“All is not lost! You can still enjoy Halloween as a family and as a community!”
The Playing Out project from Sustainable St Albans brings us 10 top tips for enjoying this Halloween which is unlike any other. Find out how you can create a community atmosphere in your part of St Albans District and satisfy your kids’ cravings for fun and treats while celebrating the Spooky Season in a sustainable way.
October Half Term is coming up fast and Halloween is the final Saturday of that week. Many streets across the country would usually be planning decorations and a big Trick or Treat evening; many others had gained permission to close their roads for organised Playing Out sessions that weekend to pull their community together for free play sessions on the road before it got dark and the sugar fest began. With this year’s epidemic, that can’t happen any more. Yet all is not lost! You can still enjoy Halloween as a family and as a community!
1. Organise a street pumpkin trail
Playing Out is all about community building and Halloween is traditionally one of the few times when lots of people go out onto their street at the same time and enjoy celebrating together, almost like a street party. Despite, the fact that trick-or-treating is off this year, we’ve been delighted to hear lots of reports of neighbours getting together to organise something fun and Covid-safe for kids on their street. It just takes a couple of people to get together to think up something that works for your area. Why not consider one of these ideas….
- A printable pumpkin poster for all the kids in your street to colour in and put in their window.
- Or, for bigger roads, a selection of printed posters dropped through your neighbours’ letterbox with a “bingo” style list for the kids to tick off as they spot the images – many neighbours without children will be persuaded to stick their image in their window for the children to enjoy.
- Or how about an agreement between all households that a front of house decorations will go up but no-one will knock for treats? Maybe share a special “Happy Halloween, Keep safe, No door-knocking” poster for front doors and lamp posts?
- Then take your kids out to spot the posters or pumpkins and give them a treat for their Halloween bag every time they spot one.
- Remember to spread out the fun – it doesn’t all have to happen at 5pm on 31st October. Co-ordinate with your neighbours to ensure everyone can keep safe and streets aren’t crowded.
Some of the District’s communities even have a dedicated Facebook page to help organise Halloween Pumpkin Trail with specially designed posters, such as the Redbourn Pumpkin Trail page. Also, some local school PTAs are organising trails. Keep an eye on your local social media to see what is happening in your neighbourhood.
2. Invite neighbours to a virtual Halloween party
Many streets now have a newfound community since the Lockdown – often there are email or WhatsApp groups set up. Why not use this to organise a virtual Halloween party with some neighbours? Or organise a competition via Zoom – best costume or best spooky food, perhaps.
3. Join the St Albans District-wide Rainbow Pumpkin Trail Hunt
Across St Albans District a “Rainbow Army” of volunteers has been colouring in rainbow pumpkins and colouring in real pumpkins ready for them to be displayed in windows across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages from 25th to 31st October. The St Albans Rainbow Trail is behind the initiative and residents are invited to visit the St Albans Rainbow Trail Facebook Group to find out full details of how to get involved. In essence, spot one of their rainbow pumpkins then visit the Facebook page to contact them and tell them where it was – and be entered for prizes. Following on from other themed trails from the St Albans Rainbow Trail, the volunteers usually suggest a small donation is made to a named charity with each competition entry. This time organisers are suggesting that residents donate to their local school. Visit the St Albans Rainbow Trail Facebook Group for more information.
4. Make sustainable decorations yourselves
Playing Out is, first and foremost about play. Free, unstructured play. The most unstructured way to decorate for Halloween is to let the kids go wild with natural materials and their imagination. You can still decorate your house inside or out this year. (For ideas about how to work as a street to decorate without traditional trick-or-treating, see tip number 1).
- Forage in nature – pine cones, conkers, autumn leaves, twigs all make great decorative materials.
- Hand them a bucket of chalk and let them decorate the drive with spooky pictures
- And don’t forget the pumpkin!
There are also plenty of sustainable decorations that you can make. No need to go out and buy them – make them from the stuff you already have! Don’t forget to try to avoid glitter if you can.
- Wool spiders’ webs
- Make a haunted house den from a big cardboard box
- Cut out spiders and ghouls from black plastic bags and blue tack to walls and windows – those plastic postal bags that have black insides are ideal for this.
- Fill jam jars with spooky stuff and dot around – what pocket money toys are lying around your house? Plastic spiders and other insects, pretend eye balls, fake thumbs from a magic set can be put in a jam jar filled with water. Add a few drops of different food colouring to each for a spooky display.
- Decorate jam jars – and fill with LED tea lights to make lanterns
- Egg carton bats
- Bed sheet ghosts (stuff a pillow case in the middle and tie with string to make head then suspend)
5. Carve a pumpkin
You might need to help the kids with this one but carved pumpkins are a great way to celebrate Halloween. Maybe you might want to carve a rainbow on yours this year? Hertfordshire Council have a You Tube video on how to do it – just click here to link to the HCC page.
If your carved pumpkin is original and worthy of a prize, why not enter it into a competition? If you live in Harpenden, you can enter into the mayor’s competition and if you live anywhere in St Albans District you can enter the St Albans Rainbow Trail Competition.
Keep your pumpkin decorations sustainable by not creating unnecessary food waste. A terrifying 12.8 million pumpkins are expected to be left uneaten this Halloween, in the UK alone! Hubbub UK’s annual Pumpkin Rescue campaign is back, this year called “Eat Your Pumpkin”. For lots of ideas visit Hubbub.
Why not try this great pumpkin soup recipe from Grow Community Sopwell in St Albans. And don’t forget pumpkin seeds can be roasted too for a tasty snack!
6. Make Halloween food
At Playing Out sessions, we would normally encourage neighbours to have a tea station with tea and biscuits to share – a spot for adults to gather and get to know each other while the children play. Quite often, for festive occasions, neighbours will provide fun food. You can still enjoy Halloween food at home this year or even show it off to your neighbours at a virtual party.
- Think plastic-free when it comes to the sweets and treats – cardboard and foil are both recyclable. How about a visit to the local independent sweet shop choosing loose penny sweets with a paper bag or perhaps making some homemade treats? Interested in more Plastic Free ideas? Why not join the discussions on local Facebook Groups like Plastic Free Harpenden and St Albans Eco?
You can make all other sorts of fun-themed food:
- Bloody fingers in a vice (vegetarian sausages and ketchup in a roll)
- Mummies (vegetarian sausages wrapped in a snake of pastry – add eyes to be extra creepy!)
- Spooky spiders (chocolate krispy cakes with chocolate finger legs)
- Skeleton biscuits – gingerbread men with white bones drawn on in icing
- Banana ghosts – stick lollipop sticks in half a skinned banana, draw on spooky face in chocolate drops and freeze
- False teeth – carve a wedge out of the skin-side of a quarter apple, smear with something sticky (peanut butter, jam, honey) and stick in “teeth” – almonds, rice crispies, small crackers or roasted sweetcorn.
Feeling more adventurous? Try BBC Good Food for lots more Halloween recipes.
7. Get dressed up – without buying new
No need to buy a costume! Make your own or try getting one second hand – it’s so easy and it’s cheaper!
- Ghost up with a sheet (best advice my mother-in-law ever gave me – “never throw away old sheets – they come in so handy for everything”).
- Toilet paper mummy – wind round you!
- Cat – black outfit, cardboard ears attached to hairband, homemade tail from old tights.
- Bat – black outfit, wings from black material, cardboard bat ears attached to hairband
- Don’t forget the joy of Facepaints – scary witch, spooky ghost – there are tons of ideas on line!
Second hand, try local charity shops. For St Albans District there are many local selling Facebook groups, such as
- Selling & Buying in St Albans
- Buy and sell in St Albans and Around
- Harpenden Network Seeling Page
- Harpenden & St Albans selling page
- Items for sale in Wheathampstead and surrounding areas
- Bargains for sale in Redbourn, harpenden, St Albans
- Items For Sale In London Colney
And don’t forget to scout the free sites and pages:
Facebook pages for free Halloween stuff:
- St Albans & Harpenden Reuse Project
- Harpenden Reuse Movement
- Redbourn Community Network – Reuse Group
- Redbourn Reuse Movement
- Wheathampstead Swap Shop
- Reuse London Colney, Shenley, and surrounding areas
8. Go on an Indoor Treasure Hunt
Want to stay indoors for the fun? Why not send the kids on a treasure hunt round the house to find the treats.
For little ones, cut out pictures of pumpkins on paper or card and hide around the house for them to find. Once they have found them all, give them a treat.
For children that can read, make 10-15 clues that lead them round the house until they find their treat at the end. They can be simple for little ones or more complex for older kids. For example:
- Where mummy sits to work (put next clue on your desk chair)
- I make the clothes go round and round (put the next clue in the washing machine)
- Brrrr it’s chilly in here (put your next clue in the fridge)
Try to alternate clues upstairs and downstairs to get the maximum running around!
If you’re feeling super lazy, here’s a ready-made one!
Then get the kids to make up a treasure hunt for you!
9. Do an outdoor scavenger hunt
Playing Out sessions encourage us to get to know and connect with the local area, particularly our own street. Prefer your Halloween fun to happen in daylight hours? Go out on a scavenger hunt in your street: just make a list together and go outside with a bucket to hunt and spot!
- For example, collect
- Red leaf
- Yellow leaf
- Brown leaf
- For example, spot
- Pumpkin picture
- Other halloween decorations (if it’s 31st)
- Spider’s web
- Flying bird
- Bugs (worm, slug etc)
Why not take a litter pick and a rubbish bag with you and clean up your community while you’re out with the kids?!
10. Play spooky games
Whether online at a virtual party with your neighbours or at home as a family, there are some fantastic games you can play at Halloween. Playing Out tends to focus on traditional street games – skipping, ball games and scooting and biking are all great in the neighbourhood. So keep the feel traditional for Halloween night, and try:
- Apple bobbing – can’t get more traditional than that!
- Telling spooky stories – tell them to the kids, or get them to make them up. Add atmosphere by sitting in your homemade haunted house den with your homemade lanterns. For smaller children, try a spooky version of Chinese whispers with sentences that are Halloween themed.
- Make a Halloween “feel” box – cut a slot in the top of a cardboard box and fill with textured objects to spook everyone out – try peeled grapes inside that feel like eyeballs and cooked spaghetti for guts, tinned peaches for a liver and an old rubber gloved filled with flour for a dead hand, how scary can you make yours??
- Play a Halloween-themed Kim’s game – a good one for an online party: show a tray of Halloween themed items and then take one away – what is missing?
About Playing Out St Albans District
Playing Out is a nation-wide concept where residents choose to apply to the local authority to close their road to through traffic to allow the children to come out onto the street and cycle, scoot and play together in the road. It is a fabulous way to build communities, offering neighbours a chance to build support networks and children the opportunity to get fresh air and exercise, as well as learn to play in an unstructured manner with other children of all ages.
At the current time, organising road closures for Playing Out is not possible due to Covid restrictions. However, if this is something you would like to see on your street in the future, why not join our mailing list to be kept up-to-date with the latest news so you can get involved once restrictions are lifted.