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7 Halloween activities that keep your child learning

Carolyn Rahaman is a professional SSAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Master's degree in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.

From completing spooky arts and crafts, to dressing in costume, to sharing spine-tingling ghost stories, the Halloween season is full of entertaining activities. The trick to turning these activities into educational moments is to engage your student in discussion about them! Start with these seven topics and encourage your child to explore and ask questions.

1. Bats

Bats are fascinating animals that are often associated with Halloween. Learn about bats with your student by reading books, watching documentaries or researching them online. Once you move past their frightening reputation and speak about how interesting and misunderstood they can be, you can complete crafts like bat mobiles or bat wings that your child can wear.

2. Spider webs

Examine photographs of various spider webs, then construct your own. You can design one from yarn, string or pipe cleaners. You can also draw a web with thin lines of glue on wax paper and then sprinkle it with glitter. When the glue is dry, peel your spider web from the wax paper. Discuss the best places for spiders to hang their webs, the best shapes for them to use and how successful their webs are with your student.

3. Pumpkins

Pumpkins are best known as the medium for jack-o'-lanterns, which provide opportunities to investigate negative space, how thick or thin carved lines must be and how much rind can be carved out before the pumpkin collapses. You can also experiment with carving an image on the back of the pumpkin, which can project onto a wall behind it. Additionally, you and your child can bake a pie or roast seeds, both of which require measuring fractions. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you and your student can grow a pumpkin (and graph the pumpkin's growth) or take observational notes as a pumpkin disintegrates.

4. Ghost stories

Scary stories are ideal for Halloween. Select picture books for younger readers, and consider Edgar Allan Poe for more advanced readers. You might also investigate monster classics like Dracula, Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. Finally, ask, "What makes these stories frightening?"

5. Masks

Halloween naturally involves costumes, and one of the most important portions of any costume is the mask. There is a multitude of ways to create masks, from construction paper, to clay, to cloth, to tinfoil. Challenge your child to convey the full idea of a costume with just a mask. Talk about what elements are important, and then design it with comfort, fit and visibility in mind.

6. Costumes

Your student likely picked her own costume, so why not ask her to help with its construction? Sewing involves careful measurements, explicit directions and spatial reasoning. Depending on your child's age, she can assist you a little or a lot, and you can always guide her through what you are doing and why.

7. Caramel apples

Making caramel apples is an exciting adventure in cooking that requires careful monitoring of the heating caramel. It may also take multiple attempts to reach a perfect product, where the caramel is not too hard or too drippy, which provides you and your student with an opportunity to problem-solve and adjust your procedure. And at the end of the experiment, you have a festive treat.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Photo credit: Blend Images - KisStock/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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