Halloween crafts

DIY Halloween Crafts for Dads and Kiddos

If you’re like many parents, the approach of Halloween, as with many other events this year, is fraught with questions. In the age of the coronavirus, it can be tough deciding whether or not to take part in trick-or-treating, pumpkin patches, hay rides, bonfires, fall family photos, or costume parties — all our favorite activities seem to come with an extra layer of risk. 

There is some doubt as to how to make the time special for your children in the year of social distancing. Many families are choosing to avoid crowds and spend their time celebrating at home.

Rather than approach the extended holiday season with a glum attitude — thinking about all the things you could be doing or had had hoped to be able to do now that the kids are old enough — we're choosing to adopt a “new traditions” mindset, and take the opportunity to make this largely more private Halloween season more fun than it’s ever been before.

Craftaholics Anonymous calls autumn “the Super Bowl of the crafting world,” as the explosion of color and imminent retreat indoors from the cold seem to inspire people to turn to artistic hobbies. Whether you’re looking to spook up your house for trick-or-treaters, or just as a way to entertain the kiddos while staying inside, these crafts will help make the night memorable.

Trash Bag Spider Webs

How About Orange offers instructions for making giant spider webs out of black trash bags, for indoor or outdoor decoration. As the website states, it is the epitome of dramatic, cheap, and resourceful. If decorating indoors, you can add construction paper or balloon spiders (streamers make good spider legs) to populate your webs if they look a little bare.

Witches’ Brew

If your kids are into tactile playtime with things like Play-Doh and kinetic sand, they might enjoy this “Witches Brew” from Little Bins for Little Hands. This puffy, pliable “slime” uses a base of shaving cream and glue, and can be any color your heart desires (and your supply of food coloring allows). Purple, green, black, and orange are the best for Halloween, and the addition of small spiders, bats, eyeballs, and of course newts (if you can find them), will make it a true brew suitable for little witches in training. In the link above, Little Bins also provides a brief explanation of the chemical reactions that give the brew its stretchy, fluffy texture, if you’re the type of dad who’s always on the lookout for a teachable moment.

Glow Stick Balloons

These DIY glowing balloons, a bright idea from sayyes.com, can add spooky lighting or some vibrant color to your Halloween night. The simplest creation on this list, it requires nothing more than some white balloons and Glow Sticks and is less about creating glowing balloons than about playing with them afterward. That’s when your own creativity can take over. Hang them from the ceiling for décor, make them a part of a spooky obstacle course, or have yourself a glow-in-the-dark balloon fight. I rather think they would make some nice low lighting for a scary movie marathon.

If your house is respecting lockdown protocols, you may not have the luxury of going shopping for the perfect pumpkin. Perhaps you or your children are not fond of the stringy gloopy innards you have to scoop out of a pumpkin, don’t have the patience or skill for carving, or you’re not looking forward to the post-excavation cleanup or disposing of the jack-o-lantern after it has started to ripen on your doorstep. Or maybe you don’t have outdoor space in which to display the pumpkin, or want something that will last until Thanksgiving. Whatever your situation, sometimes carving a real pumpkin is just not a realistic goal.

Fortunately, below are four pumpkin alternatives that can create memories, entertain the kiddos, spice up your Halloween décor, and satiate the crafter in you.

Yarn pumpkins

String wrapped around cardboard has never been so cute. A craft appropriate for younger kids, these little pumpkin ornaments require only some cardboard, construction paper, scissors, string, and a green marker. Red Ted Art touts the versatility of these pumpkins, as they can be reversed and kept out through the Thanksgiving holiday. You can make them in assorted sizes and create a display for your door, or hang them from a tree or bush outside.

Balloon-yarn pumpkins

If you have orange yarn and balloons left over from the previous two crafts and want to try for something slightly more tactile (and messy), you can create pumpkin shells using string, glue, and balloons. This one will require drying time and some care so that the pumpkin doesn’t get warped while the balloon is removed, but the result is a unique and festive yarn ball that can sit on a mantle or hang on the porch. One Little Project recommends using plain Elmer’s glue for a stiff finish, and easily cleaning excess glue off each yarn segment by pulling it through the tines of a plastic fork. You can also give the pumpkins stems and curling green vines by wrapping some pipe cleaners around a straw.

Mod podge lanterns

These cute mason jar lanterns from Erin Spain are great for indoor or outdoor decoration. The uneven coloration of the tissue paper gives the jack-o-lanterns some texture, and the addition of an electric candle or a glow stick will give it that inner glow that makes Halloween pumpkins so enchanting. As with normal pumpkins, you can choose to put a simple face on yours, or, if you have the scissor skills, cut a silhouette of a black cat or a witch in flight out of black construction paper to lay across the front. In addition to the jack-o-lantern look, the shape of the jars lends itself well to ghosts, mummies, witch faces, or Frankenstein’s monster.

 Paper pumpkins

While Craftaholics Anonymous uses hot glue and cardstock for a more durable result, a glue stick and construction paper work just as well. The benefit of cardstock or scrapbooking paper, of course, is the possibility of finding something with a fun pattern, but you can mix things up even with plain construction paper by using a mix of orange, yellow, and black – or, heck, make some hot pink ones if the kids want – or by painting the paper before or after assembly. Cut out eyes, noses, and mouths for your creations, or leave them faceless and keep them around as a general autumn decoration.

Having Halloween at home doesn’t have to be a drab occasion, and you might be worried that your kids will remember 2020’s spooky season as the Halloween they couldn’t celebrate. (Although, if we’re being honest, all of 2020 has been a “spooky" season, right?) However, resourcefulness as a parent has always meant doing more with less, and the silver lining of social distancing is an opportunity to spend more quality time with your children. Embrace the opportunity, and for all you know, five or ten years from now, you’ll catch them saying to their friends “One year we didn’t go trick-or-treating. Instead, we had a whole week of Halloween. My dads dressed up as scary butlers and we had a murder mystery dinner and a candy scavenger hunt in the house, and instead of buying pumpkins we MADE them, and then we made decorations and some cool slime to play with and watched scary movies and had a costume party over video chat with TONS of people and we built this cool candy launcher for the trick-or-treaters…”


Posted by Sarah Lynn

Sarah Mohler is a 2020 graduate of the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program, and has taught college composition and creative writing at Kent State University and at the EdX School in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. She lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

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