There are many things I love about Hallowe’en, but it can easily be perceived as a festival that encourages children to be greedy. It certainly seemed that way to me when I first moved here.
How many goodies can they collect?
Who gives the biggest and best treats?
Who has the most elaborate costume?
It doesn’t have to be that way. Hallowe’en can be a perfect opportunity to encourage children to reuse, recycle and support their community. A number of initiatives persuade children to trade in excess candy and if we help children make their own costumes, they can utilise objects that might otherwise be thrown away. One thing I hadn’t considered until now is that donating and shopping at Goodwill thrift stores could help my kids be more socially responsible this Hallowe’en.
Last week I was invited, with a group of fellow Seattle bloggers, to visit the Milgard Work Opportunity Centre in Tacoma, a job training centre funded by Goodwill. When I donate or buy from Goodwill, I am glad to be reducing landfill and helping a good cause but I’ve never really looked into where the money actually goes.
Goodwill thrift store profits and donations, fuel programs that help people with limited income, disabilities and disadvantages to overcome barriers to education and employment. There was a lot to take in at our visit, the facility was inspirational and the staff and young people were unreservedly passionate about the facility. The model reminded me of Children’s Centres in the UK – a one stop shop with multi-agencies under one roof but for young adults rather than families. A place to go for training, support and education.
Some of the facilities available at the Milgard Work Opportunity Centre are:
A job resource room
A culinary school (they served us a really delicious, high quality lunch)
Youth build (learning the construction trade whilst working towards the GED)
Drop in Math support
Warehouse and Logistics Training
Computer and Office Skills Training
The following graphic explains the centre’s community impact.
The second part of our visit was to the Goodwill Hallowe’en Thrift Store in Spanaway – the largest such store in the country. It was a treasure trove of costumes and accessories.
I rarely buy new costumes. Part of the thrill of dressing up for Hallowe’en is deciding on a costume and using materials from Goodwill, Buy Nothing Groups or things we have at home, to create something unique. Rushing to buy the an expensive, ready-made costume feels like cheating to me.
Some of my favourite costumes over the years, have been made from simple materials. This girl in my daughter’s class was a vending machine-made from a cardboard box.
Every year my daughter’s school dance in the Thrill the World Event in Redmond Town Centre. The zombie costumes are great fun to make and each year they decide on a theme. Last year we put together this Hamilton inspired zombie from a dress somebody donated.
My younger daughter is joining in this year and wants to be a zombie fairy. I found some great items at the Goodwill Costume Store which I will share with you soon. We have a family trip to Goodwill scheduled this week. My youngest wants to make a bat costume and I’m hoping the others will find inspiration for their costumes. I’ll share the fruits of our labours soon.
I know it can be tempting to simply run out and buy a ready-made costume but consider these great reasons for creating your own.
Recycling old costumes and clothes helps reduce landfill
Your costume will be truly unique
Encourages creative thinking
Encourages working together and problem solving
Encourages sharing as you request materials from friends and community.
Encourages forward planning and design
It is a great family activity
It raises money for worthy causes.
Why not donate last years costumes at a local thrift store/ charity shop or organise a costume swap to encourage your kids to recycle and help those less fortunate?
My kids love this one. Set to the tune of ‘ants go marching’, you can read or sing along as different ghosts come out to scare people. My children loved counting the ghosts and finding their favourites on each page. If you are looking for new rhymes and songs to add to the Hallowe’en preschool collection, this book is a perfect choice.
An amusing tale about Brunhilda the witch, who likes to cause mischief with her spells. One day her cat decides to make trouble and casts a spell that turns Brunhilda’s mischief into good deeds. Brunhilda’s Backwards Day is a charming story, with vibrant illustrations and I’m sure will become a firm favourite.
A zombie book that really isn’t scary. The rhyming text tells the story of a zombie who comes to school to eat books but soon discovers a love of reading. The book has a nice message and would make a good class read aloud book, as the children chant ‘I want to eat your books’.
We love the Winnie the Witch stories and the audio books are also a nice addition to the collection. These comical books share the adventures of Winnie and her cat Wilbur as they get themselves into all kinds of situations through casting spells.
Titchy Witch is another family favourite. Titchy Witch is a little witch who faces the challenges of life as a young witch. She deals with challenges that many children face, like having a new baby, bullies, inviting her school friends to her party, learning to read and having a pet, but through the eyes of a witch.
We bought this book for an art project and fell in love with the illustrations. This is a perfect book for little ones who are afraid of monsters, to help them see that monsters are really just like them.
An old one, but a great story that captures the suspense that children feel as they encounter the unknown. The anticipation of the little mouse as he wonders what is at the top of the stairs makes this a perfect book to read at Hallowe’en.
Let me know your favourite spooky books in the comments.
One of my favourite Hallowe’en activities as a teacher was creating spells and dancing around the cauldron. The children were transfixed by the iron cauldron that emerged from the kitchen and wondered if it might belong to a real witch. Dressed in witches hats and cloaks, we would imagine fantastical ingredients and create spells that would transform us into dragons, frogs or birds, that would make us fly, shrink or become invisible. It was a fun way to explore rhyme, share ideas and use our imaginations. We left ‘spell books’ in the mark making area and the home corner became a witches cave complete with potion bottles, spell books and jars of bugs, bats and frogs.
My girls love to make potions, so when I told them about it, they loved the idea but wanted to make a real witches brew.
To start, we made wands from tin foil and chose witches hats and capes. Tin foil wands are simple to make if you have limited time; wrap tin foil around a pencil or simply roll and scrunch the foil into your desired shape. If you are more ambitious, make wands from sticks by stripping off the bark, adding ribbons or painting them in special colours. I also like these Harry Potter wands from Red Ted Art
With wands in hand, they chose ingredients to go into the brew. They didn’t think witches and wizards used shaving foam or cornflour to make a spell, so they chose gruesome alternatives. Flour became giant’s dandruff, hair gel was ogre snot and fuzzy balls became warts.
The girls wrote down their ingredients so they could remember the order in which to add them .
It didn’t matter that my youngest is only just beginning to write, she found her own way.
Armed with spells, wands and witches hats, they made their way outside to the cauldron at our potion station. One by one, they tossed the ingredients into the cauldron, stirring it and modifying the quantities until they were satisfied. Then it was time for the spell.
Wibbly wobbly wibbly wog
See the little jumpy frog
Wibbly wobbly wibbly wagon
Turn the frog into a dragon
We looked for the dragon but decided it was hiding amongst the clouds.
The dance around the cauldron resumed with another spell.
Wibbly wobbly wibbly wog
See the little jumpy frog
Wibbly wobbly wibbly wat
Turn my mum into a bat
Thanks girls, I’m not sure I want to hang upside down from a tree.
The potion remained in the cauldron for sometime and became the central point of their witch and wizarding school.
Suggested ingredients for a witches brew
Jello/jelly powder (makes it smell great)
leaves and petals
Give the children collection bags and a card with ingredients for a spell, in picture and written format. Ask the children to find the objects they need and place them in the bag.
Give the children a group of objects and ask them one at a time to add a specific number into the brew.
Chant around the caldron and make spells that require the children to make specific movements e.g make us slither like a snake, make us jump or stretch up tall.
When it comes to Hallowe’en my repertoire of songs is not as large as some other seasonal favourites. Tweaking a few nursery songs and finding a few favourites online, I put together a small package of activities for a preschool music session.
5 Little Pumpkins ( A Popular Rhyme in the US)
5 Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate
The first one said “Oh my, it’s getting late”
The second one said “There are witches in the air”
The third one said “But we don’t care”
The fourth one said “Let’s run, Let’s run”
The fifth one said “Isn’t Hallowee’n fun?”
Then woooooo went the wind
And OUT went the lights.
And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.
There’s a Spider on the Floor ( To the tune of ‘Put your Finger on your Head)
Move the spider up your body and make rhymes with different body parts eg There’s a spider on my tummy and I really want my mummy, there’s a spider on my knee and he’s very scary. Lyrics to the first verse are here.
If You’re a Monster and You Know It (Spooky Version of If You’re Happy and You Know It)
If you’re a monster and you know it then say ‘raaaaggh’
If you’re a witch and you know it say ‘HA HA’
If you’re a ghost and you know it then say ‘Oooooooo’
If you’re a dragon and you know it, breathe out fire.