11 Fun Halloween Projects (Beyond Jack O'Lanterns) You Can Do With Your Kids

Halloween is lots of fun for kids, from decorating a pumpkin to trick-or-treating. But there are plenty of other Halloween projects you can do in between. Here are some fun family activities for children of all ages.

1. TOILET PAPER ROLL FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER

Your toddler probably isn't old enough to know about Frankenstein, but this simple and adorable project is fun anyway. All you need are a toilet paper roll, some markers or paint, golf tees for the bolts, and a couple of googly eyes. See how it’s done at No Time For Flash Cards.

2. HALLOWEEN HAIR GEL SUNCATCHERS


These days, parents often use ziplock bags to keep fingerpaint contained. Jackie Currie at Happy Hooligans adapted that idea to create suncatchers using translucent hair gel. Kids put a little hair gel in a sandwich bag along with a couple of drops of food coloring and small Halloween or fall items, then mush it all together for mess-less mayhem (as long as the bag is properly closed). The translucent gel lets the kids clearly see the decorative additions, and the sun shines right through when the bags are taped to a window.

3. SPIDER SUCKERS


Dress up your lollipops for trick-or-treaters or a Halloween party by making them into spiders! All you need are some pipe cleaners, googly eyes, scissors, glue, and spherical sucks like Tootsiepops. Cut the pipe cleaners in half, wrap them around the lollipop stick, glue on the googly eyes, and voila: a spider! The complete instructions are available at I Heart Naptime.

4. MINIATURE MUMMY


It’s easy to make miniature mummies—just use your kids' toys! It's as easy as wrapping a Barbie doll or action figure in gauze (you can see the complete instructions here). The finished mummy can be attached to a wreath, or you can string several of them together to create a spooky garland.

5. EXPLODING PEEP GEYSERS


Grab some packages of ghost-shaped Peeps and a plastic bottle for this fun experiment. Cut the top off of the bottle, drop in the Peeps, and pop it in the microwave—then ask your kids what they predict what will happen to the marshmallows once you turn the microwave on. Hit start and watch the marshmallow expand right out out the bottle, like supernatural ectoplasm. The finished product is not only a mess, but a hot mess, though it's apparently easy to clean up.

6. MUMMY DOGS

scoochmaroo via Instructables

Making yummy mummy hot dogs for dinner is simple enough for even young children: They just need to wrap hot dogs in crescent roll dough. If the wrapping is a little raggedy, it just makes the mummies spookier!

7. FLYING GHOST ROCKETS


To pull off this fun project, you'll need clear film canisters—with spooky ghost faces drawn on in black marker—cornstarch, water, and Alka-Seltzer. Add the cornstarch and water to the canisters, mixing well; next, drop in a piece of Alka-Seltzer, pop the top of the canister on, and flip the "ghost" over to rest on the top. Stand back and watch as the ghosts go flying! You can find step-by-step instructions here.

8. HALLOWEEN BOWLING SET


Sure, this DIY bowling set is Halloween-themed, but it's fun enough to play with year round. The six 9-inch-tall pins are cut from 4.5 feet of 1x4-inch wood. After sanding down the edges, you can decorate them as whatever spooky creature you'd like using googly eyes, construction paper, and markers. Players bowl using a bouncy ball painted to look like an eye.

9. HOMEMADE SLIME


If your kids are old enough to keep the mess in one room, make your own slime for gooey, squishy fun! Steve Spangler gives us five different recipes for slime, from the classic borax recipe to shaving cream slime, depending on how ambitious you are and what you want the finished product to be. One will glow in the dark under a blacklight, as pictured above, and one is even edible!

10. FRANKENWORMS

Gummy worms come alive in this Halloween science project. It’s the old baking soda and vinegar volcano trick, without the mess of an eruption—and they're a great trick for any Halloween party. Cut standard gummy worms lengthwise at least four times, then drop them into a cup that contains a baking soda and water solution; let sit for 15 minutes. Then, carefully remove the worms from the baking soda solution and put them in a jar of vinegar and watch the magic happen. The reaction of baking soda with vinegar creates bubbles of carbon dioxide that will make the worms move and even float.

11. MAD SCIENCE TEST TUBE RACK


The test tubes in this rack contain water mixed with fluorescent pigments, lit by a blacklight—and, if you feel like setting up a microcontroller, you can even make them blink creepily. The instructions by John Park at Adafruit take you through building the rack (with or without wiring), mixing the potions, and controlling the lights. Your child will want to keep this as a bedroom lamp forever.

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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12 Things You Might Not Know About Juneteenth

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

There's more than one Independence Day in the U.S. On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and announced enslaved people were now free. Since then, June 19 has been celebrated as Juneteenth across the nation. Here's what you should know about the historic event and celebration.

1. Enslaved people had already been emancipated—they just didn’t know it.

The June 19 announcement came more than two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. So technically, from the Union's perspective, the 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were already free—but none of them were aware of it, and no one was in a rush to inform them.

2. There are many theories as to why the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t enforced in Texas.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union General Ulysses S Grant at the close of the American Civil War, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union General Ulysses S Grant at the close of the American Civil War, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

News traveled slowly back in those days—it took Confederate soldiers in western Texas more than two months to hear that Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. Still, some have struggled to explain the 30-month gap between Lincoln’s proclamation and the enslaved people’s freedom, leading to speculation that some Texans suppressed the announcement. Other theories include that the original messenger was murdered to prevent the information from being relayed or that the federal government purposely delayed the announcement to Texas to get one more cotton harvest out of the enslaved workers. But the real reason is probably that Lincoln's proclamation simply wasn't enforceable in the rebel states before the end of the war.

3. The announcement actually urged freedmen and freedwomen to stay with their former owners.

General Order No. 3, as read by General Granger, said:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

4. What followed was known as “the scatter.”


Internet Archive Book Images, Flickr // No known copyright restrictions

Most freedpeople weren't terribly interested in staying with the people who had enslaved them, even if pay was involved. In fact, some were leaving before Granger had finished making the announcement. What followed became known as "the scatter,," when droves of former enslaved people left the state to find family members or more welcoming accommodations in northern regions.

5. Not all enslaved people were freed instantly.

Texas is a large state, and General Granger's order (and the troops needed to enforce it) were slow to spread. According to historian James Smallwood, many enslavers deliberately suppressed the information until after the harvest, and some beyond that. In July 1867 there were two separate reports of enslaved people being freed, and one report of a Texas horse thief named Alex Simpson whose enslaved people were only freed after his hanging in 1868.

6. Freedom created other problems.

Despite the announcement, Texas slave owners weren't too eager to part with what they felt was their property. When freedpeople tried to leave, many of them were beaten, lynched, or murdered. "They would catch [freed slaves] swimming across [the] Sabine River and shoot them," a former enslaved person named Susan Merritt recalled.

7. There were limited options for celebrating.

A monument in Houston's Emancipation Park.
A monument in Houston's Emancipation Park.
2C2KPhotography, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When freedpeople tried to celebrate the first anniversary of the announcement a year later, they were faced with a problem: Segregation laws were expanding rapidly, and there were no public places or parks they were permitted to use. So, in the 1870s, former enslaved people pooled together $800 and purchased 10 acres of land, which they deemed "Emancipation Park." It was the only public park and swimming pool in the Houston area that was open to African Americans until the 1950s.

8. Juneteenth celebrations waned for several decades.

It wasn't because people no longer wanted to celebrate freedom—but, as Slate so eloquently put it, "it's difficult to celebrate freedom when your life is defined by oppression on all sides." Juneteenth celebrations waned during the era of Jim Crow laws until the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when the Poor People's March planned by Martin Luther King Jr. was purposely scheduled to coincide with the date. The march brought Juneteenth back to the forefront, and when march participants took the celebrations back to their home states, the holiday was reborn.

9. Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday.

Texas deemed the holiday worthy of statewide recognition in 1980, becoming the first state to do so.

10. Juneteeth is still not a federal holiday.

Though most states now officially recognize Juneteenth, it's still not a national holiday. As a senator, Barack Obama co-sponsored legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday, though it didn't pass then or while he was president. One supporter of the idea is 93-year-old Opal Lee—in 2016, when she was 90, Lee began walking from state to state to draw attention to the cause.

11. The Juneteenth flag is full of symbolism.

a mock-up of the Juneteenth flag
iStock

Juneteenth flag designer L.J. Graf packed lots of meaning into her design. The colors red, white, and blue echo the American flag to symbolize that the enslaved people and their descendants were Americans. The star in the middle pays homage to Texas, while the bursting "new star" on the "horizon" of the red and blue fields represents a new freedom and a new people.

12. Juneteenth traditions vary across the U.S.

As the tradition of Juneteenth spread across the U.S., different localities put different spins on celebrations. In southern states, the holiday is traditionally celebrated with oral histories and readings, "red soda water" or strawberry soda, and barbecues. Some states serve up Marcus Garvey salad with red, green, and black beans, in honor of the black nationalist. Rodeos have become part of the tradition in the southwest, while contests, concerts, and parades are a common theme across the country.