VirginiaLynne is a mother of five. She writes about parenting, crafts, and games for children, family fun, and Christian ministry ideas.
Host a Harvest Festival
About five years ago, we got so very busy around Halloween with the various parties and events we had scheduled that we actually forgot to carve our pumpkins. The next year, I was determined not to let that happen, so we held our first annual "Harvest Fall Festival" a couple of weeks before Halloween so that we could enjoy some of our favorite harvest activities with a few friends. Rather than making this a formal party, we just invite a few friends or neighbors over that day to just join in the fun.
Harvest Party for Kids is Fun and Easy
Easy and Fun
Instead of me having to worry about decorations and party food, we make the party all about making decorations and fun foods. Everyone has a great time, and I actually usually get a little work done writing in between activities. This year, I went to the store about 30 minutes before our party to buy apples, pumpkins, and caramel. Everything else was just things we had around the house. Have fun with your own event. Parties don't have to be a lot of work to be a lot of fun!
I didn't have time to decorate much before our first party, so I decided to let the kids make their own decorations. They loved it and it made a great activity for kids to do while waiting for everyone to arrive.
Materials: paper, markers or crayons
Bring out some paper and markers or crayons. Have everyone draw something that has to do with Fall. They might draw pumpkins, bats, scarecrows, trees turning colors or a picture of their Halloween costume.
When they are done, have everyone take some tape and post their pictures around the house for decorating. If you have some crepe paper, they can put that up too. Announce contest winners like: funniest pumpkin, best bat, most authentic scarecrow etc. I suppose you could even print off certificates, but I generally had fun just announcing the winners in a "grand" voice
Bob for Apples and Caramel Apples
Materials: apples, bowl with water, bag of caramels, popsicle sticks, foil muffin tins or squares of foil. Optional: extras like M&Ms, chocolate chips, marshmallows, nuts and candy corn.
Bobbing for Apples: We put some small apples in a bowl of water and let people bob for them. When they get an apple, they bring it over to make it into a caramel apple.
Making Caramel Apples: Have the kids unwrap a bag of caramels (they like to do that job) and put in 1 TB of milk. Melt in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and stir. We put "extras" like nuts, M&Ms, chocolate chips and candy corns out. Have the kids pick some of these and put them into foil muffin wrappers (spray with Pam to make it easier to get them out). Let them dip their apple around (use a spoon to cover with Carmel). Then lift the apple and put it in the muffin cup on a plate. These taste great! You might want to let them use a knife to cut off slices of apple too.
Faster and Easier Caramel Apples: If you want even faster caramel apples, try buying the sheets of caramel that wrap around the apple and stick. Then the kids put it in the microwave for about 15 minutes to melt it so they can decorate with candy.
Pumpkin Lanterns from Jars
- glass jars
- orange tissue paper
- glue or Mod Podge
- black paper
- tea candles
Have the kids bring a glass jar if you don't have enough saved. Instant coffee jars, jam jars or pasta sauce jars are great.
- Cut the tissue paper into 1-2 inch squares.
- Have the kids brush the jar all over with glue or Mod Podge, then press the tissue paper on and brush over with Mod Podge or glue again.
- When the jar is covered, cut out face with black paper and attach to jar with Mod Podge. Let dry.
- Optional: put a green pipe cleaner around the top and cut green leaves out to attach with tape.
- Put a candle inside, or one of those battery lights to light for Halloween (that can be a party favor!)
- Since we hosted our party during the day, we tried our pumpkins out in our bathroom and the kids loved it!
Painting Pumpkins is an alternative activity to carving pumpkins, or you can do this in addition to carving. You can have kids bring their own pumpkin or buy inexpensive small pumpkins. I got them in packs of 4 for about $5.00.
- acrylic paints
- sharpies, brushes
- plastic for covering the table surface
- Cover a table with plastic or newspaper to protect the surface and make sure everyone wears clothes that can get paint on them or a smock.
- Have them use a pen to make a design or face on their pumpkin.
- Let them paint over their design with acrylic craft paints.
- Let dry before taking home. We usually do this activity first.
Pumpkin Carving Team Contest
Instead of having each person carve a pumpkin, we usually do our carving in teams.
- pumpkin carving tools
- Divide kids into teams of 2-4.
- Each team can work together to design their pumpkin by drawing on paper (or using patterns that come with some of the pumpkin carving tools).
- After they choose a design, the team draws it in sharpie on their pumpkin and then carves it out.
- I usually help them get out the gooey stuff.
- Let one person help separate the seeds out for baking.
- Award candy prizes for "scariest," "funniest," "most original" etc. I usually have an award for everyone!
Decorating Pumpkins or Pumpkin Dolls
This is what we did last year instead of carving since we had our Harvest Festival a bit earlier and did painting last year. It could also be an alternative to painting if you don't want that mess. The kids had a great time using stuff we already had in our craft bin.
- small pumpkins
- pipe cleaners
- wiggly eyes
- felt or paper (any other craft supplies)
- hot glue or glue dots
- Have them design their own face, hair, and accessories.
- They can attach with hot glue or glue dots or tape.
- The kids I had do this were 7 and up, and so they were able to use a low temp hot glue gun by themselves. Smaller kids might need help.
- My girls really had fun with this and then went with their friends to go play with their pumpkin dolls for about an hour.
Roast Pumpkin Seeds
Ingredients: Pumpkin seeds, butter, salt.
Everyone likes these and they smell wonderful.
- Line a baking pan with foil.
- Put a single layer of seeds on the bottom and dot with butter.
- Put in a 350-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the seeds are all light brown. I usually assign a kid to keep checking them!
- Take them out and sprinkle with salt or Lawrey's seasoning salt. Enjoy!
Have and Old Fashioned Taffy Pull
Fun for All Ages: My high school and his best friend always join our younger kids when this activity comes around. We have lots of fun trying out different flavors and colors each year. I like doing a taffy pull because it is such an old-fashioned party idea which reminds us of Little House on the Prairie and other books we've read.
Best Taffy Recipe: I've tried various taffy recipes over the years and this one is the most successful;however, getting just the right temperature is tricky. I suggest that even if you have a good candy thermometer, you still try the old-fashioned method of dropping a little of the mixture in ice water. When the mixture is solid in ice water, but not brittle, it is ready (if it is like hard candy, then you've let it go too long for taffy, but you can still pour some nuts in it and pour it into a pan for peanut brittle!)
Ingredients for Salt Water Taffy
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup light corn syrup
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 tea. salt
- 2 tea. butter
- 1 TB vanilla, (or other flavoring)
- 1 tea. food coloring, (optional)
Salt Water Taffy Recipe
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
Makes enough taffy for up to 10 children to pull
Instructions for Salt Water Taffy
- Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook while stirring over medium heat until everything is melted.
- Continue cooking until mixture is at hard ball stage or about 250-260 degrees on candy thermometer. To test, drop a small amount of candy in a dish of ice water. At first it will dissolve, then form strings, then finally start forming a ball when you pick it up. It should be about the consistency of carmel when done.
- Remove candy from heat. Pour into a buttered glass pan or marble surface. Use a spoon or spatula to pull outside to center until it is cool enough to touch (will still be hot).
- Give each child butter for their hands and a buttered plate to work on. They should pull and twist until candy gets lighter in color and stretchy. It will also cool down as they pull.
- Let kids eat the candy as they make it, or wrap up finished candy in plastic or wax paper to take home.
Want more ideas? Here are some of the other fun crafts and cooking activities we sometimes do:
- Relay races using pumpkins or apples.
- Making Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.
- Make chocolate covered popcorn with candy corn.
- Make Carmel Candy Corn Popcorn.
- Do Crayon Rubbings over fall leaves.
- Collect fall leaves and glue them on a paper plate cut out in the center to make a wreath.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 16, 2011:
Thanks! We really had a great time. I love the halloween theme for the birthday party. That sounds like lots of fun. I have 3 December birthdays, so we usually end up with Christmas themes--or at least all the photos have the Christmas decorations in the background!
instantlyfamily on October 16, 2011:
These ideas are just in time! I am planning my sons 8th bithday party (Halloween theme)and these ideas are awesome!
Kristin Trapp from Illinois on October 15, 2011:
These girls look like they're having a lot of fun at this Halloween party. What great ideas you have for a party. I really like the pumpkin lanterns. Those would be a lot of fun to have outside around a fire pit.