By Guest Blogger Kelly Gunzenhauser

My kids are too big to trick or treat, but Halloween has always been a social time for us. At the very least, my kids would still run around the neighborhood with friends or have a few over for some pizza and scary movies. October 2020 finds us safe and healthy, so we are very lucky, but I can also count quite a few disappointments we have had—cancelled trips, missing favorite school clubs, not getting together with friends nearly as much, and just a sense of normalcy that I bet we will never take for granted again. Like absolutely everything else, Halloween will be different too, but I’m kicking around some ideas to make it at least a little fun for my teens. I enlisted some help to find out what fun is still there to safely be had. Be sure to add your ideas in the comments!

Outdoor Haunts

Halloween in North Carolina is usually crisp and cool, and with the HUGE exception of last year’s downpour, fairly dry. Outdoor activities are a good bet, especially during a pandemic. My friend and her daughter (age 15) are doing a Facetime Halloween treasure hunt in their houses. Moms and dads will hide the candy, and the girls are going to go “hunting” while on their phones together, based on a set of clues their moms came up with. Another friend and her daughter (also age 15) are planning on having friends over for some socially distanced outdoor fun, with an outdoor scavenger hunt. This will probably be similar to an Easter egg hunt, but with Halloween candy. Our family is planning to gather around the fire pit to roast hot dogs and then marshmallows—and we will be looking out for the blue moon!

Speaking of a full moon, if your kids want to have a masked and socially distant gathering outside, consider introducing them to a cool role-playing/bluffing game called “Werewolf.” Werewolf comes as a deck of cards (no board, so it’s fine if it’s dark and easy to be distanced), and there is one moderator, a werewolf or two, sometimes a zombie, and a bunch of villagers. The werewolf or wolves get to kill someone every “night” while the villagers try to accuse the right person and save the town. Only the moderator knows who the real werewolves are! Kids often put their own twists on this game and it’s different each time.

Indoor Scares

Scary movies are always a great idea, but if you are like me you struggle with “how scary is too scary,” or too gory, or too adult. My favorite resource for prescreening films is the website Common Sense Media. It gives specific parent and kid ratings/warnings about violence, drug use, sex and nudity, language, and more. Netflix and Amazon Prime are our two favorite sources for scary movies. If traditional horror or suspense films are too much for your teens, you can always search for The Nightmare before Christmas, Casper, or the TV version of Ghostbusters as a fun alternative. If you don’t want to have anyone over but the kids crave company, have a Zoom watch together!

Another option is to play a group video game. Beyond the usual Minecraft and Fortnite, both of my own teens recommend a new app-based game that lends itself to Halloween fun. It’s called “Among Us.” If you haven’t heard of this app and have a late tween or teen, they probably know it exists. In this game for up to 10 people, eight crew members and two imposters roam around a map with tasks to complete—except the real task for the imposters is to kill the crew members! The game ends when there is a one-to-one ratio of imposters to crew (imposters win!) or the crew members either complete all of their tasks or vote the imposters off (crew wins!). The bonus is that kids can talk to each other online while playing, which I love because it recreates some of our social time that we so dearly miss.

If your family likes Podcasts, consider a candlelight listening party. One of my favorites is Spooked, produced by WNYC Studios and Snap Judgment. It’s a teen-friendly podcast with supernatural tales told by the people who were there. While my 13-year-old loves it, it can be super-creepy, so definitely preview some of the broadcast beforehand.

The Creeping Hour is a fiction podcast aimed at the 8-12 year old crowd. Weta, Toro, and Axe, three characters who have overloaded on scary stuff, lead listeners through relatively short radio stories. It’s produced by WGBH.

Freaky Food

If trick-or-treating is not happening at your house this year, like it isn’t at mine, admit it—you’ll probably miss the candy! Turn Halloween snacking into an event with your teens by making one or two of these treats.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookie Pops Purchase double stuffed Oreos, cake pop sticks, meltable candy in Halloween colors, sprinkles, and candy eyeballs. Melt the candy according to package directions. Push a cake pop stick into the cream center of each cookie. Dip the cookie into the melted candy, then dip the top into sprinkles (hair). Push a candy eyeball or two into the still-soft coating. Let cool on waxed paper, then enjoy!

Monster Mash-Up Gather the following treats: popcorn, candy corn, M&Ms, pretzels, craisins or dried cherries, banana chips, Cheerios, Chex, lightly salted or unsalted nuts, mini peanut butter cups or Rolos, mini marshmallows, and pumpkin seeds. Put each treat in a bowl with a spoon and let kids scoop out their own portions into a Halloween treat bag or bowl to munch during a scary movie.

Pumpkin Dip Use a hand mixer to blend one can of pumpkin, one block of cream cheese, one cup of powdered sugar, and one teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (or more to taste). Serve with extra-spicy gingersnaps. Full recipe in this TMoM blog!

Crunchy Caramel Apples These start off like normal caramel apples, but then get a fun addition at the end. Use your favorite apples, as long as they are crisp. Stick a small popsicle stick into the bottom of each apple. Unwrap caramels from a bag and melt them over low heat with two tablespoons of milk—try not to boil the caramel. Dip each apple in the caramel and use a spatula to help coat each apple. Next, roll each apple in a bowl of Rice Krispies, or Cocoa Krispies for a chocolate fix. Place the apples of a sheet of waxed paper until firm, cool, and ready to eat!

Tricks Not Treats!

Older teens will get a kick out of these harmless tricks when you play them. Just make sure you can stand the retaliation.

Rotten Teeth Purchase a small jar of black food coloring gel. Mix a tiny bit with some grape juice or cola (I know, soda is terrible, just this one night). Be careful; a little dye goes a very long way. Let your child have some sips of their drink and then show them their newly black teeth!

Glowing Bowl Tape a few lighted glo-sticks to the underside of the top seat of the toilet and make sure the light is off when someone walks in.

Eyes Everywhere Add to the glo-stick fun by cutting eye shapes out of toilet paper rolls and placing a glow stick in each one. Seal the ends with duct tape. Place them strategically around any dark room and turn off the lights before someone walks in the room. (I think it would be fun to hide these in my kids’ beds or closets.)

Boo Someone This is more of a treat than a trick. Enlist your teens to help you make a surprise mystery treat bag to deliver to a friend or neighbor. Stuff the bag with treats like packaged cheez balls, clementines, goldfish crackers, favorite Halloween candy, hot chocolate envelopes, spiced tea bags, Halloween-colored nail polish, Halloween socks, Halloween makeup, etc.—vary it according to what the recipient likes. Leave a note telling the recipient they have been “Booed.” (You may want to let the “victim” know who assembled the treats, so they know it’s safe to eat.) If you have multiple siblings, the little ones will love being booed by the big ones. Visit this TMoM blog for more ideas on Boo’ing!

As with all things in 2020, stay safe, distanced, masked (easy on Halloween), and healthy!

~ Check out this blog for Halloween ideas with younger kids!
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