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10 Ideas for a Spookily Good Early Years Halloween 1
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10 Ideas for a Spookily Good Early Years Halloween

Halloween is another time of the year that lends itself well to educational play. Pumpkins are perfect for messy play and there’s a whole cast of recognizable characters with interesting shapes that you can incorporate. Be sensitive to specific young children’s fears, such as an aversion to spiders or being frightened of ghosts, but otherwise have fun getting the children to use their imaginations.

There are lots of Halloween activities that are ideal for EYFS learning that will also be a big hit with the children in your nursery or classroom.

Here are ten quick ways to get early years children involved in Halloween that happen to hit keys areas of EYFS. 

Decorate the Space

Just like Christmas and other special occasions, you can set the scene with some inexpensive decorations. These can be simple Halloween shapes such as ghosts, witches, and skeletons etc or you could print out characters from children’s stories such as specific monsters, witches, and vampires. You can hang ‘cobwebs’ in doorways, bats from the ceiling, or just go nuts with orange and black tissue paper.  Always pay attention to the individual needs of the children in your care, for example, an autistic child may not respond well to changes in decoration or even specific colours. Our short course on The Irresistible Classroom covers such points for Reception and Key Stage 1 classrooms.

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Spider hands

If you create spider hands artwork the week before, you can use them in your Halloween decorations, and the children can take them home afterward. To make spider hands, you need to help the children paint both hands black, then press them down onto a piece of paper but keep their thumbs clean to create eight legs from the remaining fingers. You can add googly eyes to finish the paintings once they are dry.

 

Scavenger hunt

Use the decorations to test the children’s awareness of colours and shapes by organising a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt. Either make cards for the children to match eg “Can you point to the nearest skeleton like the one on your card?” or ask them to bring you eg a black cat. 

If you can get outside, you could also do a Halloween twist on the traditional Easter egg hunt, with plastic pumpkins (or small real ones) or toy bats or spiders if you prefer.

 

Halloween Sensory Bin

Rice can be dyed any colour you like – green, orange, black, purple, and used to create a sensory bin. Fill a tub (or even a cauldron if you want to go all out!) and add some plastic creepy crawlies. Ask the children to dig in and describe what they are feeling. This could be about numbers: ‘how many legs does it have?’ or textures: “Does it feel rough or slimy?” You can then ask the children to group similar creatures together by shape or colour.

You could also add in homemade slime – using shaving foam or cornflour and water, you can make ‘slime’ with the children and add it to the sensory bin for a different texture and some messy play. 

 

Playdough with Skeleton Bones

You can make black playdough with the children, adding black food colouring or even non-toxic paint to the usual flour, water, and salt mixture.

White golf tees are inexpensive and make excellent ‘skeleton bones’. The children can push their hands into the playdough to create the shape of the hand, and then use the golf tees to show where the bones go. This activity is great for fine motor skills as well as firing their imaginations, for example, if they want to make a monster hand with only three fingers,  that’s absolutely fine, anything goes!

Messy Play with Pumpkins

Pumpkins are a brilliant tool for all kinds of educational play. With plastic safety carving kits, the children can carve designs into small pumpkins, or other similar vegetables such as turnips.  Then it’s time to get messy! Pumpkin ‘innards’ are glorious – stringy, slimy, hard, and flexible all at once – perfect for talk of textures as well as manual dexterity and fine motor skills.

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Baking

You can also use some of the pumpkins to try new recipes, such as pumpkin muffins of cookies, or even pumpkin soup. Only make a small batch if the children are trying it for the first time though, to avoid food waste.

Group baking of Halloween-themed cookies or cupcakes can be achieved by assigning everyone a job ‘eg “you can crack this egg, and you can help me measure out the flour” etc Halloween cookie cutters can be bought cheaply to add to the fun.

Coconut macaroons can also be made in the shape of ghosts and decorated with white icing and chocolate chips for the eyes. 

The children can work as a team to bake, eat the goodies after lunch and take some home to their parents. 

Halloween-themed storytime

“Room on a Broom” by Julia Donaldson is fun to read aloud because it is full of rhymes and the story is about a witch’s friends helping her. This story teaches kindness, cooperation, and friendship in an easy to understand way.

You can also try the Funny Bones Collection by Janet & Allan Ahlberg  and illustrated by Andre Amstutz, which can help young children learn some of the bones  in the human skeleton as well as new words and sounds due to the amusing rhymes and rhythms.

Spider Sandwiches by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Sue Hendry is a popular children’s tale about a monster’s favourite food which is fun to read to for with the children. You can even try to make your own ‘spider sandwiches’ using bread cut into circles with currents for eyes and twiglets for the legs sticking out. Alternatively, you could make arty spider sandwiches for display using sponges painted to look like bread (some of the biodegradable ones already do!) little plastic spiders and pipe cleaners.

Taking an idea from a book to base an activity around like this is a great way to engage young children and keep a theme going throughout the day.

Fancy dress

You don’t need to go trick or treating to get dressed up, designate one day close to Halloween as ‘come as you like’ day and give parents plenty of notice if their children want to dress up. You can also provide some quick options, such as vampire capes, witches hats, and masks, that the children can take on and off as they wish.

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Disco 

Last but by no means least, round the day (or week) off with a disco to help get some of that excited energy out! This is particularly important if the weather is bad and the children have been cooped up inside.

There are lots of child-friendly Halloween bops that will get the kids moving and learning actions. The Adams Family, of course only requires finger clicking, but you can make your own actions such as clapping if the children can’t yet click their fingers. 

There’s the Monster Mash, The Time Warp, even Thriller – although be aware that very young children may not like the atmospheric sound effects at the beginning, so maybe whizz through the iconic intro.

Failing that, you can’t go wrong with classic theme tunes that still have a tenuous Halloween link, such as Spiderman and TV’s Batman.

If you are having a full week of Halloween, remember to pace yourselves and try to plan one main activity a day rather than try to cram too much in at once. You can include subtle touches such as ghost-shaped toast in the run-up to the big day.

Happy Halloween!

 

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