If your tween tells you they have outgrown trick-or-treating this year, don’t be surprised. There comes a time when some tweens feel they are too old (or too cool) to join the goblins parading on Halloween night. Putting on a costume feels awkward and begging for treats is suddenly embarrassing. On the other hand, sitting at home handing out treats doesn’t sound fun either. If your tween still wants spooky thrills, think about throwing a lively age-appropriate party as a way to keep your young tween happy, entertained and safe on Halloween night.
Set the mood: Allow your tween to invite a friend to help plan and decorate the event. They can make or choose a few decorations to ensure the mood is sufficiently gruesome or silly. Dim the lights and hang floor-to-ceiling cobwebs to help create an eerie setting. Plastic bats and tarantulas dangling about can turn a room creepy with very little cost or effort. Don’t forget to invest in a collection of scary sounds to play during the party. Howling wolves and shrieking witches will fill in any awkward gaps in tween conversation.
The ‘ick’ factor: One game that will kick off the party with resounding shrieks and gross guesswork is the ‘Body Parts Mystery’ game. Take several shoeboxes and line each with a plastic grocery sack. Cut a hole in the end of each box, add a little goo, such as gelatin or oatmeal, and then add an everyday grocery item. Tell your guests there is a ‘body part’ in each box and ask them to reach into the box to feel the gooey mess, and then guess which body part is inside. Use your imagination and grapes or olives coated in slimy jello become ‘eyeballs’; a blanched cauliflower can be a 'brain'; cooked spaghetti and sauce become ‘guts’; and a piece of ginger root can be a 'witch’s crooked finger.'
Scavenger hunt: Hide Halloween-themed items, such as plastic vampire teeth, around the house or outside in the yard. Create creepy clues to help the tweens find each item. You can hang ghosts from a tree or plant fake fingers in the dirt to make it appear as if someone has been buried alive and is clawing their way out. Bury a favorite Halloween treat as the final reward. The guests can take their vampire teeth, fake bloody fingers and other scavenger hunt discoveries home as party favors.
Pumpkin pizzazz: Decorating pumpkins is a classic Halloween activity. If you don’t want to hand out carving tools or deal with scooping pumpkin goop, buy a collection of small pumpkins and a selection of colorful tempera or fluorescent paints. Each guest can paint a pumpkin and you can hold a contest and award prizes for the scariest, silliest or most original designs.
Strike a pose: Gather a box of old clothes, hats, masks and costume bits. Let the kids use your phone camera or better yet, a Polaroid-style camera to take pictures of each other in goofy get-ups. Tweens love to take pictures of themselves, and can take the Polaroids home as souvenirs.
Bob for apples: A new way to play this game makes it a fun competition and a bit more appetizing than sticking your head in a barrel of cold water. Buy apples with stems and wind twine around each stem. Leave a tail of twine two to three feet long. Hang each apple and twine from a clothesline and position each guest in front of a hanging apple. Start the action and watch tweens attack the swinging apples with teeth any vampire would envy. No hands allowed!
Screen a scream: Wrap up the evening by screening a favorite scary movie. Some audiences are more squeamish than others so ask your tween to consult with their friends to pick a movie that provides just the right shiver factor. They may want to pick a classic flick such as Frankenstein or The Creature From the Black Lagoon. The more contemporary Halloween screeners, such as Harry Potter, Hocus Pocus or Beetlejuice offer something for everyone to scream about. Check in with your guests’ parents to help choose a movie appropriate for everyone.
For tweens who have grown too tall to pass for goblins, an age-appropriate Halloween party can transform an awkward evening into a perfect balance of chills and chuckles. Do it right and your tween won’t miss trick or treating at all.
Mary Helen is a freelance writer and has thrown many successful Halloween hauntings. She is the mother of one goblin, one witch and one very big monster.
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