Ever since I had kids I’ve had mixed feelings about Halloween. Sure, little ones love to dress up and go trick-or-treating and all that, but what they do NOT love is when someone in the neighborhood chooses to turn their yard into a horrifying scene that looks like it’s straight outta a slasher flick.

For parents, Halloween involves a skilled mix of getting into the spirit of the holiday while steering their children clear of all the too-scary stuff.

That’s why perhaps the best way to celebrate is in the comfort of your own home, where you can control the level of thrills. Here’s all you need for a family-friendly fright night!

Devilish decorations

Get the kids in on the fun! Buy cotton “spider’s web” material or use string to make webs all over your viewing area. Fake spiders are really cheap and can be found at your local drugstore or dollar store. Hang up orange or black lights (or one of the many options at drugstores — my parents just bought my kids strings of ghost and candy corn lights) to set the mood. Some of those cheap flickering “candles” (that are really battery operated) would be perfect as well.

You know I’m always a fan of balloons for any sort of party, so I’d say black and orange balloons are another great idea. You might want to add purple and green into the mix as well. They don’t need to be blown up with helium – just let them lie around on the ground. If you trust your kids with markers, they could decorate the orange balloons like jack-o-lantern faces.

Speaking of jack-o-lanterns, you gotta have lots of pumpkins around, obviously. There are inexpensive plastic options of all sizes in addition to the real thing. Perhaps you want to carve your pumpkins before the main event? Either way, I highly recommend having a kid-friendly playlist of Halloween hits on in the background.

Spooky snacks

There’s no way around it: Halloween = sweet treats. Here are a few cute ideas for the occasion, followed by some healthier (but still cute!) options:

  • Donut monsters: Take brightly colored frosting and draw a ring around the inside of a donut hole, and then stick or draw on googly eyes. Voila! It’s a donut monster with its mouth wide open, ready to devour whatever gets in its way!
  • Crunchy skeletons: Stack up white-chocolate-covered pretzels, using a little frosting to keep them together. On the top, set back a little bit, stick a marshmallow that you’ve drawn a skeleton face (two large circles for eyes and then one horizontal line with vertical hash marks on it for the mouth) on using black frosting. It’s the perfect mix of salty and sweet.
  • Boo-tiful Bananas: This one is really easy. Just cut a banana in half and then use black frosting or raisins for eyes near each end. Each banana will make two little banana ghosts.
  • Green Goblins: Cut a green apple into quarters. To form the goblin’s (open) mouth, you’ll then need to carve out the inside of one of the quarters. You’ll spread peanut butter or an alternative on the top and bottom of that open area and then place sunflower seeds along the top for teeth. In the middle of the bottom section, you’ll put a thin horizontally sliced strawberry for the tongue, and then place sunflower seeds on either side. Stick or draw googly eyes on the top section of the apple skin and your goblin is complete!
  • Silly Spiders: You can make almost any kiddie food into a spider — it’s all about pretzel sticks. Make a sandwich and then don’t slice it in two. Instead, cut around the crust so that you’re left with a circle-shaped sandwich. Then have 8 pretzel sticks coming out from between the bread all around the circle. You can also do this with circular crackers.
  • Bonus Broom: If you’ve already got pretzel sticks, grab some string cheese, cut it into thirds and split up one end of each piece so that it resembles a broom. Push a pretzel stick into the other end and there’s your bonus broom!

The perfect movie

There’s no shortage of , but many of them are meant for adults who are looking to be scared out of their mind.

The good news is there are just as many that the whole gang can enjoy! Here are some to consider that cover a wide range of ages and Halloween appetites. A few of these are PG-13 for those with teens:

Clearly we’ve got you covered in this department.

Have a wonderful fright night with your family, and happy Halloween!

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