by Denise Morrison Yearian
Perhaps you are one of the families who choose not to celebrate Halloween. What are some good ways to celebrate fall, let the kids in on the fun and ignore the scary stuff altogether? Here’s some craft, game and food suggestions:
A CROP OF CRAFTS
Plan a main craft with a short, second activity – coloring pages or stringing popcorn – for early finishers. Pick crafts that are easy to clean up so you can move on to the next activity.
- Paper strip pumpkin: Measure and cut an orange rectangle from construction paper to fit around a toilet paper tube. Glue in place to create the pumpkin’s center base. Measure and cut 11, 1x12-inch strips from orange paper. Glue one strip to the upper inside end of the toilet paper tube. Let dry. Repeat this step with remaining 10 strips. Place the detached end of each strip down and glue to the bottom, inside end of the tube. (Strips should bow out to create a rounded pumpkin.) Let dry. Draw and cut out a large leaf shape from green construction paper. Tape leaf to the top, inside section of the tube.
- Beau the Scarecrow: Draw and cut an 8-inch triangle from a paper bag to create the scarecrow’s hat. Fold one piece of yellow construction paper accordion style into half-inch folds. Open paper flat and cut along the folds to create strips for straw hair. Place a paper plate bottom side up. Glue hair randomly to one edge of the plate. Glue hat over the hay hair, allowing some hay to show around the lower, outer edges of the hat. Draw and cut a 1-inch triangle then glue to the center of the plate to create a nose. Draw and cut two 1-inch circles from pink paper then glue onto the face to create the cheeks. Use black marker to create eyes, eyebrows and a mouth. Draw and cut a 3-inch sunflower shape from yellow paper then glue to one side of the hat. Draw and cut a 1-inch brown circle and glue to the center of the sunflower. Cut ribbon into an 18-inch strip. Tie into a bow and attach with a glue gun to the lower edge of the paper plate for the bow tie.
- Speckled leaf sun catcher: Measure and cut two 6-inch squares from black construction paper. Temporarily paper clip the two squares together then place paper on the table. Center a large maple leaf over the top black square and trace around it with a pencil. Use scissors to cut out the leaf pattern you drew, making sure you cut through both sheets of construction paper to form a hollowed-out leaf frame. Remove paper clips and set aside. Place crayon shavings between two sheets of waxed paper and iron until the shavings melt. Measure and cut the waxed paper design to a 5½-inch square. Place the multicolored design between the two black squares to create a stained-glass leaf picture and frame. Glue design in place. Punch a hole at the top of the frame, loop yarn through the hole and tie in a knot. Hang picture in a sunny window.
GATHERING FOR GAMES
Choose games that every child can participate in, where no one is eliminated. With a little forethought and creativity, any game can be adapted to fit the fall theme.
- Broom ball: Purchase half-sized brooms for each party guest and two different colors of seasonal garland. Decorate half of the brooms with one color of garland and the remaining half with the other garland to specify teams. Establish goals at opposite ends of the yard, and divide the children into teams. Place a kickball in the center of the yard then give each child a broom to sweep the ball to his team’s goal. The first team to score five goals wins.
- Ring around the pumpkin: Place three large pumpkins with stems in a line several feet apart. Gather four hula hoops. To play, children should take turn standing behind the designated tossing line and try to ring the pumpkins with the hula hoop. The child with the most rings wins.
- Scarecrow relay: Separate children into two teams. Choose one child from each team to be the scarecrow. Place scarecrows at one end of the room, along with hay and oversized scarecrow-type clothing items. Teammates line up at the other end of the room. To play, teammates take turns running to the scarecrow and dressing him with one clothing item, then tag the next player who does the same. When the scarecrow is completely dressed, each teammate returns a second time to stuff straw in his clothing. The first team to finish making their scarecrow wins.
Food is more fun when kids are involved in the preparation process. Stick with things children like to eat and add a seasonal twist to it.
- Popcorn pumpkins: Pop 2 quarts of popcorn. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of light corn syrup, 13 1/3 cup of water, ¼ cup of butter and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and cook until the mixture reaches approximately 270 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla and orange food coloring. Pour mixture over popcorn and stir until thoroughly coated. Grease hands and form popcorn into pumpkin-shaped balls. Break a few thin twisted pretzels to form an arch and push them into the top center for the stem. Makes approximately 12 pumpkins.
- Itsy-bitsy caramel apples: Cut lollipop sticks in half. Use a melon baller to scoop little balls out of medium-sized apples, making sure each ball has a section of the apple peel. Push a lollipop stick into the peel of each apple ball. Blot apples dry with a paper towel. Melt a 14-ounce package of caramel candies with 2 tablespoons of water. Have children dip and swirl their apple balls in caramel then roll in crushed Oreo cookies, nuts, sprinkles, nonpareils or mini-chocolate chips. Place on waxed paper to cool for 15 minutes.
- Pumpkin pancakes: Mix dry ingredients: 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside. Separate two eggs. Mix yolks with ½ cup of plain pumpkin puree, 1 cup milk and 2 tablespoons canola oil. Add dry ingredients. Beat egg whites until fluffy then fold into the batter. Pour ¼ cup of batter onto a greased griddle; flip when bubbles form on top. Kids can make jack-o-lantern faces using raisins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips and whipped cream.
Denise Morrison Yearian is a former educator and editor of two parenting magazines, and the mother of three children and four grandchildren.