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.

Hallmark Released Some Adorable Harry Potter Ornaments—Just In Time for Christmas

Amazon
Amazon

Even if you never received your letter of acceptance to Hogwarts on your 11th birthday, you can still add some magic to your Christmas tree this year with some Harry Potter Christmas ornaments from Hallmark. These pieces have more of a minimalist style than Hallmark's other Potter releases, which are modeled to look identical to the characters' movie counterparts. But with that simplicity comes a unique charm that is sure to be popular with Potterheads.

Shoppers can look for seven different ornaments, which include Harry, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger in mid-flight, as well as Hedwig, the Sorting Hat, Dobby, and the Hogwarts Crest. Each one comes with a hanger, so is ready to be put on your Christmas tree as soon as its out of the packaging. You can find each one for $9 on Amazon—though be forewarned that Harry is currently out of stock (but you can find an equally adorable replacement Potter for $8).

If you can’t get enough wizarding gifts this holiday season, then check out our Harry Potter gift guide, which includes everything from magical cookbooks to chess sets.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Why We Eat What We Eat On Thanksgiving

monkeybusinessimages/iStock via Getty Images
monkeybusinessimages/iStock via Getty Images

When Americans sit down with their families for Thanksgiving dinner, most of them will probably gorge themselves on the same traditional Thanksgiving menu, with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and pumpkin pie taking up the most real estate on the plates. How did these dishes become the national "what you eat on Thanksgiving" options, though?

Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving?

It's not necessarily because the pilgrims did it. Turkey may not have been on the menu at the 1621 celebration by the Pilgrims of Plymouth that is considered the first Thanksgiving (though some historians and fans of Virginia's Berkeley Plantation might quibble with the "first" part). There were definitely wild turkeys in the Plymouth area, though, as colonist William Bradford noted in his book Of Plymouth Plantation.

However, the best existing account of the Pilgrims' harvest feast comes from colonist Edward Winslow, the primary author of Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Winslow's first-hand account of the first Thanksgiving included no explicit mention of turkey. He does, however, mention the Pilgrims gathering wild fowl for the meal, although that could just as likely have meant ducks or geese.

When it comes to why we eat turkey on Thanksgiving today, it helps to know a bit about the history of the holiday. While the idea of giving thanks and celebrating the harvest was popular in certain parts of the country, it was by no means an annual national holiday until the 19th century. Presidents would occasionally declare a Thanksgiving Day celebration, but the holiday hadn't completely caught on nationwide. Many of these early celebrations included turkey; Alexander Hamilton once remarked, "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day."

When Bradford's journals were reprinted in 1856 after being lost for at least half a century, they found a receptive audience with advocates who wanted Thanksgiving turned into a national holiday. Since Bradford wrote of how the colonists had hunted wild turkeys during the autumn of 1621 and since turkey is a uniquely North American (and scrumptious) bird, it gained traction as the Thanksgiving meal of choice for Americans after Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.

Moreover, there were pragmatic reasons for eating turkey rather than, say, chicken at a feast like Thanksgiving. The birds are large enough that they can feed a table full of hungry family members, and unlike chickens or cows, they don't serve an additional purpose like laying eggs or making milk. Unlike pork, turkey wasn't so common that it seemed like an unsuitable choice for a special occasion, either.

Did the pilgrims have cranberry sauce?

While the cranberries the Pilgrims needed were probably easy to come by, making cranberry sauce requires sugar. Sugar was a rare luxury at the time of the first Thanksgiving, so while revelers may have eaten cranberries, it's unlikely that the feast featured the tasty sauce. What's more, it's not even entirely clear that cranberry sauce had been invented yet. It's not until 1663 that visitors to the area started commenting on a sweet sauce made of boiled cranberries that accompanied meat.

There's the same problem with potatoes. Neither sweet potatoes nor white potatoes were available to the colonists in 1621, so the Pilgrims definitely didn't feast on everyone's favorite tubers.

How about pumpkin pie?

It may be the flagship dessert at modern Thanksgiving dinners, but pumpkin pie didn't make an appearance at the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims probably lacked the butter and flour needed to make a pie crust, and it's not clear that they even had an oven in which they could have baked a pumpkin pie. That doesn't mean pumpkins weren't available for the meal, though; they were probably served after being baked in the coals of a fire or stewed. Pumpkin pie became a popular dish on 17th-century American tables, though, and it might have shown up for Thanksgiving as early as the 1623 celebration of the holiday.

This article originally appeared in 2008.

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