6 Ways to Safely Celebrate Halloween Instead of Trick-or-Treating

Spooky season is here, and there are plenty of fun (and safe) ways to celebrate.
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By Nehal Aggarwal, Editor
Published October 5, 2020
mom happily looking at her daughter about to carve a pumpkin for halloween
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Halloween is a kid-favorite holiday for obvious reasons. Not only do they get to dress up as their favorite characters, but they also get rewarded with candy for doing it! This year, however, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though Halloween is right around the corner, it’ll certainly look a little different.

The Center for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) recently released their guidelines on safe Halloween practices. Here’s what they have to say.

Halloween Guidelines from the CDC

The guidelines break down traditional Halloween and fall activities from low-risk to high-risk tiers. In the lower-risk tier, they list the following activities:

  • Carving and decorating pumpkins with family or friends at a safe distance
  • Decorating the living space
  • Participating in a virtual Halloween contest
  • Putting on a Halloween movie night at home
  • Conducting a Halloween scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat at home

For all of the listed moderate-risk activities, the CDC recommends people wear a mask and stay more than six feet apart if screaming is likely to occur. These activities are:

  • Participating in a one-way trick-or-treat where the goodies are wrapped and lined up for people to grab, even at a safe social distance. (The CDC recommends anyone planning to give goodies out like this should wash their hands before and after.)
  • Small and socially-distanced outdoor costume parades
  • Attending an outdoor one-way haunted forest
  • Going to an outdoor movie night
  • Visiting a pumpkin patch or orchard where people have sanitized prior to entering the patch

Under high-risk activities, they list the following activities:

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating
  • Having trunk-or-treats
  • Attending crowded indoor costume parties or haunted houses
  • Going on hayride or tractor rides with people from outside your household
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival outside of your community

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, Halloween will look a bit different this year,” Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH say. “Families should engage in lower risk activities and enjoy the holiday with others in their household or identified pod instead.”

Even with all the safety guidelines in place, there are still plenty of fun (and safe) ways to celebrate the onset of fall—all it takes is some thinking outside of the box. Check out our tips below on how to make this year’s Halloween so memorable, your little ones may just forget about traditional trick-or-treating.

Pick Up a Pumpkin to Carve

Though going to a pumpkin patch is listed as a moderate-risk activity, plenty of grocery stores have already begun selling pumpkins. Pick one up on your next run and dedicate an afternoon to family pumpkin carving and decorating. Though your kids may not be able to carve by themselves, they can certainly help give some creative direction by outlining the eyes and the mouth to be carved with a sharpie.

Join a Virtual or Socially-Distanced Halloween Costume Contest

Though you may not be able to show off your costume in person, host a zoom parade with friends and family. Your little one will still be able to show off their costume to loved ones. If you plan to attend a socially-distanced, outdoor costume contest, parade or other event, incorporate your face mask into your costume.

The CDC recommends not to wear a costume mask over a facial covering, as it could make it hard to breathe. They also recommend not using a Halloween costume mask as a substitute (unless it’s made of multiple, breathable layers and covers the mouth and nose without gaps). Luckily, plenty of retailers have already started selling adorable Halloween face masks for kids over the age of 2. Below, some of our favorites, available on Etsy.

Image: Proteknot / Etsy

Buy it: Proteknit, up to $33,

Buy it: KzakkKreations Toddler Face Mask, up to $12,

Buy it: Baby Mummy Face Mask, $11, and Baby Mummy Costume, $68,

Go All Out on Halloween Home Decor

While skeletons may not be everyone’s cup of tea, home decor searches have been on the rise this year, particularly ahead of Halloween. Deck out your home with a festive doormat, pumpkin-shaped pillows or a spider web. Once the decorations are up, have everyone wind down with a nice cup of hot apple cider and a favorite Halloween treat movie.

Image: Courtesy Pottery Barn

Buy it: Cozy Pumpkin Pillows, $30,

Image: Courtesy Aerowo

Buy it: Halloween Decoration Black Lace Spider web, up to $12,

Image: Courtesy Pottery Barn

Buy it: Trick-or-Treat Light Up Doormat, $39,

Plan an At-Home Halloween Movie Marathon With Matching Pajamas

Nothing says getting into the holiday spirit like some matching family pajamas—and there are some pretty adorable ones for Halloween out there. Afterall, what better attire to lounge in during at-home screenings of the Halloweentown movies? Check out some of our frightfully cute favorites below:

Image: Courtesy Hanna Andersson

Buy it: Hanna Andersson Midnight Stars PJs, up to $33 for kids and $24 for adults,

Image: Courtesy SweetNice

Buy it: Cute Ghost Halloween PJs Family Set, $13 for kids and $20 for adults,

Image: Courtesy Target

Buy it: Halloween Pumpkin Matching Family Pajamas, up to $15 for kids and up to $25 for adults,

Conduct an At-Home Halloween Scavenger Hunt

While traditional trick-or-treating may be off the table this Halloween, parents and caregivers can still plan a scavenger hunt for their little ones. Dress your little ones up in costume, and then take them on a walk through the neighborhood, having them identify Halloween-themed items along the way. Or, for an at-home alternative, hide treats around the house and create a map to help the kids unearth all the hidden treasure.

“Kids love Halloween for the fun treats, so no need to abandon this tradition. You can have a scavenger hunt for candy in different rooms in the house or go trick or treating in different areas of your home,” DiMaggio and Porto say.

Looking to take the hunt up a notch? Get your child a personalized Halloween basket they’ll be excited to use for years to come.

Image: Sew What Fun / Etsy

Buy it: Personalized Trick-or-Treat Bucket, up to $25,

Image: Courtesy Whisker Works / Etsy

Buy it: Wooden Halloween Basket Tags, $7,

Image: Gifts for You Now / Etsy

Buy it: Personalized Pumpkin Basket, $25,

Make Fall Inspired Desserts

Apple cider doughnuts, pumpkin-spiced buns and pecan pie—oh my! When it comes to autumn-themed desserts, the options are endless. Create a list of some of family favorites, then pick a few nights in October to make them together. Below, some items that may help you whip up those sweet treats:

Image: Courtesy Williams Sonoma

Buy it: Halloween Haunted House Kit, $30,

Image: Courtesy Cuisinart

Buy it: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Bundt Pan, $26,

Image: Courtesy Williams Sonoma

Buy it: Fall Pie Punches (Set of 6), $20,

The pandemic has certainly altered life as we know it, but there are still ways to celebrate. “It’s important to try to include some balance of routine in a child’s life by still making the holiday fun, but safe at the same time,” DiMaggio and Porto explain. “In these unique times we will continue to make new memories with our children as we enjoy holidays by making new traditions.” All you need to make this Halloween a total treat, is a little bit of creativity!

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