Help your kids get their candy on while still social distancing with these indoor and outdoor Halloween activities, decorations, games, and craft how-tos.

By Megan Braden-Perry
Updated September 28, 2020
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Trick-or-treating—like so much else in 2020—feels different this year. (For one thing, the masks have changed.) But we can still make sure the candy, the costumes, and the fun are all there for our kids. Start with these frightfully delightful ideas that keep social distancing top of mind.

Boo Up Your Block

Start by decorating your front door to look like a monster: Tape alternating stripes of tissue grass mats onto the door, create a giant mouth out of black foam board, and use cut-up paper plates and felt to make eyes and teeth. Instead of letting trick-or-treaters reach into bowls or handing out candy (and breaking that 6-foot rule), prepack treat bags and hang them from clothespins hot-glued to the monster’s mouth. Add neon stickers and draw on eyeballs.

Get the full Monster Door How-To at the end of the article.

Trick-or-treat At Home

Set out buckets of candy in different rooms, decorate each door in a special way, and play Halloween music, too, says Atlanta mom Tomaseena “Tia” Auzenne. “So instead of going door-to-door in the neighborhood, kids go door-to-door in your house.”

Do A Twilight Hunt

Adhere glow-in-the-dark stickers to goody bags and hide them all over the backyard at dusk. Give each child a flashlight and send them searching for treasure.

Credit: Ana Gambuto

Count Down To The Big Night

Make Halloween a weeklong celebration with a fun DIY spiderweb countdown calendar (pictured above): For the seven days before the 31st, have your kid crack open one of these spiders to discover candy or a small toy or trinket. Glue white yarn in the shape of a spiderweb onto a swatch of black felt. Then glue chenille stems to plastic eggs for legs, stick on googly eyes, and adhere scratchy Velcro circles to the eggs’ undersides. Paint black dots onto each spider to correspond with the number of days before the holiday (i.e., your kid would open the spider with two dots two days before Halloween).

Get the full Spiderweb Halloween Countdown How-To at the end of the article.

Organize A Trunk-Or-Treat

You might still take part in the tradition of dressing up the car trunk and gathering in a parking lot to give and receive candy. Note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls trunk-or-treating a "higher risk" activity, but parents can take steps to make it safer. For example, everyone should wear a face mask, maintain social distancing, park in alternate spots, and set out cones 6 feet from the car with a rope between them that’s clipped with candy for trick-or-treaters. “Plan ahead because businesses love helping with community events, especially those that involve children. I had everything donated, from the location to the tents to the games,” says Rashada Torrence, founder of H.O.P.E. for Sunny Skies, in Richmond, Texas.

Let The Backyard A-maze

Kinda Andrews, a Baton Rouge mom of five, suggests setting up a family obstacle course with booby traps and haunts. “Ask kids to collect balls to win a prize; spray them with Silly String as they grab candy; get them to venture behind caution tape where their auntie will jump out from a hiding spot; and have them crawl under a web to reach goodies,” she says.

Hang Up A Piñata

Spring for a spooky one like this cute guy, and stuff it with treats that are as fun as they are sugary, like secret-flavor Jelly Belly jelly beans, candy jewelry, and Pop Rocks. Our pick: Pull String Jack-o-Lantern Piñata, $20; partycity.com.

Credit: Ana Gambuto

Hold A Mask Costume Contest

Ask friends to design their own face mask, then gather over Zoom to see who’s come up with the most inventive one. A few clever ideas above: a cat, butterflies, monster, and beard mask! Get the how-to instruction here.

Dial Up The “Scare” In Scarecrow

Create your own Frankenstein’s monster: Stuff all-black clothes (blazer, T-shirt, pants, chunky boots) with crumpled-up newspaper. Then attach a ball to the newspaper with duct tape for the head. Have kids draw a face on a paper plate and attach it to the ball with string. Don’t forget to tape bolts made out of foil to the neck!

Dress Up All Week Long

“It’s fun to celebrate for longer than Halloween night,” says Auzenne, who likes to put her daughter in themed clothing every day. “I bought three Halloween-inspired rompers for Skylar: a black-striped cat, a ghost, and a pumpkin. We also do striped socks and witch-inspired headbands.” Parents and pets can get involved too.

Do A Window Treasure Hunt

Pick a Halloween symbol, like a witch’s hat, then cruise the neighborhood to try to find as many as you can.

Go All Out With Creative Costumes

Have a Zoom Halloween costume party to show them off. Or for safe IRL dress-up fun, set up a backdrop outside and let each kid ham it up for their own mini photo shoot.

Try The Good Kind Of Ghosting

Ring the doorbell of a friend, leave a special bag of goodies out front, and then run before anyone can get to the door. Tape a big sign to the bag that says, “You’ve been booed!” along with the recipient’s name and who it’s from so they know exactly who to thank for the sweet surprise.

Host A Reverse Trick-Or-Treat

Choose a worthy organization and find out what nonmonetary donations they need. Then ask people in your neighborhood to drop those things off. You can watch a family Halloween movie while you prep the items for donation.

Parade Those Pets!

Dress up your favorite animal, then show it off around the hood. Your dog or cat not having it? Start with an accessory like a bandanna, says Jennifer Freeman, D.V.M., PetSmart resident veterinarian and pet-care expert. “If your pet allows this and walks around for a few minutes, reward it with a treat and praise.”

If all goes well, you can pick up a cute new costume at one of these spots with different claims to fame:

  • MissMaddyMakes on Etsy: Find unique cat hats like a wizard, a watermelon, and a pizza
  • PetCostumeCenter.com: Score movie character costumes such as Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes
  • PetSmart: Great for foodie picks, like French fries (above), a lobster, and a taco
  • Target: Find quirky costumes like gnomes, astronauts, and rainbows
  • TKCCozyPawz on Etsy: Cute animal costumes—chickens, butterflies, giraffes—for small dogs and cats.

Halloween Craft How-Tos

Credit: Ana Gambuto

Spiderweb Halloween Countdown

To start, pull out the scissors, hot glue gun, and craft glue. Then here's what to buy and how to DIY it:

  • 1 yard black felt
  • 1½” by 36" wooden dowel
  • White yarn
  • 7 plastic Easter eggs
  • 28 chenille stems in coordinating colors to the eggs
  • Velcro circles
  • Googly eyes
  • Black craft paint
  • Paper plate
  • 1½” wide foam pouncer
  • Twine
  • 1 small Command hook
  1. Cut black felt into a 30”-by-36” piece. 
  2. Fold the top few inches of felt over and glue down the top edge with hot glue to make a pocket for the dowel. 
  3. Lay out the design of your web by cutting five or six lengths of yarn and crossing them to make a starburst shape centered on the felt. Glue down those pieces of yarn with craft glue. Next, lay out a spiral shape in yarn, starting in the center of the web and gradually expanding in rows. Glue this down and let dry. 
  4. To create the spiders: Cut 4 chenille stems in half to make 8 legs. Choose chenille stems that match the color of egg you’re using. Place a blob of hot glue on the bottom half of the egg, near the seam, and press in the legs so they’re centered. Next, attach a scratchy-side Velcro circle on top of the place where you just glued on the legs. Glue on another scratchy velcro circle on the top half of the egg, just above the seam. Glue on 2 googly eyes to make the face of the spider. Fold each of the legs in half and then unfold so they have a spidery shape. Make 7 spiders. 
  5. Add dots to number the spiders from one to seven to count down the days until Halloween: Put a small squirt of black craft paint on a paper plate. Dab the foam pouncer in the paint and make dots on the backs of the spiders. 
  6. To hang the web, put the dowel through the pocket. Tie a piece of twine to each end of the dowel and use the twine to hang the web on a Command hook you’ve adhered to the wall. 
  7. Fill each spider with candy or a trinket and stick them to the web with the Velcro. Each day in the final week before Halloween, remove the spider with the corresponding number of dots and enjoy a pre-Halloween treat!

Monster Front Door

The supplies you'll need in your arsenal: Scissors, hot glue gun, craft knife, masking tape, black paint marker. Then here's what to buy and how to DIY it:

  • 10 sheets each of scrapbooking paper in blue and orange
  • 1 sheet each craft felt in orange and black
  • White paper dinner plates
  • 6 tissue grass mats (15" by 30" each) in orange
  • 8 tissue grass mats (15" by 30" each) in blue
  • 1 black foam core board sheet (20" by 30")
  • Glow-in-the-dark dot stickers (about 1" in diameter)
  • Permanent spray adhesive
  • Small treat bags
  • Small black clothespins
  • Clear paper tape
  1. Measure the height and width of your front door when closed. Using clear paper tape, tape together pieces of scrapbooking paper to make stripes the width of the door (but don’t attach to the door), cutting off excess paper as needed. Create four blue stripes and three orange stripes. 
  2. Make the eyeballs: Cut the eyelids out of orange felt by tracing a paper plate onto the felt, cutting out the circle, and then folding it in half and cutting down the middle so you have two eyelids. Attach a small strip of orange tissue grass mat to the edge of each eyelid with hot glue to look like lashes. Glue the eyelids (with the side the lashes are glued to facing inward) onto the paper plates. For the pupils, adhere a black felt circle to each plate with hot glue.
  3. Using a craft knife, cut an oval mouth shape out of the foam core, trimming only about 1” from the edge of the board. Cut teeth out of paper plates and hot glue them to the top and bottom of the mouth. 
  4. Lay out the stripes of paper on the ground in a well ventilated area, alternating blue and orange. Overlap the stripes slightly as needed so that they equal the height of your front door. 
  5. Using clear paper tape, tape together the second and third stripe from the top. Use hot glue to attach the eyes onto the seam between these two stripes. 
  6. Using clear paper tape, tape together the fourth, fifth, and sixth stripe from the top. Using spray adhesive, attach the mouth so it’s centered on these three stripes. 
  7. Attach the tissue grass mats to the color-coordinated stripes: Coat the top half of one stripe in spray adhesive. Place an unfolded mat over the sprayed area, lengthwise, pushing down so the mat sticks to the paper stripe. Repeat with another mat to cover the bottom half of the stripe. Leave a little extra mat overhanging the edges of the stripe. Repeat with remaining stripes, cutting the tissue mats as needed around the eyes and mouth. 
  8. Hang the sections of the monster on your door by making rolls out of masking tape. Use about three rolls of masking tape per stripe. Begin hanging from top to bottom, using the extra mat overhanging the edges of the stripes to blend them together. 
  9. To decorate the treat bags, place candy in each bag. Seal the bag with glow-in-the-dark stickers and use the paint pen to draw pupils so they look like eyes. 
  10. Hot glue clothespins to the mouth and clip a treat bag in each one. 
  11. To add eyebrows, roll a leftover piece of tissue grass mat, fuzzy side out, to make a fuzzy caterpillar-type shape. Secure the ends with clear paper tape. Attach the eyebrows above the eyes with spray adhesive. 

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's October 2020 issue as “A Sweet and Safe Halloween.” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here.

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