“Halloween isn’t canceled, but it has to be adapted,” said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle-based pediatrician in response to a question about celebrating a beloved holiday during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. When many communities are setting strict guidelines for the usual Halloween activities, others are asked to refrain from gatherings and door-to-door trick-or-treating altogether because of the risks presented by sharing food and being in close physical contact. Sadly, these concerns prevail while all of us, adults and kids alike, could really use a fun celebration. Parents everywhere are tasked, once again, with assessing the risks and making informed decisions, while trying to provide children with a fun and memorable experience. We want to offer you a few ideas, shared by medical experts and other parents, that could help you and your little ones remain safe without giving up your holiday spirit.

Taking it outside

According to Bill Hanage, an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the key is avoiding the three C’s: crowds, closed spaces and close contact. He indicates that transmission outside is rare, and that small-scale local events designed with public safety in mind might be held safely.

In the past few months a lot of parents formed social pods with friends and neighbors or made a decision to expand their social life while following the CDC guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Small local events, such as socially distanced Halloween outdoor costume parade, a neighborhood house decoration competition, or a backyard party with extended family might be organized with little risk to public health, as long as hand sanitizers are available and cloth masks are worn by all.

Host a drive-by or sidewalk costume parade

And speaking of costume parades: why not organize one with your neighbors or close friends — one that doesn’t involve congregating or touching?! Dress up into your Halloween best and hop in the car, following a predetermined map of houses of neighbors or friends, so that everyone can see each other’s costumes and exchange a friendly greeting from a safe distance. Or, if you have a smaller group, you could have all of the kids mask up and stand in a line down the sidewalk or along a big yard, then one family at a time can walk around from a distance, looking at everyone’s costumes.

Create a Halloween Scavenger Hunt

Whether you are collaborating with other families in your pod, or gathering members of your own household, a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt might be the perfect recipe for holiday fun. Posters with funny clues and cut-outs of arrows pointing in the direction of hidden treats will get the kids running around looking for candy in a safe environment. If possible, scavenger hunt can link together a few neighborhood houses with candy stations at each stop. To make the treats more appealing (and easier to find in the dark), get glow-in-the-dark eggs or bags with glow sticks, then fill them with candy as you hide them around the yard and/or house. 

 Go Trunk-or-Treating

 The concept of trunk-or-treating isn’t new, but to many of us it may be known as tailgating. That is, before it became one of the best alternatives to traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating. The participating families can park their cars in a central location and even deck their cars out in the finest Halloween décor. Individually wrapped treats and candy are placed at each station, and trick-or-treaters walk from vehicle to vehicle, collecting candy the way they would during a normal trick-or-treating outing, but without breaking safety guidelines.

 Have a virtual Halloween party

While you might have overdosed on telecommunication over the past months, Zoom and Facetime meetings remain the most effective way to be in touch with those we love but cannot see during the pandemic. So why not invite all of your family’s friends for a virtual Halloween party? Show off your costumes, have a “Scary Snack” competition, play a fun game, do the Monster Mash dance – together, even at a distance.  

Host a pumpkin decorating contest

Get out your art supplies, be it stickers, paints, or glitter, and decorate pumpkins with your kids. If carving is involved, be sure to provide plenty of supervision and attend to everyone’s safety in the presence of sharp tools. When the projects are complete, vote for the scariest, funniest, cutest creation, and make sure winners get prizes for their creative endeavors! Make sure to take fun photos of all the artists with their pumpkins.

Craft, if you dare!

There are many exciting Halloween craft projects of varied complexity that can be found online and –if you are interested – in ECDA archives. Once the pumpkins are decorated, there are tissue ghosts, furry pipe cleaner spiders, and scary pumpkin masks to make and enjoy!

Make Scary Snacks

Decorating Halloween cookies, making scary apple monsters with marshmallow teeth – Halloween treats can be spooky and delicious! Baking the cookies together and decorating them afterwards might be a fun way to invite your little one into the kitchen and follow the baking process from beginning to end. If you want to skip straight to decorating, it’s great to have some pre-made goods to play with, like the classic Trader Joe’s Haunted House Kit.

Dance like it’s 2020!

Nothing solidifies a celebration like a family dance party! Show off your silliest and scariest moves on the living room dance floor as you “monster mash” and “ghost bust” together with your little ones. And as you perform your signature pirouette, try to remember that the ability to come together, be playful, and enjoy yourselves, even in the most challenging of times, is one of the most valuable things we can teach our children.