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Now that autumn is upon us, the kids’ thoughts are likely to be turning to pumpkins, spiders, ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night. Whether your family is planning a wee party at home or heading out guising, here are some tips for having a fun, safe and super spooky time.

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Tips for celebrating Halloween in style

Tip #1: Pick a pumpkin

A pumpkin flashing a toothy grin is a central part of any Halloween celebration. You can of course buy one in the supermarket but you could also go to a pumpkin farm and pick your own. That way, you can choose the perfect shape while enjoying some autumnal fresh air. The next decision you have to make is the face you want to carve on it – CBeebies have a guide that can help you, as well as free templates to download

Alternatively, if hollowing the pumpkin out seems too much like hard work, why not get the kids to draw a face on it using a marker pen, then cut it up afterwards to eat? If you’re putting a light in your pumpkin, use an LED one instead of a candle – they last much longer and are much safer.

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Tip #2: Pumpkin pie

Photo of pumpkin pie

The thing about hollowing out a giant pumpkin is you’re left with a lot of insides! But did you know that as well as providing Halloween scares, pumpkins can be used in all sorts of recipes too? From soup to curry, scones to pie, there’s lots of ways you can use pumpkin, and you can also freeze it to use later. Try our tasty pumpkin tart recipe or check out all these ideas on the BBC Food website.

You can even save the seeds and try growing your own pumpkin next year – this article from the Gardening Know How website shows you how. Remember to dispose of any bits you don’t use in your compost or food waste bin.

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Tip #3: Traditional turnip

Not a fan of pumpkin? Did you know that before pumpkins got in on the act, Jack o’Lanterns were traditionally made from humble turnips? This video tells the story and shows you how to make your own. If you’re putting a light in your turnip, use an LED one instead of a candle – they last much longer and are much safer.

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Tip #4: Dastardly decorations

You can always buy Halloween decorations (check out your local charity shops first for bargains), but it’s much more fun to make your own! And this doesn’t need to be expensive either – here are some creative Halloween crafts that just use paper, so can be recycled in November. You can get more tips for making sure your Halloween won't cause a nightmare for the environment on the Zero Waste Scotland website.

Another simple but effective decoration idea is to get the kids to cut out spooky shapes and stick them onto jam jars, then place LED candles inside and watch them cast creepy shadows on the walls. How about making a special window display for your neighbours to enjoy – and encourage your neighbours to join in? 

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Tip #5: Hassle-free homemade costumes

Every parent hates the word costume! But thankfully Halloween is easier than other events (did someone say World Book Day?) Pop a sheet over their head and they’re a ghost. Draw a lightning-shaped scar on their head and stick them in their school uniform and you have Harry Potter. Wrap them in toilet paper and they’re a mummy. Here are some more imaginative ideas from the Huffington Post – the baby spider is too adorable! Zero Waste Scotland even has suggestions for DIY costumes for the dog!

If you’re thinking about buying a costume, how about looking in charity shops, or seeing if any friends with older children have outfits they’ve outgrown? It’s cheaper and much better for the planet to reuse than buy new. 

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Tip #6: Freaky food

Skeleton  made from red peppe, celery, carrots and mushrooms

Halloween is traditionally a time when kids stuff themselves with sweets – but it doesn’t have to be that way! There are lots of ways that healthy snacks can be transformed into Halloween treats with a bit of a spooky makeover. Carrots and celery sticks are dead men’s fingers. Grapes and tomatoes are eyeballs (peel them for extra creepiness). Satsumas with faces drawn on with marker pen are mini pumpkins. Rice pudding and jam makes zombie brains. And of course adding red food colouring to anything liquid (custard, milk) makes blood, while adding green food colouring gives you slime or ectoplasm. For some more healthy ideas, check out these recipes from the BBC Food website.

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Tip #7: Monster music

No Halloween party is complete without a spine-chilling soundtrack. From ‘The Monster Mash’ to ‘Black Magic’ you can have fun with the kids compiling an online playlist. Then check out these spooky moves from BBC Teach and have a devilishly fun disco!

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Tip #8: Ghoulish games

When the 31st comes round, the whole family can have fun playing Halloween games. How about putting a terrifying twist on some party favourites, so musical statues becomes musical monsters, where everyone must strike a scary pose when they freeze, and the memory game involves spooky objects? You could try hiding Halloween treats around the house for a trick or treat treasure hunt, or having a game of bingo, where the winner must shout out ‘boo!’ as loudly as they can!

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Tip #9: Touchy-feely terror

Want to give the kids a scare? Fill a small box with something that feels funny (such as cold pasta or rice, leaves, straw or feathers) and put a small prize inside. Seal up the box, leaving one small hole. Do your wee ones dare put their hand inside to find the prize?

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Tip #10: Spooky storytelling

To calm everyone down at the end of the evening, how about some spooky storytelling? Sit in a circle and take it in turns to tell creepy tales by torchlight. Here are some spooky suggestions from the Scottish Book Trust.

You could even listen to James Robertson and Lari Don reading a Scots version of Julia Donaldson’s Room on the Broom. Just don’t make the stories too scary – everyone needs to sleep tonight! 

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Tips for staying safe when you’re guising

If you’re taking the kids out guising, here are some tips for staying safe. Parents often wonder at what age it’s safe to let their kids go out on their own, and of course there’s no set answer to that, it’s up to you and how mature your child is and how well you know your neighbours. 

Tip #1: Keep an eye out

Going guising or trick or treating may not be every parents’ favourite thing, but make sure there are enough adults in the group to keep an eye on the kids and ensure no-one gets left behind. If the kids are a bit older you may want to hang back and let them get on with it, to help boost their confidence.

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Tip #2: Better the devil you know

Only take the kids to the homes of people you know, or to homes where guisers are clearly expected – for example, some people have Halloween decorations on display as a sign that guisers are welcome.

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Tip #3: Watch out crossing roads

If the children are excited they may be less careful crossing roads than usual, so remind them that the usual rules around holding hands, and looking and listening before crossing still apply. Our page on road safety has more tips.

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Stay safe using candles

Lighting candles or tealights can be dangerous, so it's a good idea to use battery powered LED lights instead – they last longer as well and look just as effective in decorations.

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