If your tween tells you she has outgrown trick-or-treating this year, don’t be surprised. There comes a time when some tweens feel they are too old (or too cool) to join the goblins parading on Halloween night. Putting on a costume feels awkward and begging for treats is suddenly embarrassing. On the other hand, sitting at home handing out treats doesn’t sound fun, either. If your tween still wants spooky thrills, think about throwing a lively, age-appropriate party as a way to keep your young teen happy, entertained, and safe on Halloween night.
Set the Mood
Allow your tween to invite a friend to help plan and decorate the event. They can make or choose a few decorations to ensure the mood is sufficiently gruesome or silly. Dim the lights and hang floor-to-ceiling cobwebs to help create an eerie setting. Plastic bats and tarantulas dangling about can turn a room creepy with very little cost or effort. Don’t forget to invest in a collection of scary sounds to play during the party. Howling wolves and shrieking witches will fill in any awkward gaps in tween conversation.
The Ick Factor
One game that will kick off the party with resounding shrieks and gross guesswork is the “Body Parts Mystery” game. Take several shoeboxes and line each with a plastic grocery sack. Cut a hole in the end of each box, add a little goo, such as gelatin or oatmeal, and then add an everyday grocery item. Tell your guests there is a “body part” in each box, and ask them to reach into the box to feel the gooey mess and then guess which body part is inside. Use your imagination: Grapes or olives coated in slimy Jell-O become “eyeballs;” a blanched cauliflower can be a brain; cooked spaghetti and sauce become “guts;” and a piece of ginger root can be a witch’s crooked finger.
Decorating pumpkins is a classic Halloween activity. If you don’t want to hand out carving tools or deal with scooping pumpkin goop, buy a collection of small pumpkins and a selection of colorful tempera or fluorescent paints. Each guest can paint a pumpkin and you can hold a contest and award prizes for the scariest, silliest, or most original designs.
A new way to play this game makes it a fun competition and a bit more appetizing than sticking your head in a barrel of cold water, searching for apples. Buy cake donuts and tie a two- to three-foot long piece of string to them. Suspend the donuts from a clothesline. Position one partygoer in front of each donut. Start the action and watch tweens attack the swinging donuts with teeth any vampire would envy. No hands allowed!
Strike a Pose
Gather a box of old clothes, hats, masks, and costume bits. Let the kids use your phone camera, or better yet, a Polaroid-style camera, to take pictures of each other in goofy get-ups. Tweens love to take pictures of themselves and can take the Polaroids home as souvenirs.
Hide Halloween-themed items, such as plastic vampire teeth, around the house or outside in the yard. Create creepy clues to help the tweens find each item. You can hang ghosts from a tree or plant fake fingers in the dirt to make it appear as if someone has been buried alive and is clawing his way out. Bury a favorite Halloween treat as the final reward. The guests can take their vampire teeth, fake bloody fingers, and other scavenger hunt discoveries home as party favors.
Wrap up the evening by screening a favorite scary movie. Some audiences are more squeamish than others, so ask your tween to consult with her friends to pick a movie that provides just the right shiver factor. She may want to pick a classic flick such as “Frankenstein” or “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The more contemporary Halloween movies, such as “Harry Potter,” “Hocus Pocus,” or “Beetlejuice,” offer something for everyone to scream about. Check in with your guests’ parents to help choose a movie appropriate for everyone.
For tweens who have grown too tall to pass for goblins, an age-appropriate Halloween party can transform an awkward evening into a perfect balance of chills and chuckles. Do it right and your tween won’t miss trick-or-treating at all.
Mary Helen Berg is a Los Angeles-based mother of three monsters whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek magazine, and other publications.
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