Frightfully Fun Children's Parties

Entertain the kids with three ghoulish Halloween get-togethers

By Jolène M. Bouchon; originally published on

What child doesn't love Halloween? It's the one day of the year they can be anyone—or anything—they want. Plus, they are allowed to receive bagfuls of free candy from nice strangers. We love Halloween because the creative potential of the holiday is virtually unlimited. When else do you get to impress your kids with all the gross, goofy, and gory impulses they never imagined you had?

All this adds up to the perfect excuse for a party. To help take the fright out of Halloween entertaining for your kids, we consulted Clare Crespo, children's cooking teacher and author of Hey There, Cupcake! and The Secret Life of Food.

There are as many ways to celebrate Halloween as there are types of bats: "You can do it cute, with lots of pumpkins, and make the theme fall and harvest," says Crespo. "Or, opt for a mad scientist theme for those who are not too ghoulish. My favorite way is to go superscary, which I always think is fun!" Whichever way you choose to celebrate it, Crespo has you covered. She's given us three bewitching party ideas and some creepy recipes from her cookbooks to get your ghouls gobblin'. All you need to worry about are sugar-fueled frenzies and nightmarish dentist bills.


Creepy Cadaver Celebration


If your children relish the gross, throw a party with body parts as the theme.

String some monofilament through plastic eyes, noses, ears, or any other plastic body parts you can get your, ahem, hands on and hang them around your house, especially over the table where the food is arranged. Have your child trace his or her foot onto construction paper, and use that shape to make invitations.

To make a great food presentation, Crespo suggests tracing your child's outline on poster board or a long sheet of paper and laying it on the table. Then, place the food items decorated to look like body parts in their appropriate places.

For instance, place the Brain Cupcakes in the cranium area, the Eyeball Cupcakes where the peepers would be, the Finger Cookies on the hands, and the Bleeding Heart Cupcakes on the chest.

Fill in the rest of the body with other anatomy-related snacks. Crespo suggests cutting a slit in a meatball and fitting an olive with a pimento in the space: instant eyeballs! Or, try slicing hard-boiled eggs lengthwise and placing a little sliver of black olive in the middle of the yolk to make an iris. Sandwiches can stand in for any part: Cut them in the shape of a hand—"handwiches"—or feet.

When it comes to party games, Crespo suggests skewing some of the more traditional games to fit your theme. Instead of pinning the tail on the donkey, why not pin the coccyx bone on the skeleton?

Mad Scientist Mayhem

If you or your kids prefer a more scientific angle, throw a Mad Scientist party. Your child could dress as the scientist, replete with the requisite lab coat, safety goggles, and crazy hair. Trace the shape of a beaker for the invitations.

To create the mood, Crespo suggests visiting a school supply store to find beakers, test tubes, and culture dishes. Those will be your serving vessels. You could also pick up some larger beakers and tubes and group them on your serving table to create a lablike atmosphere. Fill them with colored water or use them to serve punch or other drinks. Decorate your house with periodic tables and microscopes. Use plastic skulls as serving bowls for candy, chips, or other snacks. Buy a brain mold and use it to make Jell-o. For this party, Crespo's Gingerbread Skeletons, Brain Cupcakes, and Eyeball Cupcakes are perfect.

Chilling Classic Party


If your kids are too young for a gross-out or mad scientist party, they will still enjoy a classic harvest theme party. Place pumpkins around the house and hollow them out enough so they can fit serving bowls. You can use smaller pumpkins as the bowls themselves. Serve punch in a giant cauldron. To make it smoke, get food-grade dry ice and place it at the bottom of the bowl. (**Adults must supervise the serving. Never serve the dry ice or allow kids to touch the ice.) Or, Crespo suggests using food coloring to make a green-goo punch. For the food, Crespo's Tarantula Cookies and Gingerbread Skeletons are perfect. The Finger Cookies work too, though Crespo suggests making them into Witches' Fingers by adding a little green food coloring to the dough. You can wrap plastic spider rings around them at serving time.