Halloween falls on a Saturday this year. That’s every kid’s dream, right? No school the next day, so they can trick or treat, go to haunted houses and … well, this is 2020 — a year that feels as if it is determined to suck the joy out of every occasion.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some communities are discouraging the traditional door-to-door candy runs, many haunted houses and festivals have been canceled or curtailed, and even costume sales are down. But that doesn’t mean we can’t decorate and create spooky fun at home.
With a full Saturday to play, why not let the kids create a Halloween party at home by making their own sweet treats?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips for low-risk activity ideas, including hosting a “Halloween scavenger hunt” outside, where children look for Halloween-themed items, like jack-o'-lanterns, and admire neighbors’ decorations; or inside where items are hidden around the house. (If you do plan to trick-or-treat, the CDC recommends “one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance [such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard].”)
And here’s a pro tip: If your goal is to make your own treats, make sure some of the recipes you select are ones you already know will turn out well. We did that by turning to our Recipe Finder and spookifying cookies we knew we loved.
We found Cornmeal and Cherry Thumbprint Cookies filled with cherry jam, and food stylist Lisa Cherkasky baked them, then used red gel icing to add veins, turning them into creepy eyeballs.
Make the recipe: Cornmeal and Cherry Thumbprint Cookies
She took fine-looking, slender Finnish Chestnut Fingers and remade them into witch’s fingers with the addition of a sliced almond for a fingernail.
Make the recipe: Finnish Chestnut Fingers
And she rediscovered our mice cookies, which we just had to make even though they are more cute than menacing.
Need more ideas? Why not make Becky Krystal’s caramel apple recipe. It’s a classic. Need a main course? Maybe try Feet Loaf, a hit in 2019. Cherkasky had other simple ideas as well, including shaping Rice Krispie treats into tombstones, drizzled with chocolate to make them look cracked and worn; and adding a couple of raisin “flies” to ice cubes to float in drinks or punches.
If you’ve got kids who like to cook, or you want to encourage them to learn new skills, make the food preparation part of the party. The eyeball, finger and mice cookie recipes mentioned here are excellent options for this.
Here are a few more general tips:
Have a plan: Be sure you have a height-appropriate working area for the child. Then, carefully read the recipes and decide how the child can assist. Think about a kid’s attention span when picking a task. A younger child may simply add the noodle tail and chocolate chip eyes to the mice, for example. An older child may be able to help mix doughs and shape the sweets before baking.
Take your time: The process should be fun. The child is learning new skills with you as the teacher. If children are too young to be hands-on throughout, let them watch what you do. Read the recipe together. Taste ingredients together. Measure together. Explain each step as you go. Does this mean cookies you could whip up in 20 minutes might take a bit longer? Definitely.
Forget perfect: Do you do things exactly right the first time you try them? Neither will kids. This is the time to laugh at mistakes and talk about what you learned from them, so you help little ones build confidence and skills.
Clean up together: Once the sweets are in the oven, it’s time to clean. Encourage kids to put the ingredients away, wash dishes and wipe counters.
And, if you’re unable to share the holiday with family or friends, take pictures and share them, so everyone can enjoy the sweet memories you are making.
More recipes from Voraciously: