Halloween & “Spooky Season” During Covid

In a year of unexpected surprises, Halloween is the latest holiday undergoing a reinvention in the pandemic year.

But before you cry “boo hoo,” there are many ways to get your “boo” on that are monstrously fun, even if you don’t go further than the driveway or the backyard. Right now, everyone is being asked to rethink their holidays, and it will probably continue this way right through the end of the year.

While feelings of loss and disappointment are inevitable and traditions are being upended, rather than giving in to those feelings, make something new. And who knows? You may find some new traditions along the way. Obviously, traditional, trick-or-treating is probably not a good idea, and a face mask probably might not work with many costumes. Yet if you’re going to be within 6 feet of other people outside your family, wear a mask. No questions.

One of the most important and beneficial things you can do—for yourself and your kids—is focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. It doesn’t help anyone to spend time regretting the changes, and it certainly doesn’t send a great message to kids. Being resilient, creative and focusing on fun is how you can ensure the best possible celebration.

To that end, we’ve been talking to people about ways to scare up some new fun in this new world, and here are some ideas that will deliver more than a ghost of a chance of creating some fun times.

Halloween Trends In the Pandemic

The Halloween Tree is the hottest decorating trend of 2020.

Deck the HallsEarly. Families who’ve been home for months are eager to transform their homes. That’s why we’re seeing Halloween trees (Shhh—it’s a Christmas tree tricked out for Halloween.) having a big presence this year. It’s a great idea for families who use artificial trees. Use Halloween-themed decorations whether purchased or made yourself. In a few weeks when you’re getting ready for Christmas, the tree will already be set up.

You may wonder why this is such a good idea. Well, many of us haven’t had many changes of scenery this year, and you’ll be surprised how a pumpkin, or some orange lights, or whatever you come up with can really change your mood. It also extends the holiday beyond just one day and gives you something to look forward to. Those two things alone can be real mood lifters.

Community over Candy—Sure, we all love those Fun-Size treats, but when you can’t go door to door, there are options. Have a community Zoom party to share your costumes. (You might even save a few calories!) Everyone will want to stay socially distanced, but if you live on a block or in a neighborhood that does things together, consider a Halloween block party.

Also, if you haven’t heard of the concept of Trunk or Treat, that’s when people decorate their cars in different themes and park them in their driveways. It creates a festive atmosphere, inspires creativity and enhances relationships with neighbors.

The goal here is to set a time for everyone to be together, yet safely distant. You can add individually wrapped candy if you want, but you may just want to have the candy at home. (Always my choice anyway; that way I can be sure I get what I like!)

Scare Up Some Toys & Games—There are so many ways to create activities that will engage everyone. If you have kids who are “too old” to have been going trick-or-treating, a home-based Halloween hullabaloo is what they would be looking for anyway. Make your celebration playful with craft projects to create decorations, fun games like flashlight tag in the dark, telling ghost stories and more. You can add to your toy box with a variety of new toys that can celebrate your fandom, add to the entertainment and encourage lots of interaction.

Don’t let the specter of a different holiday frighten you away from a new type of celebration. Here are some ideas we’ve come up with, but let your imagination run wild.

Spook-Tacular Toys

Classic haunted house play with favorite characters.

The Perfect Ghostly Setting: Scooby Doo Mystery Mansion from Playmobil
Ages 5+
$99.99
Where to Buy
The Scooby Doo gang is always getting into ghastly ghostly trouble, and the Mystery Mansion is loaded with secrets, shadow-filled corners, haunted staircases and so much more. It’s great for Scooby Doo fans of all ages, of course, because in addition to all the great play, it’s a decorative piece as well. There are sound effects, interactions with the Playmobil app, and much more.

 

Double duty: Halloween ornaments easily!

Diabolical Décor: Treemendous Ornament Decorator from Hey Buddy, Hey Pal
Ages 6+
$24.99
Where to Buy
Yeah, we know the unit looks like a Christmas Tree, but you can use to make Halloween ornaments, too. It all depends on the color and the creativity. Turn on the spinner, touch the non-toxic pen to the ornament, and you’re in business. The set comes with three blank ornaments to decorate, and you can buy 6-ornament expansion packs.

 

Say, “Hey, glow” to my little friend.

Spooky Silliness: Sticky the Boo from Hog Wild
Ages 5+
$10.49
Where to Buy
This globby glow-in-the-dark ghost pal is ridiculous—and fun. Squish, squash, throw, it sticks. Turn out the lights and he glows. Not much to it, but glow-in-the-dark is always fun at Halloween. If it gets dirty—and it probably will—just rinse it off and he’s back to his old sticky self in no time.

 

Serial cereal tricks from Play-Doh!

Slimy Trick: Play-Doh Slime Cereal Packs
Ages 3+
$14.99
Where to Buy
It looks like your favorite cereals in milk. But surprise. It’s slime!! This bundle pack comes with 3 varieties inspired by family favorites.Rin-Bos comes with rainbow-colored bits in shapes like triangles, rings, and hearts. Li’l Charms has  brown, purple and pink chips, stars, and more. Magic Puffs come in fun colors and shapes like smiles, hearts, and stars. You get the idea.

Ghostly Games

Scare up some fun with this award-winning game!

 Our Fave Baddies: Disney Villainous Strategy Game from Ravensburger
Ages 10+
$34.99
Where to Buy
The perfect game for a scary night in as you plot strategies with classic Disney Villains to see who’s the baddest of them all. Immersive storytelling and gorgeous design will keep 2-6 players thinking and playing. Most games take under an hour to play, which is enough time to plan some real villainy, but not so long that people get bored. It won the 2019 Toy of the Year Award for Best Game. Plus, expansion packs and more deliciously evil characters are just what the fans want.

 

Boo-tiful free challenges to download

Don’t Try After Too Much Pumpkin Spice: The Upside Down Challenge from Vango Halloween Expansion Packs
Ages 8+
Free
Where to Download
So, we’ve been having a blast with this all year, and we definitely recommend it for at-home fun. Put on the glasses and the world turns upside down. Then try to do different challenging activities. If you already have the game, you can go to the company website and download free Halloween Challenges. If you don’t have the game, it’s $19.99 at Target , and definitely worth it. Probably the best family fun game of the year…and a great way to share videos of people being wacky.

 

 

Halloween comes to Animal Crossing!

Animal Crossing Halloween Updates from Nintendo
Rated E for Everyone
Free
Where to Download
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of THE hit games of the year, and if you’re a fan, or even a newbie, you’re going to want this Halloween update. Fantastic design, tons of features and events on Halloween add lots of fun to this game. This real-time, non-linear, simulation game has become a favorite of people of all ages. If you don’t already own the game, you can download it for your Switch from the link above for $59.99.

The author’s favorite spooky game!

Luigi’s Mansion 3 from Nintendo
Rated E for Everyone
$59.99
Where to Buy
If you want to get lost in a haunted house for Halloween, then this is the game for you. You and Luigi are on a mission to save friends who thought they’d checked into a hotel but met a very different fate. Luigi is an unlikely hero, perhaps, but you’ll have a blast fighting the different ghosts and solving the puzzles. Be careful, though, this game is so engaging, you could miss the entire holiday just playing it.

 

It’s a witches’ brew of fun!

Double Double…:Disney’s Hocus Pocus the Game from Ravensburger
Ages 8+
$19.99
Where to Buy
You know, we don’t always love cooperative games, but we love this one. What makes it different? Well, it’s the fun of the story, the great design, the sense of working together, and, of course, trying to dodge spells and defeat the potion. Plus, the 1993 movie has been experiencing a new popularity. Check that out, then play it out.

Creative Cosplay

 Halloween is all about the dress up! Ghosts, goblins, superheroes, super monsters, whatever. Even though people are staying close to home, they still want to dress up and perhaps be in their neighborhoods. In fact, we’re hearing that a lot of families are coming up with themed costumes together. Look for a lot of the characters from Schitt’s Creek or the Addams Family, or any group this year.

Dress up isn’t just for Halloween anymore, either. That’s why you’ll find more and more really cool masks and accessories that are great for year-round make-believe, too. Check these out:

You’re a mean one, Mr. Venom.

Be a Meanie: Marvel’s Spider-Man Maximum Venom Mask from Hasbro
Ages 5+
$14.99
Where to Buy
Oooh, he’s a bad’un, as my grandmother used to say. Which, of course, means he’s super cool. Right off the Spider-Man animated series, the mask is adjustable and fits almost anyone. He’s even got a super gross tongue you can control. Put it on under a hoodie, and you’ll look amazingly bad.

 

 

 

Hero du Jour: Nerf Power Moves Marvel Assortment from Hasbro
Ages 5+
$19.99
Where to Buy
If you want to be a different hero every day, you can do it with these foam dart firing accessories. Thor’s hammer, Cap’s shield, and Black Panther’s paw have a special Nerf twist that makes them even more fun. Easy to use, great value and super durable, we think they’re great for Halloween or any day when pretend play is on the agenda.

Orange is the new costume. Style it!

Understated But Boo-Rifiic: Chalk of the Town Halloween T-Shirts
Ages 2-Adult
$24.99
Where to Buy
If you don’t want to go full-on costume, you can get into the spirit with these Halloween-themed chalkboard tees. Use the included liquid chalk markers to design and customize…then wash and recreate. From little kids to adults, it’s a great way to pumpkin-spice up your look for the holiday.

Spooky Story Time

What would Halloween be without a good ghost story? We think of Washington Irving’s classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, or The Monkey’s Paw, which is more than 100 years old and still a spine-tingler. Then, there are all the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Ghost stories are great at Halloween time, both new and old. And there’s something really great about reading together as a family. Of course, you’ll want to be sure that the stories are not too scary. You know your kids best, but remember, there’s something fun about being creeped out just the right amount.

Scary, silly, and so much fun!

Avoid in a Dark Alley: Attack of the Shark-Headed Zombie by Bill Doyle
Ages 7+
$5.99
Where to Buy
We’re not sure if this is funny or scary. Actually, it’s both, which is a great mix for some kids. When Keats and Henry lose their bikes, they end up doing odd jobs to make some money. Emphasis on odd. See, no one ever told them they’d have to defeat a Shark-Headed Zombie. It’s a great, comic adventure full of silly spookiness that’s perfect for kids in grades 1-4.

 

Classic tales to haunt your holiday!

 A Spirited Tradition: The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories
Ages 7+
$16.00
Where to Buy
If your kids love ghost stories, this anthology of some of the best classics is a great way to start. Plus, they’re a wonderful introduction to some marvelous writing. When I was a kid, we had a family tradition of reading a ghost story a night from around the 15th of October right up to Halloween. There’s something wonderfully dramatic about reading aloud, even to older kids, and this can be a fun family activity for all. Fire up the Jack-O-Lantern, pour some cider, and prepare for some shivers.

 

 

We’ll be updating this list as we review toys and add new things over the next couple of weeks, so keep checking back!

Disclosure: Purchase links are to places that had in-stock availability at the time of publication. The Toy Guy does not receive any commission or fees if you purchase through those links.

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