So you want to be the cool house on Halloween. The house that all the kids look forward to walking up to for trick or treat. A house just like one you remembered visiting when you were a child.
First of all let me tell you that cool is a subjective term, sometimes just the act of trying to be cool will ultimately make you the most un-cool.
So let’s change that statement, you want to be fun. You want to be memorable. You want to provide for that random child a special moment just like some random neighbor provided for you as a child.
Well decorations are key of course, but whether you have the ability to decorate at the level that you wish or not, what always gets overlooked is the treats.
If you want to leave a happy memory in a child’s mind then remember it is as much about the treats as it is about the decoration.
Treats that remain the most memorable to me from my own trick-or-treating past:
- Goody Bag
- When I was a kid it was usually a paper bag that was folded over with a spider ring, a few small candies, and of course a goofy looking witch or pumpkin on the cover
- With the creation of party stores and Oriental Trading Company, you could load that up however you like: stickers, temporary tattoos, glow sticks
- Full size candy bars
- this isn’t just the big Hershey, it could be a full size sleeve of starburst, or a full size bag of m&ms
- Mini sized playdough
- Any kind of small toy would work here
- Those Food Chain Gift certificates
- I don’t ever recall actually using them, but I remember the graphics on it and how excited I was to get them
- And I am pretty sure they don’t exist anymore (at least no longer universally accepted if they do exist)
- Honorable Mention: the tray of name brand favorites
- Because my favorites are not everyone else’s favorites. Nor will your favorites necessarily be the neighborhood children’s favorites. Mine were always Reese’s peanut butter cups, butterfinger, and skittles… but this is a whole different conversation
- Honorable mention: the popcorn ball
- As a kid I loved popcorn and sugar and this was a ball of that, also it was super rare mostly because people probably were like what kid wants this?
Quick note: For some reason the sub-numbers for the numbered bullet points below are being strange. My apologies. I don’t know how to fix it at the moment, but I really want this posted before Halloween, so I am just leaving it for now. I hope to go back later and fix it. ( I just wanted the main points to be numbered so that it’s clearer.)
My Guidelines for being a great house to visit & generally being prepared for Trick or Treats:
Some things to consider: There will always be someone who is unappreciative, someone without a costume, and someone who takes a handful when you say pick two or pick one. It’s up to you to decide whether it will “bother” you… And yes, it’s your house, your rules… These are just my tips & tricks…
- Always give out a treat, even if they don’t have a costume. It’s a piece of candy, or a goody bag. I know it sucks that they aren’t holding up to their end of the bargain, you get to see the cute/cool/creepy costumes and they get rewarded with treats. … Well if you think back to the roots (at least within American tradition), trick or treat was so that you didn’t have a bunch of hooligans vandalizing your home… no guarantee of costumes. So just give the damn kid candy… [A note about costumes at end of the post*]
- If you really care about costumes then: instead reward the excellent costumes. The ones that really impress you give them an extra treat or tell them they can take more.
- If you really care about the kid grabbing handfuls: then don’t let them choose. You can make up goody bags, hand out a single item such as a large Hershey bar or a tiny tub of playdough, or ask them to hold out their bag so you can put some pieces in, for each child. (If you truly get annoyed by this then don’t ever hold out a bowl, someone is going to grab more than you said.)
- If you want them to choose but cannot handle the kid who takes forever to pick and even roots around digging for better candy… well don’t have a bowl! Use a tray! They see it’s flat so they won’t dig for better candy because they can see what you have. Then to replenish have a big bowl inside the house or under a table for when your tray looks too sparse. Also, more than 4 – 5 options really overwhelm the kids, so don’t go too crazy! [Remember goody bags and pick 2 are also options.]
- If you really can’t be home but you want to give out treats, AND you are friendly with your neighbor who will be home, it’s okay to ask them if they can also give out your treats. Just make sure to give them something simple like a goodie bag or a singular type of candy so that they don’t have to remember something like “pick 2” or one of each or whatever.
- If you will be out for only a little while during peak trick or treat time… Sneaky trick if you’ll only be out a short time… Put out the cheapest plastic bowl (it can still be festive I am just saying that there’s a possible some older kid being “smart” might steal it, so don’t put out any fine china) and put out your dinkiest candy .Generic Lollypops, tootsie rolls, sixlets—I’m looking at you. Put only like twenty, and make a sign that says “be right back please take one”. Or two. This way, most of the kids will know you attempted to keep the candy coming and won’t be a prime egging target. OR you can put a sign on your door that says, will be back at 4:30pm or whatever.
- Time to prepare… House is Decorated, you are home, and you are handing out treats and now if you want to see all the fun costumes & be a good trick or treat host… Always use the rest room and eat a solid lunch before the prime trick or treating time. They will ultimately knock on your door when you are in the loo, so if you can go before, do so!
- Have a bottle of water by the door or if you are outside as a scary person, under or behind a decoration. You need to stay hydrated.
- It’s okay to be inside eating or watching a movie. Just make sure you leave the door open or that you can easily hear or see the kids coming. Make sure it’s something you don’t mind either pausing or missing pieces of. (I usually put on something like Mad Monster Party or Charlie Brown when I know it’s going busy but sporadic. )
- It’s okay to setup a table outside just be there to monitor it.
- It doesn’t hurt to point out the costumes you recognize. But “what are you” might annoy some kids, be aware.
- Be aware of any restrictions… if there is curfew no need to stand outside yelling “where is every body” and some times are so big on parades and parties that they do their trick or treating another day. So be aware.
- Most important say Happy Halloween! Keep the magic alive. You want them to say trick or treat at every house, so you should say Happy Halloween.
- Time to prepare, but you’re working during part of the trick or treat time…Put the candy dish filled with candy by the inside of your door before you leave for work. You want the candy easily accessible once you unlock your door. Because the children will see you and approach! If you don’t want to miss them be prepared.
- Eat before you get home, even if it’s a little snack. You don’t want to go ape on the candy bowl or be hangry while loads of children keep coming to your door.
- Potty before you get home if possible. I mean this goes without saying but I’m saying it.
- You might want to put up a sign on your door that morning that says “Will be handing out treats from 6 to 8” or whenever… this sign doesn’t say you aren’t home (but that you aren’t ready)
- And of course sub-points 2-7 of point ” 7: Time to Prepare”
- If you are NOT handing out treats… whatever the reason, maybe you will be away on holiday, you will be out the entire day taking out your own set of trick or treaters, your evil boss has you working a double, or you don’t feel like giving treats (why are you reading this then?)…. DON’T DECORATE!! Decorating means, come little children I have treats. (Granted if you are handing to a neighbor or something came up, such is life… but otherwise if you aren’t handing out treats then DON’T DECORATE.) That would be really lame, for kids to see your nicely decorated home and stand at your door step “shouting trick or treat” and no one is there. But remember according to the movie Trick or Treat, and some other sources, handing out treats is to appease the spirits of Halloween, and stop them from killing you and other such evilness.
- IF you want more kids, decorate to the extreme. However, extreme means semi-friendly. If you have blood and gore everywhere you are the creepy house that they don’t want to go up to. Gore houses are for the owners to prove how messed up they are. But the spooky, eerie, just a bit scary, is for the kids and the Halloween magic filled adults. (You can also friendly pumpkin the place up too, it’s up to you.)
- IF you are handing out candy, make sure it’s ones that aren’t able to be easily resealed. [Name brands are always preferred] Examples of what I would stay away from are Hershey kisses or generic unlabeled candy such as a party company’s pixie sticks. (Any good parent will find this suspect and won’t let their kid eat it anyway, so you are just throwing out good money).
- IF you are handing out toys instead of candy or as another option. Make sure to display a teal pumpkin image. Some children cannot eat candy at all or even most handed out snacks… generally those with allergies and sensitivities, wouldn’t even have been able to trick or treat in the past.. So if you are handing out toys instead of candy (such as mini playdough, pencils, spider rings, etc.) you can display a teal pumpkin somewhere that alerts people you have other options other than food or candy. Teal pumpkin doesn’t mean that you have what you think is allergy free offering, it means you have non-food options. This does not mean a spider ring or sticker in a goodie bag filled with candy either. They need to be separate from allergens. (Note: There are many candies that seem like they would be allergen free that are definitely not.) Which leads me to…
- Don’t be the person who hands out tooth brushes. Just… don’t ever be the person who hands out tooth brushes… really when you think about it that’s like handing out zit cream or underwear, that’s a personal thing, and good parents will already have them using a tooth brush so you are wasting money. If you are anti-candy then hand out pencils or even organic juice boxes, just don’t be that person. No one likes that person, no one. (Okay except maybe a dentist, but really I’m a librarian do you see me handing out huge books. No. Calm it down.)
- It’s okay to dress up as an adult, in fact you are handing out treats, you should really go for it! Once again, super gorey or super sexy won’t be appropriate for the trick or treaters. *According to the movie Trick or Treat, and some other sources, dressing up stops the spirits of Halloween from killing you. I wouldn’t chance it. Go put on that silly head band, apron, animal onesie, or full blown costume.
- It’s okay to give a little bit of scare. You want to sit on your porch like a scarecrow an pop up. Go ahead. You want to lay on your front yard as dead body and pop no problem. A little bit of a surprise is cool. But remember to break character for little ones or not jump up and surprise the little ones. Unless you are heartless you know it’s just awful to make a toddler or preschooler cry. Also if you are going to sit on the yard or jump up and scare and you want to be a decent human being, make sure they can get the treats before you scare them. Whether it’s on a try off to the side or being handed out by a friend/significant other, wait until they get the candy then jump out.
- Don’t be a creep that follows children or calls after them. It’s a good way to not only get arrested but also piss off your neighbors. And I mean this is both the “good intentions” way as well as the “let’s keep the scare going” way.
- Example One: You freaked out the kids and they were the only ones on the block, so now you figure why not chase or even just slowly follow them down the street?
- Guess what you are a creepy jerk, don’t do that.
- Example Two: But you have good treats and no one is coming to your side of the street for whatever reason… so you say “hey kids! Come over here! I got treats here!” then go across the street to approach them.
- Don’t do that. Once again you are a creep.
- The only way this might be appropriate (unless these are kids you know for sure) is if a group of children knock and you were in another room getting changed or cooking or whatever and couldn’t reach the door before they left. Then you open the door and they are a few houses over, you can then yell something like “I am sorry I wasn’t able to get to the door. I have treats if you want to come back!” That’s it otherwise you are a creep.
- Want to Keep the Jack O Lanterns lit? Maybe you truly believe in the legends of All Hallow’s Eve where goblins came to steal your children or the horseman came to chop of your head. Maybe you just like the look of your Jack O Lantern lit the whole night through. Maybe you just know it’s one of the rules of the movie Trick or Treat. No matter the reason, my biggest advice is to buy one of those flickering fake candles. I know this seems like a cop out but those things stay lit you can find ones that look real, you can light an honorary inside pumpkin with a real candle if you want, but guaranteed continued lit and no fire, is a good a thing.
*Quick aside about kid’s costumes:
Sometimes kids cannot afford costumes. Sometimes kids had a costume and were made fun of for wearing it. You don’t know their deal. Heck, they could have an awesome costume but it don’t have a mask or makeup and it’s a chilly Halloween so mom made them wear that gigantic coat. Whatever the reason just give them a piece of candy or whatever you are handing out. (Granted, you want everyone to wear costumes, to me that’s the reason I hand out treats is to see all the cool costumes. However, you don’t know anyone’s deal.)
As for the older kid, usually two or three together definitely no costume. They come up either with a lot of “what, just give me candy” attitudes or are all shrugs when someone asks where is their costume. Here’s the deal. These kids, are still kids, they want to hold onto the magic, they want to keep trick or treating but society has told them that they are too old. They are in the weird place between childhood and adulthood, and just like Santa Claus realizations… Halloween is hard to give up. Their friends usually say “you know what, whatever, let’s just go knock on some doors get some candy, it will be funny”. What they really want to do is still dress up and go door to door but their peers, society, school, tells them “nope time to grow up.” As an adult, I remember the time when I had to stop trick or treating and how much I hated that. (Thankfully, I was a very young Aunt so I got to be the “fun” Aunt and take them out for trick or treats.) But it was hard and I remember the last year I trick or treated. Sitting on my porch in jeans and cat print shirt with cat ears on handing out treats when a few of my friends all around my age came up to the house and said “Heather why aren’t you out getting candy?!” And I laughed it off at first, until I decided just a few more houses, just this one last year. Do I have to give it up yet. Sure I had cat ears on, but it really wasn’t a costume… yea I got a few looks and I think I only went to like 5 houses. But it felt good. So don’t give those kids flack just give them, wish them Happy Halloween and let them hold onto the magic a little longer because if they are like you and me, it’s going to take them awhile to realize they can have it back, in a new different way. But until then they are told you are an adult, magic is for kids.
Whether you take my advice or not, you got this.