A Spookier, Scarier, More Fun Halloween

A Spookier, Scarier, More Fun Halloween

Hosting Halloween this year? We have some ghoulish (but still kid-friendly!) ideas for a party that’ll be the talk of the neighborhood.

Entertaining during the spookiest holiday doesn’t have to be scary if you keep it simple, traditional, and focused on your guests. Here are some of our favorite ideas for parties, decor, and food—with tips for creating a fun experience for both the brave at heart and easily frightened.

Color-code it. I love how easy it is to make things feel festive just by using Halloween colors,” says Christine Koh, creator of the website Boston Mamas. “Offering orange and black sprinkles for a cupcake-decorating activity or orange and black nail polish for an older girls’ manicure playdate are both surefire winners in our house.” Pile on orange and black streamers and balloons, and you have an instant theme.

Put a spooky spin on favorite party games. Sometimes the best games are ones that are tried-and-true. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, add a scary touch to traditional parlor fare. Some suggestions: pin the tail on the black cat, charades featuring horror movies and scary books, or musical chairs set to a scary-sounds CD or Halloween tunes like “Monster Mash.”

Plan activities for all ages. One of the biggest challenges for family-friendly parties is keeping adults entertained without frightening the little kids so much that they’re scurrying under the beds. But many games, activities, and even decorations can be modified for various age groups and spook-tolerance levels. Some ideas:

  • Create two distinct areas where different groups of partygoers can congregate. The room that’s meant for older—or at least bolder—guests can feature truly scary decor like mummies, skeletons, or mechanical severed hands. For younger and more sensitive guests, think whimsical decorations, like cats and friendly-looking witches. Or try nature-based decor. “Many farmers’ markets sell colorful dried corn, decorative gourds, and mini pumpkins,” says Asha Dornfest, of the Parent Hacks website. “For just a few dollars, you can put together table centerpieces and decorations that celebrate the season in a natural, low-key way. One way to split the fun: Set up a for-the-brave haunted house in the basement, and keep the kids upstairs with a grown-up chaperone or two willing (or even pleased) to forgo the scary bits downstairs.
  • Consider keeping the party “lights on” until a certain time when the youngest guests will begin to leave—say, 8 pm —and then turn the lights down for a scarier “after-hours” experience. You can even paint fearsome scenes with liquid laundry soap or special paint that can only be seen by black light; when the regular lights go out, you’ll have a drastically scarier nighttime party backdrop.
  • Modify games by creating a haunting version for big kids and adults and a “lighter” version for little ones. For example, Halloween charades can feature less-intense children’s books and movies in the version aimed at the younger set, and more-terrifying tales for the not-as-easily-scared bunch.

Mix prepared and homemade foods. No need to spend the whole day of the party working in the kitchen. Save time by combining your favorite homemade specialties with prepared foods:

  • Sprinkle bakery-made frosted brownies, cookies, or cupcakes with candy corn, gummy eyeballs, or other spooky, edible decor.
  • Ladle your favorite Panera Bread® soups into hollowed-out pumpkins that double as bowls.
  • Serve Panera sliced bread or quartered bagels with a homemade, pumpkin-shaped cheese ball.