Halloween games provide an awesome opportunity to take pretend play to the next level.
Through some easy dramatic play at home, kids can learn more about their character, bond with you, and even cultivate empathy! Beyond just silly fun, Halloween games provide a welcome backdrop to make meaningful conversation with your kids. Additionally, if they really get into character, they’ll have that much more fun the night of Halloween shouting, “Trick or Treat!”.
I love a little structure with my dramatic play. As a parent and theater teacher having some clear steps to an imaginative game is so important. That way, I know how to dive into the make-believe without it being too murky. Additionally, a a framework for games helps me to set the playing in motion and then back off and let it take care of itself. This is especially true on a playdate, at a party or in a classroom setting.
Psychologists call this “scaffolding play”. Scaffolding describes the ways that adults can build a game – through the premise and the questions along the way – so that kids can then solve problems or meet goals that they normally would not be challenged enough to do.
In their article, Assessing and Scaffolding Make-Believe Play, Deborah J. Leong and Elena Bodrova write:
Research provides more and more evidence of the positive effects that well-developed play has on various areas of child development, such as children’s social skills, emerging mathematical ability, mastery of early literacy concepts, and self-regulation.
Here are some of my favorite ways to engage those dramatic play muscles and scaffold Halloween games into quality playtime.
Halloween Games for Family Fun
These are some of my favorite Halloween games to inspire sweet silly bonding time at home. They can even help with your “What-should-I-be-for-Halloween?” brainstorm. Furthermore, these are fun around the dinner table or can be played on the go – like walking to school, or in the car.
Boom Chica Boom
Explore different Halloween-inspired emotions (spooky, scared, brave) while playing Boom Chica Boom.
You can also take your character on a narrative journey from beginning to end. Watch the video below to see how we do it in class! The advantage of using the text of Boom Chica Boom is that kids don’t have to think of what to say. They can just go full-throttle into the feelings and actions of their character.
Eat in Character
This is a funny dramatic play tool I use that will get your child thinking and eating in character. You can play restaurant, or actually invite your child’s Halloween character to the dinner table!
From preparing the food to setting the table to scraping the plates, encourage your kids to stay in character! Watch out when your carnivorous T-Rex refuses to eat her peas. Help the Wicked Witch of the West who doesn’t want to rinse her plate for fear of melting! This will likely be hilarious and surely messy. In fact, extra napkins are encouraged.
Help kids flesh out their “back story” in a lively and goofy way with a spoof on a late-night show! You can be the TV host (simply channel your own James Lipton or Jimmy Fallon) while the kids are the guest celebrity. Since they have the status of the “famous” character (“Alice in Wonderland is here promoting her next trip down the rabbit hole!”) often self-consciousness fades away.
Additionally, since they are speaking in the 1st person, kids are practicing empathy. In other words, they are really getting into the shoes of their character (literally and metaphorically). The act of thinking like another person, even if that “person” is actually an alien or a Disney princess, builds true character.
- Involve siblings or friends who can be the TV audience and ask questions.
- Come up with specific talking points that will help them along in their understanding of character.
- In order for it not to feel just like a question-answer format, you can ask them to perform their special “yowl” or sing along to their character’s hit song. Of course, if they have a special physical trick or stunt (like disappearing or telling fortunes), they should do that on the show!
Make a Commercial
At Child’s Play NY we love to make commercials for products that our characters need. I just used this as a warm-up game in our rehearsals for Into the Woods with my cast of 10-12 year olds. Use scaffolding this way:
- Get a clear product and really pitch it! A witch might sell a cauldron, Harry Potter sells his wand, Cinderella sells her glass slipper. Whatever your “character” finds essential is a great starting place.
- Then, use a jingle – create a silly song or rhyme about the product.
- Show why the product is fabulous in a little re-enactment of someone using it.
Halloween Games That Get You Moving
Use these games for your next Halloween party, or simply as a means to work off that sugar high! However you choose to play them, these gross-motor games will help kids get connected to their body through their character. You can play them in your home or on the playground either before, during or after they shout, “Trick or Treat!”
Red Light Green Light
Jump on your broomstick or batmobile. Figure out what kind of vehicle your character rides in and let it whisk you away! Often it is great to have a specific destination in mind (imaginary is fine, especially if you are playing within the confines of your living room!) as a goal. Next, raise the stakes by having an obstacle at every “red light” that the kids need to overcome.
Firstly, I love an obstacle course because it helps kids envision the world of their character. Furthermore, it is a super way release energy while you can still control the chaos. This classic game gets a Halloween spin on it when you use your child’s character to build the world of the course.
For example, in his crocodile costume from last year, my son plays it in character. I love the executive functioning skills involved in planning out the course, I let him be in charge or the set-up and the various obstacles. Most recently, the pillows he jumps on become logs, and the challenges he gives himself involve catching fish, avoiding a trap, and doing an apex predator dance!
Halloween Party Games
These Halloween games are tried and true. In fact, I’ve been playing them in our Child’s Play NY Halloween parties for years! Some are twists on classic party games, some have mindfulness and executive functioning skills built in, and they are all a great way for kids to get into character before they shout, “Trick or Treat!”.
Kids will enjoy contributing imaginary (yucky!) ingredients for Halloween-themed fun with the game Magic Stew. Alternatively, have them make a potion that includes their character’s favorite foods so that they turn more into that role! For example, your little dinosaur will enjoy some prehistoric plants or perhaps your cowgirl loves some BBQ, and what does Maui eat actually? Now is as good a time as ever to figure it out!
Watch this to see more tips on playing:
Simon (or Batman) Says
Turn it into Witch Says, Elsa Says, Harry Potter Says – you get the idea! Kids can take turn being the “Simon” and have them ask the group to do physical activities that become their character. Additionally, they are practicing turn-taking and the format is something that they are familiar with so this little halloween twist is a great ice-breaker and way for the group to get comfortable.
Going on a Bear Hunt
Based on the classic book by Michael Rosen, Going on a Bear Hunt is a super Halloween game. Sub in the words, Witch, Dragon, etc and you’ll have the perfect backdrop for a game for the Pre-K/ and Kindergarten set. Embolden everyone with their own flashlights and encourage them to stay in character while on the hunt. Then, make a parent play the thing at the end that is caught for an extra hilarious (and scary?) good time.
Test Your Touch
I love Test Your Touch – but, let’s face it, it is best played at Halloween when you can pour in bowls of water marbles (as eyeballs), spaghetti (as brains) and twigs (as bones). If your party crew is really into gross stuff, that is. While it is traditionally great as a mindfulness exercise, things are bound to get a little rowdy the more yucky ingredients you put out there.
Watch this to see tips on how to play:
Thanks for watching and playing!