You can provide kids with an entertaining afternoon, and decorate for Halloween at the same time, by helping the kids create some great holiday decorations. All you need is a collection of cardboard boxes, some ordinary craft supplies and a couple of special items from your local craft store. Other than using a craft knife to cut the cardboard, with a little help, kids can do most of the construction and completion of these Halloween decorations on their own.
Make ghosts that peer out of every window of the house. Simply cut ghostly shapes out of sides cut from large grocery cartons, stuff these ghostly shapes into white plastic trash bags; pull the excess bag material taut and tape in back. Cut eyes out of black construction paper and stick onto the ghosts with double-sided tape. Prop up the ghosts in windows, using a little masking tape, if necessary, to hold them in place.
Make a jack-o-lantern basket for a table centerpiece. Choose a fairly square box. From pieces of other cardboard boxes, cut two pumpkin-shaped pieces, slightly larger than the sides of the square box. Make the pumpkin shapes with flat bottoms. Using these pumpkin-shaped pieces as a pattern, trace the same shape onto orange construction paper. Cut out the orange pieces and glue onto the cardboard. Use a black marker to draw the jack-o-lantern face. Glue the two orange cardboard jack-o-lanterns onto two opposite sides of the square box. Make a handle for the basket from black construction paper.
Use a collection of box lids, such as those from shoe boxes, to create giant spiders, which can be hung from the ceiling. Spray the box lids black; turn them over and spray the inside as well. Spray paint Styrofoam balls black for the spiders’ heads and glue to the top of the boxes. Using a stapler, attach eight pipe cleaner legs around the edges of the box. Make a hole in the center of the box and attach a piece of fishing line or string, putting it through the hole and securing it with black electrical tape. Hang the spiders from the ceiling at varying lengths of one to two feet.
Create miniature haunted houses. Give kids a variety of boxes and let them “build” their houses using four or five boxes; they might like a rambling ranch or a tall, teetering structure. Have them tape the rooms together with black electrical tape. The entire house can be spray painted, if they wish. Provide kids with clay, construction paper, markers, scissors and Halloween stickers and other appropriate materials. Suggest they fill their houses with ghosts, goblins, witches, bats, and whatever other creatures they like.
Turn shallow grocery cartons, large cereal boxes and other similarly shaped boxes into tombstones to grace your front yard on Halloween. Cut arched pieces of heavy cardboard just a little taller than the box you are going to attach it to. Spray with fake stone paint (available at hardware stores or see Resources). Once the paint is dry, use black markers to write in the dates and ghoulish epitaphs. Use double-sided tape to attach the “stone” pieces to the boxes. Place rocks inside the bottom of the boxes to hold them in place.
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Peggy Epstein is a freelance writer specializing in education and parenting. She has authored two books, "Great Ideas for Grandkids" and "Family Writes," and published more than 100 articles for various print and online publications. Epstein is also a former public school teacher with 25 years' experience. She received a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri.