Halloween games and activities

Hallowe’en games and activities for everyone!

While All Hallow’s Eve can be an alarming and scary time for some us, it can be also a lot of fun. These activities are designed for children under the age of ten, and are flexible enough to be adaptable suit different age and ability groups (yes, even ones that have ‘that one’ in them).

The games and activities are great as warm-ups to sessions or as short bursts of activity in themselves. Some of them you may recognise from similar games, but I have given them a special spooky twist (that’s not a cocktail, is it? If not, it should be) to make them seasonal. Children like familiar games, so if you know some other games like this, don’t be afraid to add them to your session or part of your day – if you spook them up to keep them fresh!

Haunted House Showing Trick Or Treat And Full Moon

 

FOCUS TIME

Gather your group together, and read, recite or otherwise perform something to get everyone focussed and ready to play. I find a story or a poem, gives everyone a chance to sit down, lie down, relax a bit, and settle down, as well as for boundaries to be established (especially if there’s dressing up involved or anything new in the mix).

A good place to start here is to refer to I Like This Poem, edited by Kaye Webb. It is a fab collection of poetry and although some of the choices will probably be different if the collection was made today (it was made a good while ago), it’s richer for that. Pick some a good poem relevant to the age and interests of your children that’ll help hook them into what you are doing – there’s loads to choose from – my favourites in this collection are Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, Windy Nights by Robert Louis Stevenson, and for older children, The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes and The Listeners by Walter de la Mare.

 In a sudden fit of creativity, I wrote a poem that might help create a mood. Feel free to use, ignore, adapt, or mock as you please (just do it quietly, I might actually be a witch, you know).

 

At the edge of our town,

When the sun goes down,

There’s a fine, fine lady

In a black, black gown.

She wears a mouth-wide grin,

That’s a darkling frown,

When she gets a whiff of you

Coming anywhere around.

She can whistle up the dead

And she dances with the drowned.

You wouldn’t want to play with

The things that she’s found.

She can sing you to sleep

But you’ll wake up underground.

Shhh, at the edge of our town,

When the sun goes down,

There’s a fine, fine lady

In a black, black gown.

So, you’d better run and hide,

Because she’s coming right NOW!

 

 

PART ONE – THE WITCHES’ SPELL GAMES

  • If you don’t know it already, Shakespeare’s Witches from Macbeth are amongst his best ever creations. Evil, malevolent, and altogether intoxicating, they are delicious in their use of language and in twisting the lives of the characters in the play. In Shakespeare’s day, witches and the supernatural weren’t as remote and ridiculous as they may seem today, and the spells uttered during the course of the play were considered by many to be ‘real’. This led to the belief that they were cause of misfortune if the title was mentioned in the theatre and it becoming widely referred to as ‘the Scottish play’. So let’s totally tempt fate by using an extract from one here then.
  1. Read/recite the extract on the next page (choose the bits you want to use from this – very young children love the ‘Double, Double’ rhyming couplet, and honestly, that’s probably enough for them)
  2. Repeat it and pick out any tricky words if necessary, or show objects/pictures to go with the ingredients! Bit gory though, I’d just go with a plastic animal or act out the animal as you read/recite the first-time round
  • ‘Perform’ the spell and tell the children that you have transformed them into something – either from the Witches’ Spell or something related to Hallowe’en (zombies, vampire bats, ghosts, etc.). WARNING!!! This can get loud. Establish the rules first. Make sure that everyone knows the limits about noise (you decide this and tell them) and how you are going to stop the spell (eg. ‘freeze’, ‘beware the witch!)
  • Make a potion
    1. Put out a cauldron for groups of children and sets of different ingredients (real edible ingredients or plastic frogs etc). They can choose what they want to put in their cauldrons, and stir with their magic wands (wooden spoons)
    2. Each group should decide what their potion does if someone is unfortunate enough to drink it
    3. Each group to act out the effects of their potion
  • Children take it in turns to ‘Double, double, toil and trouble’ and transform the others (either using the ideas from their potions or from Part 2)

 

WARNING: obvious advert coming, for FREE stuff! I have further Witches’ Spell downloadable lesson plans and resources available via the TES Resources website. Please click on the image for more information, or look up ‘teaching resources’ on my website.

 

Lessons based on The Witches’ Spell from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

 

 

The Witches’ Spell from Macbeth

By William Shakespeare

 

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

 

 

PART TWO – SPOOKTACULAR ARTY PARTY

  • The traditional favourite for this kind of thing – the paper plate mask, with dried pasta, wool, etc to decorate – to create everyone’s favourite monster (the dinner lady with the hairy mole at school is NOT allowed btw). This is where the dark arts of papier mache or layers of PVA and paper/bandages can really come into their own – a Mummy mask with real bandages, or vampire with teeth shapes, will add bite to the proceedings
  • The Day of the Dead art is everywhere now and there are a few avenues here:
    1. Demonstrate/show candy skull art – provide children with blank or partially blank skulls to decorate and/or colour, and focus on the Mindfulness of the enterprise too, perhaps with some suitable music in the background
    2. Use plastic skulls or papier mache ones if you’re brave and industrious, and decorate with patterns using Sharpie (other permanent markers are available) pens or fine paintbrushes
    3. Create flowery headbands using plastic headbands, tissue paper and PVA/glue gun
    4. Use facepaints – but be aware that not all children like having their faces painted or seeing others with it on
Image by Cristian Newman
  • Pumpkin Carving, or for the more brave and traditional, Turnip Carving – combine with a reading of the stories, Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper and The Legend of Stingy Jack by Jeremiah Witting. The Turnip Princess on my website is a cracking, bonkers story from Bavaria if you want to go the traditional, European turnip route. An easier alternative for a class or a large group of children is to use apples carved into skulls using potato peelers, though make sure the children work in very small supervised groups at all times

Read The Turnip Princess

  • Making decorations – lanterns, etc – look on the internet, especially twinkl. There are literally hundreds of examples out there

 

Image by Neven Krcmarek

 

PART THREE – THE GHASTLY GHOSTLY GAMES (short activities)

  • Apple Bobbing – traditional, wet and great if you have a deal with the person that can supply you with apples for the carving activity too
  • The Magic Eyeball Game – put the group in a seated circle, both fists tight in their laps, select one member of the group to be the Witchfinder General. The WG has to leave the room or move away to where they can’t see or hear what happens next, while you select a ‘witch’ to hold a ping pong ball eyeball (chocolate eyeballs are good, but won’t last the game) in a tightened fist. When the Witchfinder returns, they have three guesses to find the ‘witch’ – if they guess correctly they can choose who goes next, if they don’t, the witch gets to be the Witchfinder. Feel free to substitute the eyeball for any body part, limb or item of totrture you prefer. A good game for concentration and creating calm.
  • Shake Them Bones – a physical warm-up. Everyone is a skeleton coming to life! Shake a hand, an arm, two hands, two arms, a head, a body. Shake a hand, an arm, two arms, a head, a foot, etc, until the whole body is shaking and a-shimmying. To calm it down again, or to keep it gentle, make the movements stretches – stretch up one hand and drop to the ground, slowly pull the head back up again, all slowly and gently.
  • Zombie Walk – basically a Follow-The-Leader game. Start with a zombie walk and a sensible leader to make sure that everyone has the idea…, then build-up the complexity of the movements and speed, direction etc.
  • Spooky Sound Effects – stand in a circle. Focus on the face and the movements there. Make different sounds associated with Hallowe’en (ghosts are v obvs, but move on from there to howls, hahahas and so on). This will help the children with the articulators of speech, as these particular sets of sounds are very vowel based, and are great for getting the mouth working and stretching into the different shapes. Vampire ‘moowahahahs’ are ace, whatever the reason for doing them (just think of your diaphragm muscles moving during a full set of them)
  • Behold the Enchantress! – if you didn’t the Witches’ Spell games, here’s one that’s very similar, but doesn’t need all the rigmarole beforehand. It’s a cross between Simon Says and Beware the Witch below and you can make it as hard or as easy as you like. The Enchantress/Sorcerer (I’m an equal opportunities employer of the supernatural and those gifted in the dark arts), waves a magic wand and enchants the rest of the group, who then have to do as they command (touch your nose, hop, hop like frog, slither like a snake – the instructions can be as specific, or not, as your children are able). BUT the rest of the group can only obey when the wand is waved, NO WAND = NO CHANGE
  • Beware the Witch – an un-Musical Statues game, or with spooky music/Hallowe’en themed music, the children mime the actions of ghosts, vampires, Frankenstein’s monsters etc. as instructed by the leader (adult or nominated child), until the shout goes from the leader ‘BEWARE THE WITCH’, and they have to hide. Witches have terrible eyesight, so as long as they stand still they’ll be fine (that’s where the statues bit comes in). This is a great game as it gives the reluctant dancer something to do, as Musical Statues can be a challenge for them
  • Who’s in the Web? – as an alternative to the above, the children move around until the call goes out ‘HERE COMES THE SPIDER’, and they all curl up in a ball. One of the children is then covered with a web cloth (a white sheet will do, if you can’t get one of those white drapes from the pound shop) by an adult, and once covered, the other children can move around them in a circle and have a guess at who is missing. BEWARE – lots of peeking can occur. Keep an eye out for sneaky peekers!
Image by Nicolas Picard

PART FOUR – RECOMMENDED BOOK LIST

My by no means exhaustive list of recommended books for Halloween…

  • I Like This Poem, edited by Kaye Webb
  • Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper
  • The Legend of Stingy Jack by Jeremiah Witting
  • The Halloween Book by Jane Bull – this is out of print, but is available second hand via Amazon. The Vintage Halloween Book looks great too
  • Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (look out for the audiobook on Audible, Tom Mison’s dreamy reading is perfect)
  • Practically any Grimm Folk Tale (I can’t say fairy tale – the original texts have few fairies and are far more dark and malevolent than anything Disney offer modern audiences), or contemporary collection, such as that by Charles Perrault, or the source of The Turnip Princess, the surprinsingly titled, The Turnip Princess: And Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales (Penguin Classics) by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth and Maria Tatar. If you want to know if you have a good collection of Fairy Tales (I know I slipped there), look for the name Jack Zipes and you’re in for a blood-thirsty treat. But do read the stories first before shocking the children and yourself. Phillip Pullman has written a brilliant adaption of the Grimm Tales (The Shivers is my favourite tale in his collection, although it is particularly gruesome and in no way suitable for anyone, let alone children), and Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller, excelling at adapting Germanic and Norse folklore.
  • Alternatively, just hire me and I’ll come over and tell a story at the appropriate level for the age of your children, as there is nothing better than an oral folk tale being passed on the way it was meant to be 😊
Embla

A few final words – don’t have nightmares, have a wonderful time!

 

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The Storytelling Gene

Picture the scene. Four generations of a family are gathered: great-grandparents, a grandfather, a mother, and small sister and baby brother. I cuddle my niece’s children, part of the family tree, but out on a limb. We watch The Gruffalo and join in with the rhyming bits. And then we share a moment that I wanted to box up and keep forever.

My father, mathematician, ex-teacher and patriarch, is a storyteller. When we were children, he read to us of wishing chairs in faraway lands. Now, he tells me tales of life in the past, his own and that of the writers he loves. My brother, former-headteacher and patriarch of his own brood, doesn’t read, he says, because isn’t interested in books. Don’t think he ever was. My niece, young teacher with all of life before her, has a mind full of stories she has read as a child, at school to her pupils, and at home to her children. She reads beautifully and her daughter slips into her arms for a story as a hand in glove, as I had done with my mother.

When even The Gruffalo fails to keep the two-year old girl amused, she snuggles up to her great-grandfather, with a favourite book. My brother hovers, anxious. The little girl and Dad haven’t spent much time together in her little life, and she might not manage to read to him. But she does. So, the three of them are there, in perfect harmony, sharing a book, finding out what a ladybird heard. The men mouthing the words, the little girl leading the way. My brother had memorized every word. Dad was the happiest he’d been for a long time. Mollie was Mollie and kept reading.

Reading brings us together. Celebrate it. Celebrate us.