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What shall we boo about Halloween? Alternatives to blood and gore

Cheryl is the author of Stay-at-Home Handbook: Advice on Parenting, Finances, Career, Surviving Each Day and More. Copyright 2002 Homebodies.Org, LLC.

Halloween party

Do you hate all the blood and gore that accompanies many Halloween celebrations? Here are some ways you can skip the implied violence and still make Halloween fun for kids!

Ideas to celebrate Halloween without the frigth factor:

  • Sponsor a box car race.
  • Supply popcorn and cotton candy machines.
  • Have jugglers and clowns do face-painting, washable tattoos and balloon games.
  • Feature puppet shows and a sing-a-long night
  • Jump on huge inflatable air mattresses and in ball pits.
  • Judge non-scary costume contests.
  • Run carnival booths with bean bag toss, balloon darts and bottle/ring toss, etc.
  • Raffle off teachers as "slaves" who have to do your bidding for an hour.
  • Challenge kids and parents to mini-decathlons with humorous feats like crab crawls with a water balloon balanced on your belly.
  • Have pet parades with costumed animals.
  • Sponsor game show night, featuring favorite party games like Pictionary, Password and Trivial Pursuit.
  • For older children, have a Rotating Board Game Party, where kids play Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, Monopoly and Candyland for 15 minutes, then move to the next game and pick up mid-play.
  • Pig out at a fall harvest-themed progressive dinner: apple cobbler, pumpkin pie, corn on the cob, popcorn, smoked turkey sandwiches, etc.
  • Decorate different classrooms with animal themes, and have a costumed teacher host each room (i.e. monkey room, lion room, zebra room).
  • Silly Movie Night: come dressed as if you're an extra in a movie, then show the movie. (South Pacific: dress as sailors or island girls; Veggie Tales: come costumed as a tomato, cucumber, beet, etc.)

Community service organizations like Big Brothers and YMCA often sponsor their own celebrations, while malls invite costumed children to roam their aisles, gathering candy from store employees. If you decide to go the traditional route and trick-or-treat at private homes, be sure to keep safety at the forefront. Many hospitals and police stations will screen treats free of charge, but to minimize concerns, visit only the homes of people you know. NEVER go into a stranger's house.

Safety tips To keep Halloween from turning into a Fright Night

  • Kids, carry a flashlight and wear reflective, flame-retardant costuming. Watch out for those candles burning on porches.
  • Have kids wear facepaint instead of a mask. They'll be able to see better, and besides, those rubber and plastic masks get all sweaty inside!
  • Keep in contact with your kids. Some parents follow their kids by driving slowly along beside them, but this can cause a traffic jam when 14 cars are moving down one street. It's better to walk with your kids, or have watch them from a discreet distance.
  • For older kids, have a set time when they should be home. "I have Jenna take a cell phone with her," says Lynette Holt, who has her preteen check in when she trick-or-treats in the neighborhood, even though she's with a group of friends. "If Jenna feels nervous, she can call."
  • Advise kids not to take chances by crossing in the middle of the street or dodging between cars. Go all the way up one side of the street, then cross over and hit the houses on the other side.
  • Honor the homes of families who don't celebrate Halloween. If all the lights are off and they don't answer the door on the first ring, move on. Leaning on the doorbell won't get you anything.
  • Avoid animals, even ones you know. With all the activity in the neighborhood, dogs will probably be edgy, and this is not the time to try to pet them.
  • Once your kids hit your own living room and pour out their loot, be sure to check everything to make sure it's safe. Dad, it's not fair to bite into a piece of the best stuff and mumble, "Ummm, yep, it's good."
  • Now that the candy coast is clear, let the trading begin!

Whether parents find themselves leaning toward the "Oh, it's just make-believe" or toward the "I'm feeling very uncomfortable with this" camp, they need to be true to their convictions. Set the tone for your family, explain your stance openly with your kids, and then hug them tight. After all, love is one spirit that's always welcome.

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