It’s official: I’m writing about safe trick-or-treat alternatives after weeks of putting it off. The CDC has even officially recommended against trick-or-treating during COVID-19, at least in the traditional way, and oof. I need some safe trick-or-treat alternatives for my disappointed kids. Fast.
Understand that my kids would rather cancel Christmas, New Year’s and their Birthdays every year than even one year of Halloween. They’re the kids who start planning their costumes for the next year by the time they’re home and counting their candy on the night of October 31st. So this is a big deal for us.
I understand the recommendation. I understand why our Brooklyn neighborhood’s own annual jam-packed Halloween street cancelled.
On the other hand, I do know of some cities and towns that are encouraging trick-or-treating as a precautionary way to keep kids outside instead of gathering inside for parties. And that sounds like a reasonable argument to me, provide COVID-19 rates are steady or low in your neighborhood. So no judgments. (And hey, I have some ideas for you too, down below.)
I guess one thing is for sure no matter where you live: Halloween will be different in 2020 in the Age of COVID-19.
So for those of you parents looking for safe trick-or-terat alternatives that will keep your kids happy, safe, and still packed full of sugar on Halloween this year, this is for you.
Safe trick-or-treat alternatives for Halloween 2020
Let’s get resourceful, parents. That’s what we do! Some of these ideas are better for young kids, some for older kids. And you don’t even have to pick just one. Go crazy! Halloween is not cancelled, even if trick or treating is.
Host a Halloween-themed dinner
Bloody Shirley Temples via Made from Pinterest
While you may not be your kids’ first choice for Halloween company, you can make it more fun by going all-out with a Halloween theme. Think of themes like zombies, witches, an all-white ghost party, or a mad scientist laboratory with syringes in their beverages. Then, customize your costumes, dining room decor, and dinner to the theme.
This post on creative non-alcoholic Halloween drink ideas may inspire some ideas.
We threw all kinds of themed dinners during the quarantine months in New York and they were always a hit. Mostly because of the costumes, of course. I have no doubt my kids would love to do a Halloween version.
Arrange a (6 feet apart) neighborhood costume parade
Take a page from the Covid graduation celebration ideas and as a safe trick-or-treat alternative, create a parade of costumes safely down one street, around a schoolyard, or in a park. If you can keep kids distanced from one another, they can still show off their costumes — ideally costumes incorporating masks? — and the costumes are often just as appealing as the candy. At least to my kids.
Turn your home into a (private) haunted housePhoto NeONBRAND via Unsplash
If you have younger kids especially, it would be so fun to surprise them with one of those cool haunted houses like they might find at a theme park. Blindfold the kids, then lead them room to room as they have to endure dipping their hands in intestines (spaghetti) and all that good stuff.
You can also decorate the outside of your home from now until Halloween, so you can have That House. You know, the one everyone comes by to photograph? Why not!
Host a backyard Halloween carnival, masks required
Whether you have younger kids or teens who appreciate the chance to earn bragging rights over their friends, they may love their own carnival as a fun, safe trick-or-trerat alternative.
Bobbing for apples is probably not the best activity during a health pandemic… but try pin the spider on the spider web (part of a printable set from our friends at Caravan Shoppe), guess the black jellybeans in the jar, popping a wall of balloons with darts if your older kids can handle them. You can even set up one of those funny “stick your head through the hole” photo op boards if you’ve got the artistic skills, and have a photo booth.
And don’t forget prizes!
Host a backyard Halloween movie night
If the weather holds on the 31st (sometimes it’s warm, even in New York!), or you’re lucky enough to be in the south, hold a socially distanced backyard movie night with a few kids or families for a safe trick-or-trerat alternative. If you’ve got older kids, get one of these cool home projectors (there are four recommended on Cool Mom Tech), hang a white sheet, and screen a scary movie. Or a not-so-scary movie, depending on your kids’ ages.
If you have a drive-in nearby, that’s another way to enjoy the fun with others in a way that’s safer. I’ve been loving Skyline Drive-In in Brooklyn all summer!
Try Netflix Party… for an even more distanced Halloween movie night
If you’re stuck indoors — weather, safety, whatever the reason — your kids can gather virtually with friends and watch creepy shows and movies together over Netflix. Which also happens to be one of our favorite safe socializing ideas during COVID.
Make every crazy Halloween treat you always wanted to make but never have
If you want an alternative to a pillowcase full of mini Snickers, try to one-up the mass-produced candy with your own homemade Halloween treats. Even better, make it a family affair and turn it into a big kitchen craft activity.
At Cool Mom Eats, we have lists of so many cool Halloween treats, snacks, beverages…you name it. This year, we’re all about haunted gingerbread houses and Halloween snack trays and food boards, like the ones above. Wow! Maybe you can even package up a few favorites and distribute them to your kids’ classmates’ front doors.
Host your own version of “Nailed It: Halloween Edition”
Kristen’s kids have had fun doing their own Nailed It competitions over the past few months, so why not make it Halloween-themed? Find a fabulously decorated Halloween cake or cupcake on Instagram, set out the supplies and have your kids give it their best shot — maybe with this not toooo hard Halloween cake from Delish? You could even translate it into cupcakes if that’s easier.
I guarantee lots of laughing, and lots of licking of fingers.
This is one you can do over Zoom with other friends as well. maybe with cousins in other towns. I know some kids who would love this!
Trick or treat for UNICEF…virtually
One of our kids’ favorite traditions, trick or treating for UNICEF isn’t cancelled. It’s just gone virtual this year.
Host a haunted scavenger hunt
Whether you do this in a safe way outdoors with a small group, or around your home for your own kids, there are so many fun ways to do a scavenger hunt, and I’m seeing lots of friends talk about hosting their own.
Caravan Shoppe even offers printable at-home Halloween scavenger hunt clue cards. (And as you’ll see, that shop has so many goodies there to help us out this year!) Each card leads to the next one…and so on.
Want to make your own clue cards? There are quite a few free printable options if you search the web or Pinterest. They tend to be a little repetitive though, with the same clues and cutesie drawings — and definitely for much younger kids. These Halloween scavenger hunt clue ideas from Scavenger Hunt fun are a little more appropriate for older kids or teens like I have.
Need more tips for a DIY Halloween scavenger hunt? Martha Stewart to the rescue.
Host a photo scavenger hunt around the neighborhood
Another option for a safe trick-or-trerat alternative for the kids is to stage a photo scavenger hunt, which is so easy to do with mobile phones. It could be around the house or if you have older kids, or kids with parents, do it around the neighborhood or along your block.
Just make a list of thing like “a funny jack-o-lantern,” “an adult in a costume,” “a house with only one light in one window,” “a dog in a mask.” The kids take photos to check off their list…then come home for prizes.
Create a Zoom costume party with your kids’ classmates or friend group
Who here is a creative, organized class parent? This one is calling your name! Set up a Zoom meeting in which kids get to show off their costumes and vote on favorites. You can get as elaborate as you want — can you deliver a pack of treats or photobooth style props to homes first? Maybe you can with a smaller group. You can even send the winners a small e-gift card over email.
Feel free to plan other virtual activities as well, like playing a Halloween themed game over Zoom, or making up TikTok dances to Monster Mash.
(Okay, I know that last one is terrible. Settle down, Gen Z. I’m just riffing here.)
Find safe ways to hand out candy
If there is trick-or-treating in your neighborhood but you can’t really take part in the traditional way, here are a few ideas to keep you safe without disappointing the kids.
-Set candy out on a porch or your front walk
If it’s safe in your community and an alternative form of trick-or treating is an option, be sure to set up some rules for safety. Like setting out a bucket of candy away from your door, bagging small bundles of treats in individual baggies, and putting out a sign at the sidewalk with a rule like “no more than two kids at a time please.”
Check out this list of fun signs we found for socially distant trick-or-treating, like “keep one coffin apart,” ha.
-Trunk or treat from your car
Some parents also suggest they’re doing “trunk or treat” so that they can line cars up in a parking lot or field a ways apart, then have kids grab goodies out of the trunk of the car.
-Test your candy tossing skills from afar!
Caravan Shoppe even created their own sign, if you think your candy-tossing skills are up to the task! Even if they’re not, can’t hurt to make the kids scramble a bit for candy. You know, work off some of those Milky Ways.
-Make a candy chute. It’s the most 2020 Halloween thing ever.
I love what this Ohio man did, creating a completely touch-free candy chute that’s now gone suer viral. Wow. Quite a few of our Instagram followers told us they were trying this themselves. Our own Christina is, too! And now, there are even some intrepid kids selling their own candy chutes in DC as a fundraiser to help feed hungry families. (Above photo via NBC Washington)
It really makes this city dweller wish I had a porch.