Between the free candy and silly costumes, Halloween seems like it was tailor-made for kids—but some super-scary settings are enough to give you nightmares. Instead of taking your children to a haunted house meant for an older crowd, create spooky exploration activities with these haunted house ideas you can do at home. An eerie (but kid-appropriate) haunted house can easily be set up in your front porch or back patio, so your child can have Halloween adventures without a huge mess to clean up after!
Begin by gathering all of your favorite Halloween decorations, like trick-or-treat buckets, spider webs, and plastic bats, and arrange them in your outdoor space. Flashing lights, a spooky sounds CD, and a smoke machine can add some awesome touches. Hang old curtains to create a ghostly entryway. Your children will want to explore the haunted house in a variety of ways, so create different areas with creepy interactive activities.
Transform your child's play kitchen into a witch's kitchen by covering it in pretend spider webs and plastic spiders. Place large pots or black plastic cauldrons on the play stove. Fill the pots with "worms and bugs" by boiling a box of spaghetti until it is cooked through, tossing it with enough oil to make the spaghetti a little slimy, and adding a small box of raisins. Give your children large wooden spoons to stir the worms and bugs. To make things even spookier, blindfold your children and allow them to explore with their hands before showing them the mixture is just spaghetti and raisins.
Haunted Pumpkin Patch
Gelatin has to be one of the most fun foods for children to eat (and play with), so use this slimy food in a haunted setting. Place pumpkins on the ground on a towel or tarp and prepare a few boxes of green gelatin according to the package directions. Let your child use her hands to squish the gelatin and place it around the pumpkins, or use cookie cutters to make fun seasonal shapes like ghosts, witches, or leaves to decorate a haunted pumpkin patch. For an extra "gross" factor, cut the pumpkins open so your children can feel the gooey insides and seeds.
Mad Scientist's Laboratory
Set up a third area with a table, measuring cups, and goggles to create a mad scientist's laboratory. Dye water red or black and fill a few vases to mimic sinister-looking vials of potion. Your children can make slippery slime by combining 1 cup of water, 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cornstarch, and a few drops of food coloring (their choice!). Pour the mixture into trick-or-treat buckets to make ghost and ghoul guts your children can squish with their hands.
To make things really fun, set up an additional area with crayons, pencils, paper, and stickers for kids to make their own haunted house books with original drawings to document the experience. A haunted house does not have to be scary for kids, and these haunted house ideas can create an incredibly imaginative experience!
A TIP FROM THE EXPERTS
"Providing opportunities for children to explore tastes, smells, and textures is central to development ... To keep Halloween fun, not scary, remain child-centered and focus on age-appropriate arts, crafts, and food creation activities."
About the Expert:
Lynne Kenney, PsyD, is a mom, pediatric psychologist, educator, speaker and co-author with Wendy Young of BLOOM: 50 Things to Say, Think and Do with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-Top Kids.