I grew up in a rural part of New York's Hudson Valley, at the dead end of a dirt road, off a dirt road. So even before modern parents deemed it unsafe to let kids walk from house to house to trick-or-treat, kids in my town got driven door-to-door out of necessity, due to the distance between houses.
But my grandma, who raised me, had trouble seeing at night to drive, and never really approved of trick-or-treating anyway. However, she loved holidays and throwing a good party, so Halloween never went uncelebrated. Now that I look back, I remember those Halloween evenings with my grandma much more than the one time I did go out (dressed up as a fortune teller), with my friends and I scrunched in the back of one of those boat-like '80s Volvo wagons. In fact, I don’t remember it at all, except being in the back of the Volvo.
If you are wary of all the plastic bags, cheap and unhealthy chocolate, and wasteful driving around that seems to be part of modern Halloweens, you might want to try one of these ideas for a different (but still fun) celebration.
Throw a DIY costume Halloween party
No matter the age, a Halloween party (or sleepover, as I used to have), is fun for kids of most ages. You can serve healthy snacks instead of junk, and play games like pin the tail on the devil. Add making your own costumes as an activity — which means you let the kids or tweens (even teens might be into this one) have at a pile of old clothes, accessories and some face paint. This also means you are off costume creation (or buying) duty and children have a chance to express themselves instead of having an idea handed to them. Instead of the typical pirate or ghost, kids will come up fanciful and original ideas like “Fairy Fireman" or “King of the Lagoon” — ideas that you’ll never find in a box. Don't forget to take pictures, and give prizes for silliest, most colorful and scariest costumes. Everyone can win something.
Host a campfire and scary stories session
If you live in a woodsy burg (or suburb with a good-sized back yard), a campfire, some marshmallows and fruit juice, and a couple stories are all you need to get the mood going. A bright fire surrounded by blackness is — and always will be — pretty spooky. You could add songs to the mix, or require stories only, and encouraging attendees to make up their own will likely lead to more hilarity than spookiness. Some funny Halloween stories can really make the night memorable and lift the scariness factor, especially after a goosebump-raising ghost story.
Plan a horror movie night
Most kids aren’t allowed to watch scary movies, but Halloween could be a time when that rule is compromised on (for older kids) or when these films could be introduced in a safe and fun format. My grandma and I loved horror movies and I learned to enjoy the fun of being scared (a great life lesson) and that fear isn’t something to be afraid of, but a part of life. We would talk about the creativity and darker sides of life after the movies, and I came to see scary movies as the elaborate stage sets that they are. This is (obviously) most appropriate for older kids and teens who can discuss and examine challenging images.
Cook up some healthy (but still delicious) Halloween treats
Especially if your kids are into cooking and baking, Halloween eve could be an ideal time to try something new. After all, it’s still harvest season, and recipes utilizing seasonal ingredients like pumpkins, squash, apples, greens and nuts abound. And there are plenty of fun Halloween-themed dishes, from Ricotta Spinach Skulls to Pecan Caramel Spiders. How about a Halloween dinner created by the kids for a few of their friends? They can have the responsibility of picking the menu, shopping for the ingredients and cooking (or prepping, if they are younger or less experienced), all with the idea that their friends will be eating what they make. If that’s not a memorable night, I don’t know what is.