Tips for safe, healthy Halloween | Features

Just like the rest of 2020, this Halloween season is shaping up to be one like no other.

With the COVID-19 pandemic stretching on into October, local municipalities have been weighing whether to host trick-or-treating. At the same time, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said trick-or-treating as it’s traditionally done is a higher risk activity for spreading COVID-19.

So maybe you’re holding off on trick-or-treating this year. Or maybe you’re looking for some fun activities to bring a little more spirit to the holiday. Either way, we have you covered.

The Telegraph Herald asked local health professionals and youth organizations for suggested Halloween activities you and your children can do if you opt not to go trick-or-treating this fall but still want to make the holiday special.

“Really, what we’re trying to do is find ways for people to enjoy the holiday but do it safely, which means social distancing, limiting contact with others,” said Pat Lehmkuhl, infection preventionist at UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital.

Here’s what they had to say:

Carve a pumpkin

Even if you aren’t trick-or-treating this year, you can participate in another quintessential Halloween activity: Carving pumpkins.

The CDC lists carving or decorating pumpkins with the people you live with as a lower-risk activity, along with carving pumpkins outside and socially distanced with neighbors and friends.

If you really want to get creative, you also could opt to carve other kinds of produce, such as an apple, banana, squash or pineapple, said Holly Bark, director of girl experience for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.

Liz Larson, art director at the Galena (Ill.) Art & Recreation Center, said she recently worked with preschoolers on a craft to decorate foam pumpkins that can be purchased at craft stores. That way, they can decorate without needing much assistance from an adult.

“They just love to have their own freedom of expression, and every single one was completely different,” she said.

Costume time

Bark also suggested showing off your spookiest attire with a virtual costume contest with friends or family. Put on your costume, hop on a video chat, then parade past the screen and pick a winner.

Alternatively, you could hold a costume contest at home but with a twist — you have to make a costume made from items found inside and outside your house, Bark said. You can pick your favorite character to dress up, or draw characters at random for your costume challenge.

Girl Scout staffers also suggested mixing things up with a virtual dance party, complete with classics such as “Monster Mash” and “Thriller.”

Larson likewise recommended finding ways to incorporate costumes into your celebration.

“I encourage the kids to still dress up,” she said. “You can be in your home. You can drive around and look at the (Halloween decorations) in your costumes. I think you can still make it a fun day.”

One note: The CDC says a costume mask isn’t a substitute for a cloth face mask “unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers your mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around your face.” Officials recommend a Halloween-themed cloth mask as a better option.

Scavenger hunts

The CDC also lists various styles of scavenger hunts as lower-risk holiday activities. You can give children lists of Halloween-themed items to search for outdoors. Meanwhile, they can check out their neighbors’ Halloween decorations from a distance.

If you want to include an educational element, Aimee Williams, girl experience manager for leadership for the Girl Scout council, suggests encouraging kids to find different numbers of items — such as 10 pumpkins or five ghosts. For younger children, give them a list with both words and pictures.

You also can make a bingo card with scavenger hunt items to find, and whoever gets the first bingo can pick a film for a movie night or some other reward, Bark said.

Another option is to host a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt around your house with family members, CDC officials say.

Crafts and activities

One of Williams’ ideas for a fun Halloween activity is to make a family Frankenstein’s monster. Start with a large sheet of paper — or tape sheets of paper together — for a body.

Write down different body parts on slips of paper and have family members draw them at random. When you draw a part, have someone trace that limb on paper. Once you and your family finish tracing your mismatched body parts, assemble them.

“You can do it all on one paper, or you can do it on separate papers that you attach together for a family Frankenstein,” Williams said.

Molly Yoder, community engagement manager for the Girl Scout council, recommended a “dancing ghost” craft, in which you make a ghost with a paper cup for a body. Poke two holes in the base of the cup and thread yarn through them into a loop. When you pull the thread, the ghost will “fly” up and down the string.

Decorate your space

Of course, even if you aren’t trick-or-treating, you can get in on the fun by decorating your home.

Bark suggested decorating windows with a spooky theme using cardboard or window paint and a flashlight to light it up in the dark so people can see it.

One way to involve the neighbors is to create a photo booth in your yard, Bark said. Set up a backdrop outside so people can stand in front of it to snap a photo to share online. You even can make it so no one has to touch anything in the yard.

“Everybody’s got a phone,” Bark said. “Everybody takes pictures when they’re out and about with their littles. Even the teenagers in our neighborhood would probably enjoy it.”

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