Spook-tacular fun for all ages

Whether you love to throw theme parties or you are wary of trick-or-treating, Halloween parties have the potential to be fun for everyone. Regardless of whether your attendees are 2 or 12, parents can put together a memorable bash.

1. Music gamesà la Halloween. Instead of using typical kids’ music for musical chairs, play fun theme music such as"Monster Mash,” the theme to"Ghostbusters” and"Purple People Eater.” Or use these tunes to play a game of hot pumpkin (instead of hot potato). The kids will have fun listening to the music while playing their favorite games.

2. Color a pumpkin. For the smallest invitees, coloring a pumpkin is much more fun than carving it. Young children can’t handle the knife and end up watching the adults instead of participating. With paint or markers, preschoolers can decorate their pumpkins any way they choose.

It also saves the parents from a headache. Nicole Yaniz, president of her local MOMS Club chapter in New Lenox and mom of twins, said her club’s Halloween party committee chose this activity for its uniqueness and its ease.

“Carving pumpkins is just too messy and the kids really liked this activity because it was unexpected,” she says.

3. Dig it. For the smallest kids, Halloween might be too scary. Introduce them to Halloween toys like plastic spiders, rats and skeletons through a fun archaeological dig. Using either a big sand table for all the kids or individual bowls for each, fill the container with sand and hide the plastic toys inside. Give each child a small paintbrush, or even a toothbrush, to conduct their dig and find fun Halloween artifacts to keep.

4. Gross’em out. Elementary-aged kids love nothing more than being freaked out, so feed their curiosity with a series of gross-out boxes. Hide surprises in each box, cut a hole in for the kids’ hands to slip through and let them guess what’s inside. Pudding in a plastic baggy feels like a heart. Olives substitute for eyeballs, dried apricots for ears and spaghetti for brains.

5. Fun with pumpkins. Set up a series of small to medium pumpkins throughout your lawn. Give each child a chance to toss a hula hoop around a pumpkin just like horseshoes. Keep track of how close each gets to the pumpkin to determine the winner.

Once everyone has had a turn, give each child one of the pumpkins for a crazy game of bowling. Fill empty half-gallon plastic milk jugs with an inch of sand. Each child gets a chance to knock down the milk jugs by rolling a pumpkin at them. Whoever knocks down the most wins. This game could be messy if a pumpkin breaks, so you may want to put down a tarp.

6 Halloween store. Kenna Hart, a former fourth-grade teacher and mom of two in Chicago, hosted a Halloween store for her students. The kids took turns running the register and being the customers. With play money, they bought fun Halloween toys. This activity gives the kids a chance to use their math and social skills while still having a great time.

7. Costume contest. Tell the kids ahead of time that there will be a costume contest and they have to make their own costumes. Get them motivated by offering $5 iTunes or Target gift cards for the best costume. Take votes for most creative, funniest and scariest.

8. Scary movie. On the invitation, ask the tweens to make their own three- to five-minute scary movie to bring to the party. Screen their creations during the party in a dark room. Or if the weather is nice, rent a DVD projector, hang a white sheet up on the side of your house and create your own drive-in movie theater fright fest.

9. Fortune telling. Don’t have a crystal ball or knack for seeing into the future? No problem! Put the gift in the hands of the kids. Set up a lava lamp on a table out of the way. The kids can take turns peeking into the lava lamp to see what images appear. Let them guess their future.

10. Be safe. While Halloween is a time where kids consider taking risks, make sure you minimize their chances of getting hurt. If you’re serving food, check with parents ahead of time for allergies. Ensure that all the kids stay safely inside your property and are supervised at all times.

Michelle Sussman is a mom, wife and writer in Bolingbrook who won a Halloween costume contest in seventh grade by dressing up as a biker chick. Visit her at michellesussman.com.

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