Family-friendly Halloween party

Oct 22, 2009 at 7:42 p.m. ET

Host a frighteningly fabulous Halloween party that includes fun for grown-ups and kids alike. Here are our family-friendly Halloween party tips for a hauntingly awesome get-together.

Little girl in rabbit costume on father

Set the Halloween theme

The theme of the party determines the feel of the evening and helps you decide on the décor and food. For older kids, a real fright-fest with Halloween costumes and a haunted house theme is the way to go -- they like to dress up and be scared, and will even help you decorate. For the younger bunch, a pumpkin patch party with cute costumes may be more appropriate; toddlers and pre-adolescents may be too frightened by blood and gore.

Halloween decorations

Pumpkins are a given for Halloween parties, no matter the age of the guests. Decorate with pumpkins, real and fake, plain and decorated. Recruit the younger kids to draw on plain pumpkins, and challenge teens to a pumpkin-carving contest. Spider webs and plastic spiders, witch hats and brooms, and simple clear vases filled with fake snakes or mini pumpkins can be arranged throughout the party area to maintain the Halloween theme.

Halloween party activities

While the grown-ups are enjoying ghoulish appetizers and adults-only Halloween drinks, the kids can decorate pumpkins, draw sinister characters on poster boards, play Halloween charades and watch scary movies. The adults and kids can even hold a Halloween costume contest; award a spooky dessert or scary gift to the winners.

Halloween party food

Pumpkin dishes and drinks are on the menu for this Halloween party. Serve kid-friendly drinks and adults-only cocktails as well as bite-sized savory dishes and sweet treats. Serve Halloween party food on black and orange platters or in Halloween-themed serving dishes.

Halloween party recipes

Pumpkin Fruit Cups

Makes 8 servings

8 mini pumpkins
2 large apples, cored and diced
4 bananas, peeled and sliced
A few handfuls of fresh cranberries
A few handfuls of grapes
Arils (seeds) of 2 pomegranates 

1. Slice the tops off the pumpkins and scoop out filling. Discard filling.

2. Combine apples with bananas, cranberries, grapes and pomegranate seeds in a bowl.

3. Spoon mixture into pumpkins and place tops back onto pumpkins. Serve on a black Halloween-themed serving platter.

Pumpkin Half-Moons

Makes 3 dozen

2 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1-2/3 cups evaporated milk
2 pie pastries, rolled out flat

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. In a large bowl, beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin, salt, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and milk until smooth.

3. Cut 4- to 6-inch circles out of pastry and lay flat. Spoon pumpkin mixture onto half of the pastry and fold over, making a half-moon shape.

4. Slice a few slits in the pastry and place on a baking sheet. Continue with remaining pastry and pumpkin mixture.

5. Bake pastries for 15 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Arrange on a Halloween-themed serving platter.

Pumpkin Smoothie

Makes 4 servings

For the adults, include the liquor in this luscious Halloween drink.

2 bananas, frozen
2 cups low-fat milk
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
4 ounces vanilla vodka (optional)
1 ounce cream liqueur, like Bailey's Irish Cream (optional)
Freshly whipped cream
Cinnamon sticks

1. Combine banana, milk, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, maple syrup, and vodka and cream liqueur, if using, in a blender.

2. Puree until smooth. Pour into glasses or cups and serve garnished with whipped cream and cinnamon sticks.

More Halloween recipes and tips