rainbows readings with just enough "I see you are having trouble with your math homework, and your parents don't understand it either" to make sense.
I am a lover of the store Lush, but they're not the only bath bomb maker on the market. One great smelling and relaxing way to celebrate Halloween is with Halloween bath bombs. Not only will your kids not fight you on taking a bath, but they might even be convinced to listen to an audiobook while they're in there. A win for everyone. (Buy yourself a bath bomb as well while you're at it.)
Buy plain white or clear Christmas ball ornaments, and a small art kit, and put something about it in the calendar. Then, that night, make a Halloween ornament that has something meaningful for that year. Display them every October for the next however-many-ears. See how the art changes and grows.
You think I'm going to give you a witchy prayer, but I'm not. For this, I want you to take the time to make a few Halloween treat bags that you can sneakily drop off to friends and family's doorsteps. Trust me, your kids will get more into this than you think.
The last is obviously trick-or-treat or whatever substitute you're doing this year. Add glow sticks or face paint in the calendar and go wild. Have a great time and remember all the fun you had leading up to the big event. It's absolutely my favorite holiday, and I think it will be yours soon, too.