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Column 6 tips for a great family Halloween (without breaking the bank)

There is no need to spend a fortune on Halloween costumes and parties – the key is to be prepared, writes Irene Gunning.

THE HALLOWEEN SEASON can sneak up on parents and hit them with extra costs at an expensive time of the year, with back to school just behind us and Christmas lights over the horizon.  This is especially true if parents don’t plan and instead get panicked into last minute, expensive Halloween purchases.

Costs can quickly stack up if children followed by parents are lulled into the Hollywood princess or pirate character route, complete with must-have glittering accessories.  Add on the cost of big, brash, flashing house decorations to keep up with the Joneses, not to mention a fridge full of chocolate treats and the total bill is a nightmare.

The trick is to sit down with children and encourage them into an old style Halloween approach with the emphasis on rituals and recipes from yesteryear, with the child at the centre of the planning process, using their natural creativity.  And of course to set a budget and stick to it.  It’s also worth remembering, for the competitive parents out there, that it’s usually the home made costumes that win the big prizes.

With this in mind, here are some tips for parents who want an inexpensive Halloween midterm of fun for all the family:

1. Grandparent involvement

Start planning by asking grandparents about the best Halloween games, rituals and recipes of yesteryear.  They could be a great source of information and they might also like to join in the preparation and fun?

2. Halloween art attack

Build your existing bank of Halloween artwork from preschool/school by having an ‘art attack’ at home.  Make DIY decorations and keep children engaged by drawing pumpkins, skeletons and witches to proudly hang in the window. Or what about pumpkin faces which are easy to make?  Just cut off the top, scoop out the flesh (and perhaps save for pumpkin soup) and cut out jagged eyes, nose and mouth to create your own character pumpkin.  Insert a small candle into the hollow pumpkin and display in the window or outside in the garden.  This type of Halloween art attack can also become a “play date” over the midterm.

3. Junk couture dress-up

Older children can get involved in the party planning and costume design, giving them plenty of project management and design skills for the future.  Encourage children to design their own character, which can be made up of bits and pieces you already have in the wardrobe… but have your sewing box ready.  If you think about this early enough, you can save money on shop bought costumes, AND it’s environmentally friendly.  We call it ‘junk couture dress up’ and it’s fun.

4. Plan a trick-or-treat trail with neighbours

Club together with friends and neighbours for the traditional trick-or-treat, door-to-door trail.  Agree a meeting point, starting time and who supervises the trail of Halloween characters – versus who stays at home to greet other scary house callers.

5.Traditional Halloween party games

Plan for games like apple bobbing, which involves floating some apples in a basin of water and children have to fish them out using their teeth.  (It may require goggles and towels for spillages.) There’s also Snap Apple whereby you hang an apple by a string from a door frame. Children are required to bite the apple with their hands behind their back. Or the Saucer Fortune Game, where children are blindfolded and choose from three saucers – one containing the Halloween brack ring; one containing water and one containing soil. Choose the wedding ring for romance, the water for travel and the soil for land/property.

6.Traditional food

This is where granny and granddad come in with old family recipes for Halloween.  What about curly kale, mixed with potato and onion, with our without coins in tinfoil added for lucky family members to find?  Be careful, this one needs strict supervision when eating.  Or home-made Barm Brack which the children will love watching and making, involving the soaking of raisins and sultanas in cold tea and adding flour, margarine and eggs etc. And pumpkin soup of course, using the pumpkin leftovers.

Irene Gunning is the CEO of Early Childhood Ireland.

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