Any other year, Halloween without trick-or-treating would have been unimaginable. But 2020, as we all know, isn’t a normal year.
While 96 percent of parents still plan to celebrate Halloween with their families, according to a Party City survey, 70 percent will forgo traditional trick-or-treating. And that’s a smart move: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, as well as other high-risk activities, including trunk-or-treating, indoor costume parties and haunted houses and going on hayrides with people other than immediate family members.
However, with a little bit of creativity as well as some flexibility, Oct. 31 can remain a spook-tacular day for kids and adults alike. Here are three ways to make the most of a pandemic Halloween.
Come up with new ways to trick-or-treat
As long as you follow all local health and safety regulations—avoiding large crowds, wearing a mask, staying outside—modified trick-or-treating might still be able to happen.
Create a Neighborhood Map: Use Google Maps to create a neighborhood map that allows participating houses to add a pin if they are giving out candy. Without unnecessary stops, your children can finish trick-or-treating faster. Of course, you’ll want to keep your group small and maintain 6 feet of distance between the kids.
Make Masks Part of the Costume: Encourage your child to choose a costume that includes a mask as part of the ensemble, such as a ninja or doctor. You can also look for a mask in a coordinating color or pattern at the same time you purchase their costume.
Institute a “No Eating” Rule: It can be tempting to tear off the wrapper of a favorite piece of candy before it even lands in their trick-or-treat bag, but don’t allow children to eat until they are home. Eating requires them to remove their mask, which increases the risk of spreading Covid-19.
Move Away From the Door: Distributing candy at your door puts you in close contact with ghosts and goblins. Instead, try placing candy in chalk-drawn pumpkins 6 feet apart on the sidewalk, sending treats down a PVC pipe or long cardboard tube, or tossing sugary snacks to trick-or-treaters Mardi Gras-style. Other ideas include hanging bags of candy from a tree or simply spreading out candy on a table at the end of your driveway so kids can easily grab a piece as they pass your house. You may also want to limit candy options, as kids often linger while trying to make the perfect selection.
Celebrate at home
For those families who don’t feel comfortable with any type of trick-or-treating, there are plenty of ways to make Halloween special at home.
Host a Spooky Backyard Movie Night: Watching a scary (or not-so-scary) movie is a favorite Halloween tradition. Instead of hitting the theater, set up an outdoor experience in your backyard or nearby alley with a projector, Bluetooth speaker and movie screen or ironed white sheet. Or keep it simple and bring your TV outside. Set up blankets 6 feet apart and settle in for a fun evening with friends. The price of admission is wearing a costume!
Go Hunting for Candy: Kids don’t have to go trick-or-treating to find candy behind every door. Hide their favorite treats around the house and have them search in costume. If you are feeling creative, send the kids on a spooky scavenger hunt or make life easier by hanging a Halloween-themed piñata.
Take Your Decorations to the Max: Make Halloween extra special this year by taking your decorations to the next level. Blow up some spooky inflatables, hang orange twinkle lights and put out some jars of green goo. In the absence of a neighborhood celebration, setting the scene at home will help get your kids in the Halloween spirit. You can also walk around the block checking out other people’s decorations.
ICYMI: We’re having a Halloween Costume Contest!
Boo Your Friends: If you’ve never boo’d friends on Halloween, this is the perfect year to start a new tradition. However, instead of anonymously leaving bags of candy at their doors, let your kids wear their costume and say hello to their buddies from a distance. You may want to coordinate with your children’s friends’ parents ahead of time so the gang can take turns boo-ing each other.
Host a Costume Parade: Invite friends and family to a virtual Halloween parade so kids can show off their costumes to each other. If you are lucky enough to live on a street with a lot of children, set a time for everyone to step out on their front steps in costume while the adults clap for them.
Have a “Yes” Day: Another way to make Halloween memorable without trick-or-treating is by saying “yes” all day. Candy for breakfast? Yes! An extra hour of screen time? Yes! Staying up late? Yes! Kids will have so much fun being in charge that they may not even miss going door-to-door with friends.
Participate in social distancing activities
While many local Halloween events are canceled this year, some of the DC-area’s favorite performers and places are going all out to make sure kids have a fantastic Halloween.
Host a Virtual Halloween Party: The Great Zucchini, Washington FAMILY’s Best Kids’ Party Entertainer of 2020, has been keeping kids connected and laughing through the pandemic with his popular Zoom birthday parties. Throughout October, the magician will also be hosting virtual Halloween parties, complete with spooky magic tricks and jokes, and will perform in person at socially distanced outdoor events.
Explore Air & Scare at Home: The Udvar-Hazy Center’s annual Air & Scare event is a Halloween highlight for many local families. It’s still happening this year, albeit online. Visit the Air & Space Museum’s website throughout October for Halloween-themed virtual events, including story time and costume and pumpkin contests.
Get Spooky at the Playseum: Every day is Halloween at the Playseum in Bethesda! During the month of October, kids are encouraged to visit in costume and participate in daily socially distant Halloween activities, including cookie-decorating contests and themed crafts.
Visit a Farm that is Friendly and Frightening: The legendary Cox Farms Fall Festival isn’t canceled, but it will look very different from years past. On Monday and Friday afternoons through Nov. 5, visitors can drive the farm’s traditional hayride route in their own cars. Don’t forget to grab some apple cider, kettle corn and donuts for the spooky ride!
A version of this story appeared in the October 2020 issue of Washington FAMILY.