Create a Great Halloween on a Budget

It’s time to treat those family ghosts and goblins!

By Lori Ries

No one loves holidays more than my mom, and no one was ever more inventive. My mother was the queen of Halloween. Those early childhood years living in Syracuse, NY, were some of my favorites as my single mom made sure my brother and I had a spooktacular Halloween year after year. In times that are financially tight, here are eight ways to have a great Halloween on a budget.

Remove All Expectations

Halloween has always been commercial, but more and more it’s also becoming fiercely competitive. Let this be a time to bring your inner child out to play with your children, and drop the expectation of perfection that surrounds us.

Make Halloween a Focus on Family

In Mexico, Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead is very different. Alters filled with pictures of deceased family members, flowers, sugar skulls, and other offerings are decorated days before. Communities celebrate their ancestors with food, drink, dancing, and singing as they laugh together, celebrating life and death. Disney’s Coco gives a good example of this joyous celebratory tradition.

Make Your Celebration a Family Affair

Decorate together. Decorations can be as elaborate as purchased banjo-playing skeletons, but they don’t have to be. Use the internet for great Halloween decorating ideas. Kids’ crafts are everywhere! Spend time together creating decorations leading up to Halloween. Super fun and yummy Halloween treats can also be found online. A favorite treat of my children growing up is Eyeballs. These are Rice Krispy treats rolled into small balls using lightly buttered hands. A confectioner’s eye is then added, and last, red decorating gel is used to make squiggly lines for bloodshot eyes; an idea found ages ago in Parenting Magazine.

Simple Lollipop Ghosts can be made with Tootsie Roll Pops, facial tissues, an elastic band, and a marker. Place two tissues at opposite angles on top of one another on a flat surface. Holding the lollipop head in the tissue center, gather the tissue about the head. Secure the elastic band where the stick meets the candy for the head of the ghost. Let your child make the ghost’s face with the marker provided. Be sure to tell your child their ghost is boootiful!

Let Your Kids Help Create Their Costumes

My favorite Halloween costume when I was younger was a witch costume we pulled together with what was around the house. My mom had a long, black zip-up jacket that went to my knees. We made a pointy hat out of construction paper. We filled her hatbox with sweet red apples. A poisoned apple tag lay on top. In my hand was a broom with a skull head. My look was complete, and it was fun to pull together. My younger brother became a prince in Mom’s short blonde wig, his own navy-blue pants, and a long dark blue shirt, with Mom’s gold chain belt dropping from his waist. He looked fairy tale chic. At different doorways, we were greeted with praise and treats for our creativity. A mug blackened on the bottom can be rubbed on the skin to look like soot. Calamine lotion colored green can change skin color to become the hulk. There are so many creative ways to use what we have on hand for costuming, and kids have a blast helping to recreate themselves.
(Consider skin sensitivity before applying anything to your child’s skin. Some applications can be harsh. Be sure to wash off all hair/skin colorings the same night.)

Watch For Fall Activities Advertised in Your Area

In Oregon, many farms have free events and activities. Oregon Heritage Farms was a favorite for my children growing up. For young children, there was an air apple they could jump in; a fun hay maze (child’s size), animals to look at, and we always bought fresh apples and sweet/tart cider. Many areas have hayrides and pumpkin patches. Let your children take pictures of the things they find interesting. Farm-fresh, in-season fruit is delicious and well priced. Handpick your pumpkin to carve or decorate for Halloween.

Be Thoughtful in the Way You Greet Trick-Or-Treaters

In The US, some homes turn scary at Halloween. Having a chainsaw-wielding masked teen jump out at a four-year-old can ruin the magic. Remember to be age appropriate. Taking little ones trick or treating, I’ve witnessed unnecessary trauma. If a house seems too scary, go to the next house so that young children can have a good experience. Be kind to teens holding on to childhood. I love it when teenagers come to my door full of excitement. Their inner child bursts free as they stand next to a five-year-old princess or superhero.

Share the Halloween Adventure Together

Every part of the festive season is more fun when everyone participates, from the prep to the trick-or-treating. You can even sort through candy together. It’s interesting to learn what kinds of candy a child is interested in and what they aren’t. For a long-lasting treat, my mother froze our candy bars to last for months, until a babysitter found them. Beware! Be scared of the hungry babysitter after the children are in bed!

There can be a surplus of Halloween candy. My mom cared about our stomachs and never let us keep it all to ourselves. We chose our candy treats after school and before bed. Kids are creative. Toss candy in a bowl, with ice cream, and let children mash it together with their choice of toppings. What would they name their creation? Bake cupcakes together, frost them, and use candy to decorate the cupcakes. Then, deliver a plate of cupcakes together and welcome a new family to your neighborhood. Are Gingerbread houses just for Christmas? No way! Make a Graham cracker house and use candy to decorate it. Can you make it look spooky with candy corn icicles and black licorice windows? Have a contest for the best-haunted house!

Enjoy Movie and Book Magic

October also means movie magic at our house. Popcorn and candy corn are a great combination while watching Beetle Juice, Hocus Pocus, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and our big, traditional favorite, Nightmare Before Christmas. As with movies, there are great Halloween books to enjoy reading with the family, too! Beware! Be Scared! and The Witches Ball, are Halloween-themed books I’ve written. I’ve always liked Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon to set the autumn season, and you can’t go wrong with The Monster at the End of this Book, featuring Sesame Street’s lovable Grover. Your library’s bookshelf is full of fun Halloween-themed books just waiting to delight the adventurous kiddos in your family. A new release I’m looking forward to reading, written by Carrie Turley, is called Time for Halloween, Lambie.

Halloween is a time of fun, frolic, and family. From October 1st to October 31st, whenever a family creates Halloween magic together, everything turns into fun. Enjoy making memories with your family this Halloween season, and have a safe and happy Halloween!

Here are a few tips from the Site: “Caring For Kids” to help the trick-or-treaters in your family have fun while being safe this coming Halloween night. 

  • Do not use masks. Masks make it hard for children to see what’s around them, including cars. Try a hypoallergenic (less likely to cause an allergic reaction), non-toxic make-up kit instead.
  • Make or buy costumes in light-colored material.
  • Place strips of reflective tape on the back and front of costumes, so that drivers can better see your child.
  • Costumes should fit properly to prevent trips and falls. Avoid items such as oversized shoes, high heels, long dresses, and long capes.
  • Dress your child for the weather. Add layers if needed.
  • Put your child’s name, address, and phone number on their costume.
  • Children under 10 should be accompanied by an adult for trick or treating. By the age of 10, some children are ready to go trick-or-treating with a group of friends. 
  • Keep in mind that gum and hard candy can pose a choking risk for young children.
  • Remove make-up before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.

Lori Ries is an award-winning author! Some of her books include Beware! Be Scared!, The Witches Ball, Punk Wig, The Step Into Spanish series, and the Charlie & Emmet series.

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