How to Plan a Halloween Party for Kids

Halloween jack-o'-lantern
Ted Kurihara Photography / Getty Images

From the costumes to the candy, Halloween is one of the most fun times of the year for children. And, while the trick-or-treating may only last one day, there's no rule that says Halloween celebrations can't fill the entire month with ghoulish fun. Help your kiddos have a frighteningly good time by throwing them and their pals a themed Halloween bash. With so many party ideas below, your only question will be, "What are we doing next year?"

Pumpkin Carving Party

Sure, a pumpkin carving party can get messy—but it's so much fun that it's sure to become an annual tradition anyway. Set-up is simple: place a few folding tables outdoors on your lawn or indoors in an area of your home that you don't mind getting a bit messy (throwing tarps down below the tables is a great way to keep things neat). Ask each guest to bring pumpkins and their own carving tools—it's a good idea to buy a few inexpensive sets to have on-hand, too.

Encourage guests big and small to carve their pumpkins however they please and have dry-erase markers available so they can draw their dream design on the skin before they get to carving. If you're not inviting the guardians of the children on your guest list, be sure to enlist a few extra adults to help with supervision, especially where sharp tools are concerned.

As the kids scoop out the pumpkin pulp, come around with a baking sheet, collect the seeds, and roast them in the oven for an end-of-party treat (you could also slip the roasted seeds into small bags and send them home as favors). For other food, consider sticking with the pumpkin theme and serving up yummy eats like pumpkin cookies, pumpkin doughnuts, or even oranges made to look like pumpkins.

Once all of the pumpkins are carved, move them into a dark space (a basement or garage works great for this), group them together, and light them from the inside using battery-operated LED tealights. You can even arrange to give out awards to each child, incorporating accolades like "most original," "spookiest design," "best carving," and more.

Trick-or-Treat Party

If you don't live in a neighborhood where trick-or-treating is easy—or your kids just want to extend the fun—make it the theme of your party instead. Set up a mock "neighborhood" around your yard or home using children's playhouses or cardboard boxes you've had your kids decorate with cutout doors and windows. You can even add to the spook factor by painting all the cardboard houses black or stringing plastic playhouses with cobwebs.

Designate an adult to be inside each house with a bowl of candy or other goodies. Have party guests go around, treat-or-treating at each house in exchange for candy. For an added layer of fun, incorporate a simple, kid-friendly Halloween challenge into each stop, like pin the nose on the scarecrow, naming as many monsters as they can in ten seconds, or balancing a mini pumpkin on their head.

For food, stick to simple sandwiches or pizza, as the kids will likely want to run around inspecting the playhouses rather than sit down for a meal (plus, they'll get their fill of candy, too!). Gift each child with a festive tote or plastic pumpkin to stash their candy in post-party.

DIY Candy Bag Party

Every trick-or-treater needs a trusty candy bag and this party theme, great for creative kids or older tweens, is the perfect way to help guests design their own. If you plan to host this party, schedule it for at least a week before Halloween so participants can utilize their festive creations come Halloween night!

Depending on the age group you'll be entertaining, you can adjust the party craft to better suit your boo crew. For young children (think: under the age of five), consider having them decorate treat buckets with stickers or help them use washable paint and oversized brushes on cloth bags. Give slightly older children the option between a tote bag or inexpensive white pillowcase, then grant them free rein with all sorts of add-ons like potato stamps, pom poms, ribbon, glitter, and more. If you have teens in your group, you can even encourage them to sew their own bags together, providing them with a slew of different fabric options to help them personalize their piece.

Crafting will take up a lot of your party time, so keep your food selection simple. A buffet of yummy Halloween-themed finger foods (like mummy dogs or mini monster cheese balls) and easy desserts (like cups of "dirt" or ghost strawberries) should more than satisfy your little monsters.

Classic Halloween Party

You can't go wrong with a classic Halloween theme and all that it involves—they're called traditions for a reason, after all! Bob for apples, race to eat doughnuts hanging from a string, or play other classic party games that are sure to keep kids laughing and having fun. Host a costume contest and end the bash with a showing of a kid-friendly Halloween movie, like "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." You can even set up an outdoor cinema, complete with hay bale seating, space heaters, and cozy fleece blankets.

Nod to the party's vintage tone by decking out your home in classic black and orange decor and rocking a "traditional" costume like a witch, vampire, or mummy. Feed guests from a selection of classic fall snacks like kettle corn, apple cider, and various other Halloween-themed bites.