Three kids wearing COVID-19 masks and dressed in Halloween costumes ready for trick-or-treating.

Halloween is going to look a little—or a lot—different this year due to COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean we need to skip right over pumpkin-carving and costumes. It’s still a great opportunity for your family to have some fun—after all, your kids can use it now more than ever.

“This is a moment to give kids something, given how much they have lost during the lockdown,” says Dr. Colin Furness, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and father of two.

Before you start planning parties or trick-or-treating routes, know that some Halloween traditions won’t be possible this year, while others will have new rules and restrictions.

So, Is Halloween 2020 Cancelled?

While big indoor parties and haunted houses aren’t happening this year, trick-or-treating might still be an option. Stay tuned: Health Canada will soon be sharing Halloween guidelines that will lay out precautions and risk factors for various activities.

Despite the pandemic, it’s still possible to celebrate Halloween safely. Much of the fun stuff—costumes, crafts, candy, movies and snacks—is still totally doable. We’ve found easy, low-risk activities for a frightfully fun night, plus expert advice on how to trick-or-treat with safety in mind.

Safe, Fun Halloween Ideas During COVID-19

We all want to celebrate Halloween in a fun, safe and healthy way. If trick-or-treating is off the table, there are lots of easy new traditions to start this year. The most important part is to focus on the positive. Remind kids of all the fun activities they’ve done this year with a little bit of care and planning.

  • Go on a tasty scavenger hunt: No trick-or-treating? Scavenger hunts are another cool way to make Halloween night memorable. You can reinvent your Easter hunt tradition inside or outside, complete with a stash of Halloween candy for kiddos. Turn out the lights and hand out flashlights to make things extra spooky.
  • Put on a Halloween parade: If going house to house is a no-go this year, see if your neighbourhood is offering a socially distanced Halloween mini-parade. You can get together with a few neighbours in a local park (as long as it doesn’t exceed gathering limits) and strut your stuff. The kids will love the opportunity to dress up and show off their costumes outside the house.
  • Have a driveway dance party and photo session: A Halloween photo backdrop is a quick and easy way to make a big impact: just affix it to the exterior of your house and get the kids to pose in costume. Play some classic Halloween songs like “Monster Mash” and the Ghostbusters theme for a driveway dance party that will make all your friends, neighbours and followers jealous.
  • Throw a Halloween movie night: Pick a few of the best Halloween movies in your stash and have a spooky night in. We love Paw Patrol Halloween Heroes, Hotel Transylvania and classics like Hocus Pocus and The Addams Family. Consider using a portable projector to get that big-screen excitement at home. This is your excuse to get super cozy with Halloween PJs for the whole family (quite possibly the easiest group Halloween costume ever). Round out the theme by serving easy and delicious Halloween snacks like Frightening Witch’s Finger Cookies or Mint Chip Spiders.
  • Try a house number hunt: This is a fun way to get your neighbours involved. Walk around your neighbourhood and come up with a list of spooky finds. Write down houses with unique decorations (for example, try “Where Mr. Bones hangs out” if there’s a skeleton outside) with space to write the house number beside. Then swap the list with another family and start your spooky search.
  • Make a witches’ brew: Create a witches brew scavenger hunt inspired by blogger Gayle Labuz. Hide potion ingredients like magical feathers (craft feathers) and bat fur (dryer lint) around the yard for the kiddos to collect. Once all the items are found, add them to your cauldron, along with baking soda, vinegar and food colouring. The combo creates an impressive and bubbly grand finale.
  • Host a virtual pumpkin-carving contest: Anyone can carve a pumpkin—but not everyone can carve an award-winning pumpkin! This year, challenge family and friends to a virtual Halloween pumpkin carving or decorating contest. Grab your pumpkin and carve away (young children can use paint for a safe option), showing off your results on screen. Don’t forget to display your winning jack-o-lanterns in your window or on your front porch for all to see.
  • Make a tasty haunted house: Borrow a holiday tradition and host a haunted-house decorating contest. Instead of gingerbread, all you need are graham crackers, bulk candy and royal icing (or a glue gun!) to make this fun and budget-friendly craft.
  • Deck out the outside: Show your neighbourhood your spooky side by decorating your home or yard. Get into the Halloween spirit with inflatable decorations. We love how you just plug them in and boom, instant decorations! Purple and orange lights paired with a fog machine will turn your home into a haunted house in no time at all. Before Halloween night, take an evening stroll or drive with the family to admire your neighbours’ frightfully fantastic decorations.

How to Trick-or-Treat Safely

If your local public health agency has given the OK, it’s still a good idea to keep these safety tips in mind before you head out the door. Dr. Colin Furness, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, whose kids are eight and 12, says that staying outside, distanced and masked is key to reducing risk.

  • Stay outside: Don’t trick-or-treat indoors, like in an apartment or condo hallway, says Furness. And absolutely no indoor parties, not even small ones.
  • Space out: It might be tempting to join other families but this year, we all need to keep our distance and wait for one group to finish before approaching a house. Instead of parents hanging back on the sidewalk, kids need to “have a parent with them who can shepherd them, safely and responsibly, in terms of approaching a door,” Furness says. In all the fun and excitement, it can be easy for little ones to forget social-distancing rules.
  • Have a candy protocol: Reach the bag out to have candy dropped in it without getting too close. If you want to, candy can be quarantined indoors before letting the kids dig in, says Furness: “Three days should be very safe. That rule applies for my kids.” You’ll likely want a package of their favourite candy on hand to avoid a Halloween meltdown.
  • Talk alternatives with tweens: “I would be a little more concerned about older kids who go out without with parental supervision, because again, you get in the spirit of it and it can be pretty hard to hold back,” says Furness. He suggests talking about it together and negotiating an alternative. Maybe your 12-year-old would be OK without trick-or-treating if you agree to get them a big bag of their favourite candy.
  • Wear a protective mask and make it part of your costume: “This is the one day of the whole year where masks have a whole different meaning!” Furness says. Many areas require non-medical face masks so it makes sense to incorporate them into your kid’s Halloween costume. We have a feeling that front-line workers will inspire easy Halloween costumes this year as kids dress up as doctors, nurses, dentists, firefighters and paramedics, all complete with a mask. You can also buy a mask that complements your Halloween costume with a superhero logo or that looks like face paint. Get crafty and customize a plain mask with fabric markers or paint to go with your costume. And of course, masks with Halloween-themed fabric are fun both on the big day and in the days leading up to Halloween.

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