Photo: Jocelyn Greene via Child's Play NY

Like it or not, virtual Halloween parties are where we are in October 2020. While remote activities for kids can get a bad rep, I’m here to say that, when done well, they can bring joy, safe social stimulation, and lots of pleasure for kids. Happily, there’s no shortage of awesome party games that work well over Zoom. When you throw in the excitement of Halloween itself, add a candy treat, and don a costume…then the normally fun games will be even more special. 

“Let the Wardrobe Do the Acting”
When working on Batman, Jack Nicholson famously counseled Michael Keaton to “Just let the wardrobe do the acting.” Great actors have a long and storied tradition of working from the “outside-in” to make their most memorable characters.

Just like actors, kids can use costumes to boost their bravery, access their dramatic imagination, and find their character. Costumes this year (or really any year!) don’t have to be fancy or store-bought. Cat ears and face paint (i.e. your eye-liner!) work great. Similarly, repurposing a favorite outfit from the dress-up drawer or your own closet is perfect. 

With a costumed character as a focal point, kids can find:

  • Sounds: accents, yowls, and maybe even a catchphrase
  • Moves: how they walk, dance and a great defining gesture that can be mirrored back to them. 

Use Virtual Backgrounds
Get into the spirit by projecting a cool Halloween image behind you! For most kids in remote school, virtual backgrounds are a no-no. All the more reason when it is a “party” to let them use ‘em.  

As a theater director, I love that we can use virtual backgrounds. It is like an instant “set.” Kids can feel transported to a haunted house or a spooky pumpkin patch. Look for actual photographs rather than illustrations to make the experience even more realistic. Parents can download them before the party.

Start with Ice-breakers
A simple activity for kids to play together or engage in is the way to start. Here are some ideas for intro activities to get the party going and mitigate the awkwardness of kids joining the Zoom call at different times. Don’t just expect your guests to make small talk!

Halloween Jokes/Riddles for Kids: Q: Why didn’t the skeleton go to school? A: His heart wasn’t in it!

Tongue Twisters: “Which witch wished the wicked wish?”

Spot the Difference: Screen-share the image and unmute kids one at a time and ask them to spot a difference. 

Get Physical

  • A Dance Party with Freeze Dance (call out different Halloween-inspired emotions, even better!)
  • Play “Grab & Go”: Ask the kids to scavenge different “ingredients” in their house: Something shiny, something yummy, something sticky. This helps break-up the screentime, grounds kids in the “real world” and gets them moving

Give the Kids on a Mission
Tap into kids’ primal desire to be heroes. You can set up an easy mission in the party with challenges at each step. Base it off what your child loves the most. Here are some examples: 

  • Help the Witch come up with a delicious potion: Play “Grab & Go” to give her the ingredients she needs, combine the ingredients into a magic stew

  • Rescue a ghost trapped in a tower (play elevator to different “rooms” in a haunted house until you reach the ghost. 

  • Solve riddles to decide how to get to a trapped goblin and teach him good manners when you get there. 

  • Go on a “ghost hunt”  (it’s just like a bear hunt). Use the structure of the rhyme with little kids to scaffold the play and help decide where they should go next and what it should sound like. This can all be played in front of the computer, and you can spotlight your video with several different backgrounds at the ready depending on your next location. 

Tips for a Halloween Scavenger Hunt over Zoom

  • Hide candy in the house and use clues to go on a scavenger hunt. While you’ll need other parents to collude with you on this, it is well worth it.  

  • Pick three spots universal to all your guests’ houses and co-ordinate with the parents to put a treat at each spot. 

  • Screenshare the clues one at a time and decide together where the candy must be at each step. “It’s the bathroom sink!”  “On the welcome mat!”  “Oh! Under my pillow!” 

  • Make sure each kid has found the candy before moving on to the next clue.  

  • Watch this to learn more about how simple and fun the clues can be.

Tell a Ghost Story 
Take turns making up a ghost story or Halloween adventure using Story Clap. Use transition words or even the words “Fortunately” or “Unfortunately” to steer the direction of the tale. Post up a campfire virtual background and say “pass the flashlight” when it is the next person’s turn to add on. End by recapping the story or have an adult wrap up the action so it is a cohesive adventure!

Read a Story
A super great activity—especially if the playing has been really robust and physical, is to chill out with a good book all together. I love these diverse Halloween books from Here Wee Read. You can screen share from Epic and then kids can hear you reading while at the same time seeing the pictures on their device. You can also let the story inspire another adventure or activity. 

End with a Sweet (Trick or) Treat
You are gonna want to end on a “sweet” note. It is satisfying and very Halloween-y, of course. Patronize your local bakery or bake something ahead of time.

If you want to join Child’s Play NY for a free Halloween Party Class, please do!  

 

This post originally appeared on Child's Play In Action.