Children's Halloween Party

My children always thought it was grossly unfair that they only got to wear their costumes Halloween. I thought so too, so one October I invited a bunch of their friends over for an impromptu Halloween costume party. It was such a hit, it became an annual event. While the games have gotten more creative as the years have passed, the essential appeal of the party remains unchanged: everyone gets to wear costumes and indulge in sanctioned mayhem! As such, I strongly recommend that this particular party be hosted out of doors. You could probably adapt most of the games for indoors, but do you really want a bunch of highly excited princesses, vampires and Sponge Bobs running amok inside your house?
  1. INVITATIONS. Use whatever invitations you like, but make sure they include the following "guidance": (1) dress appropriately for the weather, (2) costumes should allow guests to move (and run) freely; (3) no face makeup (it will come off during "Dunking for Apples". If costumes don't lend themselves to movement, then encourage the kids to wear them to the party anyway, so that they can show them off, but to have an acceptable layer of clothing on underneath so that the costume can be peeled away and safely stored until the end of the party.
  2. DECORATIONS.  Whatever Halloween decorations you have around the house will do!  We like to dangle cheesecloth ghosts and minature carved pumpkins from tree limbs.  Orange and black balloons add a festive touch.  Use halloween-themed plates/cups/napkins from any party store.
  3. PRIZES.  Fill a bag with novelty halloween items: plastic skeletons, glow in the dark spiders, glow sticks, etc.  After each game, the winner(s) has to reach into the bag and, without looking, choose a gift by feel.  I recommend that you hand out gift bags in advance so the kids can store their prizes in them throughout the party.  There's no need to fill the goodie bags in advance - each game will have multiple winners, ensuring that every child leaves with plenty of prizes and candy by the end of the day.
  4. THEME.  GAME #1_ZOMBIES IN THE GRAVEYARD.  As your guests arrive, start off with a few rounds of Zombies in the Graveyard - a spookier version of musical chairs.  Instead of chairs, create "tombstones" out of construction paper.  (Have fun cutting them out in different shapes & embellishing them with funny epitaphs.)  Set out tombstones in a large circle, with one less tombstone than there are guests.  Start a spooky music CD.  When the music stops, whoever isn't standing on a "tombstone" is eliminated.  Keep going until only one guest is left.  To add to the atmosphere, instruct the kids that they need to lurch around the tombstones with their arms held out in front of them, a la Frankenstein's monster, groaning and moaning as the mood strikes them.
  5. GAME #2_MUMMY WRAPPING.  For this game you will need lots of toilet paper!  Divide the guests into teams of 2.  At "go!", one teammate attempts to completely wrap the other in toilet paper.  The first team to achieve "total mummification" (no body parts showing) wins.  Plan to play this game at least twice, as each kid will want an opportunity to be wrapped!
  6. GAME #3_PUMPKIN THIEVES.  Setup: with masking tape, divide your room or yard in half, and set off a back corner on each side to serve as a "pumpkin patch" (big enough for approx 10 pumkins).  Place 5 small pumpkins in each patch. Also outline a "jail" at one ed of the center line, big enough to hold 4-5 kids.  Divide the guests into 2 teams and make sure they can identify each other easily.  ("Black team" can sport black crepe paper belts; "orange team" can sport orange crepe paper belts; or you can use black/orange pastic necklaces or leis from a party store.)  Objective: each team tries to steal the other' pumpkins adn carry them off to their own pumpkin patches.  Pumpkins can be acquired by either(1) stealing them from the opponent's pumpkin patch; or (2) tagging a player who is carrying a pumpkin.  As long as players remain on their own "side" they can't be tagged by the opposing team.  But once they venture into enemy territory (cross the center line), they are fair game.  When/if tagged, they must surrender their pumpkin and go directly to jail, from which they can only be rescued by being tagged by a teammate carrying a pumpkin.  The winner is the first team to collect all 10 pumpkins. 
  7. GAME #4_DUNKING FOR APPLES.  You know this one!  Fill a tub with water.  Float ~10 apples in the water.  Guests kneel in front of the tub with their hands behind their backs and try to "catch" an apple using only their teeth.  (TIP: allowing folks to kneel on a towel, and providing extra towels for folks to dry off afterwards, will make this game MUCH more pleasant!)  Limit each turn to 60secs.  Winners are those who succeed in catching an apple.
  8. GAME #5_MONSTER MASH.  In advance of the party, find an old board or door and paint a life-sized ghost on it.  Nail or otherwise secure it to a tree trunk.  (It WILL fall if it's not secured.)  Use masking tape to lay out a line ~10ft away.  Place apples in a container next to the line.  Have guests take turns pitching apples at the ghost.  Score 3pts for hitting the face, 2pts for hitting any other party of the ghost, or 1pt for hiting the board.  Go through the line three times, so everyone gets three throws.  The person with the most points wins.  NOTE: This is most definitely an outside game!  A big part of the fun is watching the apples "splat!" as they hit the board!
  9. GAME #6_GHOSTBUSTERS.  Inflate 10 white balloons and 10 orange balloons. Before the party (or as a gathering activity), use indelible markers to draw spooky faces on the balloons.  Divide the guests into 2 teams.  At "go!", each team has to launch their balloons in the air and keep them airborne for as long as possible.  The first team to have all their balloons touch the ground loses.  
  10. GAME #7_PUMPKIN BOWLING.  This is a great activity if you have a hill for it!  You'll need several (4-5) medium sized pumpkins and 6 partially full water bottles.  At the bottom of the hill, set up the water bottles in a classic bowling triangle.  (If they are too full they won't fall over, but if they're too empty they won't stand up, so do some experimenting first to determine the right amount of water to leave in the bottles.) Guests at the top of the hill take turns rolling the pumpkins down the hill in an attempt to knock down as many bottles as possible.  The guest with the most cumulative points wins.  (This activity is hard on the pumpkins, so that's why I recommend having plenty of backups on hand!)
  11. GAME #8_POPCORN RELAY RACE.  For this game you'll need 4 buckets, 2 cups, and a lot of popcorn.  Separate the guests into two teams.  Establish a starting line.  Fill 2 buckets with popcorn and place them approx ~15ft away.  Leave the other buckets (empty) at the "starting line".  Each team gets 1 cup.  Object of the game is to transport the popcorn from one bucket to the other, one cup at a time, relay-race style.  Winner is the team that fills their bucket first. 
  12. FOOD.  Offer a buffet of spooky treats, including bones (made out of piped meringue), fingers with blood dipping sauce (mini-franks with a side of catsup), eyeballs (green grapes), brains (popcorn), blood punch (any red punch wll do), and jellied spiders (squares of green jello containing gummy spiders).
  13. GAME #9_PINIATA.  Remember those prize bags you handed out earlier?  Have the kids retrieve them and then line them up, youngest to oldest (to increase odds that everyone will get at least one swing before the piniata drops its load).  If especially young kids are going to participate in this activity, we always make sure they have a parental "minder" who makes sure they aren't squashed in the ensuing mayhem and who also ensures that they get their fair share of the loot!

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