Create a frightfully fun, minimally-messy, low-stress, stay-warm-and-cozy Halloween

Do weather forecasts of howling winds and pelting rain make trick-or-treating sound a little too gruesome? Even with clear skies does it just in general sound more tricky than treaty? Ward off the sprites and hobgoblins and bring on the party games and painted pumpkins. Consider hosting a Halloween game or activity night for family and friends—with ample treats, of course!

For hearty fall-weather appetites a Halloween- or autumn-themed potluck for the neighborhood or cul-de-sac featuring costumes and seasonal food and decorations could be a fun, comfy, community-building event. It offers more “get to know you” than ringing a doorbell and holding out a goody bag, and everyone stays out of the elements and gets well fed vs. sugared up. Incorporate a costume contest with cool prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners.

Along with the potluck or as a completely separate activity, try everyone’s hand at a game of themed charades. As Kristy Callan, writing last year for Holidappy, in “Halloween Charades Ideas Words List,” notes about charades, “It is easy to understand how to play, suitable for all ages, and can be played with any number of people.”

Need other ideas? Last month Jamie Sanders: Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom blog, posted “22+ Halloween Party Games for Kids.” They offer up a Donut-Eating Race, Feed the Monster ball toss game (using balls painted like eyeballs) and Pin the Bow on the Skeleton.

On the subject of skeletons, it’s a perfect time of year to encourage kids to get down to some bare-bones learning with the Napoleon Bone Apart light-up skeleton puzzle, available as iOS app, Android app, Mac app, or Windows download. It builds vocabulary and knowledge of the human skeleton as players complete the puzzle. Make it available as a party activity or a fun reward for finishing a task.

Anywhere Teacher, the online learning destination kids love, available as an Android app, iOS app, Mac app, or Windows download offers several Halloween-themed games, songs, books, and other activities including Guess Who? A Book of Shapes & Colors Halloween-season book that basically asks kids to solve a riddle to help them learn shapes and colors. Also find the Halloween Word Search for ages K-1, a Halloween What Is Different activity for P-K, the “help Wally Werewolf get to the barbershop” and “Frank Monster” mazes for P-K, and the mildly spooky little song “Nocturnal,” among several other selections. After subscribing, search “Halloween” to find them.

Two years ago, Personal Creations posted “How to Throw a Great Halloween Party for Kids: Tips to Make Your Child’s Halloween Party Spooktacular.” A couple of the most fun food ideas are “boo burgers” and “Frankenstein’s brains and creepy cupcakes” for dessert. The burgers involve carving “simple slices of [yellow and white] cheese into ghosts, pumpkins or any of your favorite Halloween characters using a simple stencil,” and placing “these scary slices on top of veggie, chicken or beef burgers…” The “brains” use green food coloring, vanilla pudding, small candy worms, and crushed Oreos. How yucky-yummy!

They also suggest sending kids home with party favors and goodie bags “filled with candy apples, roasted pumpkin seeds and small bags of pre-wrapped candy.” Little ones will still feel like they are coming home with a cache of treats while forgoing the unpredictable elements of trick-or-treating.

Jack-o-lanterns, the quintessential Halloween icons, are fun for sure but can be time-intensive and require care. A great alternative to the mess and risk of pumpkin carving is pumpkin painting, and Country Living, with its“60+ Painted Pumpkins for Those Who Never Want to Carve One Again,” offers something for every style and whim, including completely adorable Mama Pig and Piglet pumpkins. Make them ahead of time AS decorations or let pumpkin-painting be part of the party festivities. Consider best-in-class (scary, pretty, weird, etc.) prizes and lots of selfies with the final creations.

With a little planning and creativity, this Halloween can bring new traditions steeped in fun, fellowship, and festive learning.