A Fun Trick-or-Treat House
October 18, 2006 11:49 AM   Subscribe

How can I make trick-or-treating a fun experience for the kids who come to my door, without doing something time-consuming?

I remember trick-or-treating being a lot of fun as a kid, and I want to make it that way for kids who come by this year. At the same time, I just don't have the time commitment right now to do anything elaborate. In my wildest dreams, I'd have a mini haunted house maze, but that is way out of the picture for this year.

So, what would be fun for kids but also easy on my schedule?
posted by pricklypear to Grab Bag (44 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You could wear a mildly scary costume. Or, for that matter, you could just make up your mind to react broadly to the costumes you see. ("Oh, heavens! A ninja ghost! My house is haunted by ninjas!")
posted by La Cieca at 12:00 PM on October 18, 2006

Best answer: Dress up as a scarecrow and sit in a chair outside your door. Look limp and lifeless. As kids approach to ring your bell, make your presence known. Halloween is nothing if not an excuse to scare the piss out of children.

Perhaps let the younger ones off the hook, as that would be antithetical to your goal.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 12:01 PM on October 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Play a "scary soundtrack" CD on your porch. Hide it with cobwebs or something. String paper bats or skulls for decoration. I found some cheap at World Market. Place a cauldron on the front porch and fill it cold cooked spaghetti. Have the kids dip their hands in and tell them it's brains or intestines.
posted by LoriFLA at 12:01 PM on October 18, 2006

Yes, definitely wear something scary, even if it's just zombie makeup! I love Terminal's idea.I remember going trick or treating and having people scare the kids in the same manner! Talk about a freak-out!
posted by LoriFLA at 12:04 PM on October 18, 2006

As kids approach to ring your bell, make your presence known

Seriously though, I've been wondering this myself. I was imagining something a long the lines of La Ciecas recommendation, in conjunction with copious candy dispersal for those who are sporting some over the top attire.
posted by prostyle at 12:08 PM on October 18, 2006

do you have a chainsaw? i think that, by itself, would be quite a prop. especially if you fired it up when the kids began to dwaddle.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 12:12 PM on October 18, 2006

Best answer: Forget all these costume/decoration ideas...what kids really value is candy. Give out king sized candy bars. When I went trick-or-treating as a kid, there was one house in the neighborhood that always gave out huge candy bars, and to this day I can still point it out. King sized candy bars look cooler when kids do their inevitable post-trick or treat "dump all the loot on the ground and take inventory," and they're also very good trade leverage. Children will appreciate this much more than a few well-positioned fake cobwebs.
posted by apple scruff at 12:13 PM on October 18, 2006 [3 favorites]

Full size candy bars. You will be a god in their eyes.
posted by jrossi4r at 12:14 PM on October 18, 2006

For exactly the reasons apple scruff mentioned one minute before me.
posted by jrossi4r at 12:16 PM on October 18, 2006

Dress up as a scarecrow and sit in a chair outside your door. Look limp and lifeless.

Have a bowl of candy in your lap, with a sign that says to Take One. After they take one, say, nice job! If they don't take just one, jump up and make 'em pee their pants.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:18 PM on October 18, 2006 [2 favorites]

Be careful for this happening though!
posted by burhan at 12:22 PM on October 18, 2006

Give them a choice of a king-size Snicker's bar or a Jack Chic Tract.
posted by bondcliff at 12:23 PM on October 18, 2006

For me it was all about shouting the magic words, getting candy, and going to the next house as fast as I could.

Anything to speed up that process would be helpful. Sit on the front porch and wait for the buggers.
posted by bleucube at 12:26 PM on October 18, 2006

Full size candy bars. You will be a god in their eyes.

I have seen this happen. THE KIDS FREAK OUT. And word will spread. One of my neighbors does this. He has said, however, that one year he didn't, after several years of doing it, and the kids were NOT happy and rather rude (ungrateful little... ). He has since resumed being the GOOD house with full size candy bars.
posted by R. Mutt at 12:31 PM on October 18, 2006

Ditto on the king-size (or I guess regular-size, whatever, anything but "fun size") candy bars.

One thing I always do (I guess this is more of an obnovious thing than a "Make it more enjoyable for kids" thing) is to ask each trick-or-treater what they're dressed as and to compliment them on their costumes. Often times if kids (or teenagers) are just wearing regular clothes to milk candy from the neighborhood, I'll make sure to ask them what they're dressed up as even MORE cheerily! If they're gonna get my candy without even dressing up, they'd better feel shame.
posted by Zephyrial at 12:36 PM on October 18, 2006

Best answer: What I'll be doing this year:
- Good candy (couldn't find "full size", but I make up for it by a good selection, and letting the kids "dig in")
- Scary music / sound effects on stereo
- Answer the door in costume. Hopefully, a friend will help; she greets the kids (in her vampire costume), and calls for "Igor" (me in Tor Johnson mask) who will first offer brains (brain-shaped jello mold), then the candy.
- The candy bowl will be sitting on top of a pot of hot water with dry ice. Very cool effect!

One year, I went to a friend's house and we did Terminal Verbosity's suggestion. His wife made a stuffed witch for their front porch, and he sat next to it also looking "stuffed". Scared the crap out of a bunch of teenagers! (We were careful not to frighten the really small kiddies.)
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 12:39 PM on October 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Nthing the king sized candy bars. You might try getting them in bulk someplace like Costco or Sam's Club, if you or someone who loves you has a membership. Totally overestimate how many you need. Then buy twice as many. Kids will come from all over.
posted by bilabial at 12:46 PM on October 18, 2006

Best answer: I have to say, I did what Terminal suggests one year. Except it was...the mid 90s and...okay, fine, I was dressed as The Crow. This does have the added bonus of being an all black (invisible) costume. I sat in a big-ass chair in the middle of the lawn with a similarly invisible bucket of candy. That was all the setup.

About 50% freaked the hell out because they didn't see me until it was too late. It was fantastic.

I suppose a ninja would work. Kids like ninjas. Candy-wielding ninjas.

This only works if you have a lawn, of course, or maybe a porch. Sitting in the hallway of an apartment is just confusing.
posted by cobaltnine at 1:15 PM on October 18, 2006

Best answer: One of my main trick-or-treating memories was a sweet old couple who gave away pretty good candy, but in order to get it you had to "rattle the bones." If my memory serves, they had strung some string though 12 or 15 ribs (most likely BBQ leftovers, but clean) and kids would have to grip the string and rattle the bones together. They were real bones so it was just creepy enough without being too creepy. Very much in the spirit of Halloween.
posted by lekvar at 1:22 PM on October 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

A gigantic bowl of pennies, or nickels if you're feeling flush. Each kid gets to reach over, palm down, and take a handful.
posted by KRS at 1:28 PM on October 18, 2006

I have a friend who gives away the big candy bars by letting the kids spin a wheel-o-candy to decide which kind they get. He made a huge wooden wheel, but you could do this with something as simple as the spinner from the game Twister.
posted by MsMolly at 1:43 PM on October 18, 2006

Continuing with the sitting outside in a costume theme, one year my sister and I were handing out candy together. She dressed up in one of those faceless Grim Reaper costumes, and sat silently in the rocking chair outside. When she saw kids, she lifted her feet up so they couldn't see them and started to rock slowly. The kids weren't sure if she was real or not, and the conversations between them and the parents were pretty funny.

It also freaked me out and I was inside and in on the joke!

I'm also with Zephyrial about calling out the kids in regular clothes with crappy masks (usually taken off by the time they get to me), about what they are. I looked at one kid and said "you're hardly even trying!" Afterwards, my husband told me to "knock it off or they'll egg the house." They didn't, and I'll continue to ask, cuz that makes me nuts. If you're too old, you should at least make an effort, or only go to the houses of people you know.

Even just putting a few decorations from the dollar store will make a difference. It shows you are interested in the whole ritual, and you aren't giving out the candy out of a sense of obligation to the neighbourhood children.
posted by melissa at 1:53 PM on October 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

A gigantic bowl of pennies

It will be difficult to top 'bowl of pennies' as the worst Halloween idea. Unless you want pennies thrown in your face or littered across your yard, then, yes, of course, give children pennies.
posted by dorisfromregopark at 1:58 PM on October 18, 2006

Best answer: We put a can of tuna in the candy bowl. It's fucking hilarious to watch the kids grab for the biggest thing they can find and then watch them realize it's tuna, and drop it back in the bowl confusedly and pick some real candy out.
posted by mckenney at 2:15 PM on October 18, 2006 [3 favorites]

One year my dad had two bowls of treats: candy for the kids with good costumes, and beef jerky for the too-old-and-not-even-trying crowd.
posted by Robot Johnny at 2:46 PM on October 18, 2006 [3 favorites]

Best answer: One halloween, there was a house where, instead of giving candy, they took polaroids of us (one for each kid) and then stuck it in a little "Happy Halloween" frame.

That photo is pretty much the only one I have of myself in a halloween costume, and it's become much more valuable to me over the years.

Of course, as a kid I'm not sure I would've appreciated it, and I'm sure that anyone over 10 probably would've wished they got candy. Still, possibly an adjunct treat for the younger kids.
posted by fishfucker at 2:47 PM on October 18, 2006

I like to give out cans of Coke. It makes their eyes bug out and it gives a satisfying 'chunk' as it hits the bottom of their bag. (Plus, if more people started doing it, these kids would get a workout, lugging a case of Coke around with them).
posted by gregor-e at 2:50 PM on October 18, 2006

To add to the penny idea:
Tie three pennies up in a slip of paper that reads "A penny saved is a penny earned."
posted by ozomatli at 2:51 PM on October 18, 2006

Tie three pennies up in a slip of paper that reads "A penny saved is a penny earned."
You're just asking to get toilet-papered if you do this. Really. This isn't a snark. You're going to get toilet-papered if you do this.
posted by lekvar at 3:08 PM on October 18, 2006

You could give out king sized candy bars *and* take pictures of everyone who comes to the door, and stick the flickr address of the photos on the back of the candy bars. That'd be cool.
posted by craniac at 3:26 PM on October 18, 2006

Craniac, I think taking photos of other people's kids and posting thier pictures on "the internets" might not be the best .... though it will scare the heck out of thier parents.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:43 PM on October 18, 2006

Yeah, that's the thing with the polaroids -- you know the people answering the door don't have a copy.

'course, polaroids are like .75 each, even if you buy bulk packs at Costco.
posted by fishfucker at 3:59 PM on October 18, 2006

You need to dress up or make up, and not lame, either. Anyone else who's around when you're answering the door should be dressed up or invisible.

The path up to the door should be pretty dark. You do need a light on your front porch or next to your door to show you're ready for trick-or-treaters, but an orange or green one will be dark enough to keep it creepy. Plain light shouldn't be spilling out from the door. If you have a path lined with lights, replace those bulbs with orange or green just for the night.

Sound would be great. Effects work best if you can hear them throughout the yard, which requires a sound system you probably won't have time to set up, so you might prefer music like the free Oddio Overplay Halloween set playing on an inside stereo or on a boombox hidden on the porch.

Rather than deck your place out with foil pumpkins or whatever the dollar store has, I would just get a couple of those filament-y spider webs and stretch them discreetly in trees or corners of the porch.

Jack-o'-lanterns are classic if you have time (it doesn't take that long, and you get a nice snack at the end). Carved faces are good (the scarier the better) but some of the newish patterns aren't hard and look great.

If you want to give out king-sized candy bars, that's awesome . . . but be aware that until you move out of the town, you will be giving out king-sized candy bars on Halloween. Kids will not accept excuses. You might also want to bear in mind that hardly anyone gives out normal-sized candy bars anymore (it's all "fun-size," whatever), so giving even the normal ones will still bump you to a higher class than many of your peers.

Kids don't want lame treats: no change unless it's for UNICEF, no apples, no popcorn, no pretzels, no Necco wafers, no Jolly Ranchers or peppermints or stuff like that, no rolls of Lifesavers. Unfortunately, unless you know all of your neighbors (and know they like you), you also can't give out anything that's not store-bought and individually pre-packaged. I would also steer away from the pictures -- I have to be honest, that's sort of creepy.

If you can do some or most of these, kids should have a great Halloween and be ready to return next year, when you can do all the awesome mazes and spooks you've been planning.
posted by booksandlibretti at 5:11 PM on October 18, 2006

do you have a chainsaw? i think that, by itself, would be quite a prop. especially if you fired it up when the kids began to dwaddle.

(Lester's sock puppet)'s idea should probably be pulled off with the following modification:
Remove chain from said chainsaw.

All you need is the sound; what you don't need is to put everybody's limbs at risk. Go for the gas-powered chainsaw - electrics just don't cut it. Throw some fake blood on the guide bar, and you're good to go. This is perfect for the rowdier Halloween neighborhoods; probably not the best idea for QuietTown, USA. Performed too close to the trick-or-treaters, it's more annoying than anything. Done properly, it is frightening as f*ck.
posted by blackbeardrrr at 5:15 PM on October 18, 2006

Give out bullion cubes. They look like candy and can be used to make delicious soups.
posted by Frank Grimes at 5:35 PM on October 18, 2006 [8 favorites]

We set up a good-quality smoke machine under an adirondack chair on our porch. It was positioned behind the trick-or-treaters. When they rang the bell, I'd appear at the door and my spouse set off the smoke. We had one kids literally jump off our porch. Sweet.
posted by plinth at 6:10 PM on October 18, 2006

I put a layer of rocks under the candy and give them to kids too old to be trick or treating. It takes a bit of a poker face and they have to have a bag of some sort.

Show the candy while putting it in the first kid's bag. Reach back in bowl and grab rock. Stick hand deep in other kid's and drop.

There will be some day when I'm caught out on this and they'll whip the rock at my house. It's still worth it.
posted by unixrat at 7:09 PM on October 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Strobe lights can make any porch look completely freaky. They are cheap ($15 on Target.com, cheaper elsewhere), and very easy to "install" (just throw it in a corner and plug it in). To increase the effect, make sure the ambient light is really dim (turn off the 60-watt porch light).
Strobes also don't take up a lot of space - which is cool, since they usually spend 364 days out of the year in storage.
posted by blackbeardrrr at 8:10 PM on October 18, 2006

I would also steer away from the pictures -- I have to be honest, that's sort of creepy.

to be fair to the people who did this when I was a kid, it was a different time, when people didn't think there was a pervert lurking around every corner. I realize that parents nowadays would be pretty freaked out by it, and I think that's too bad, because, as I said, this is the one thing from Halloween I still have after all these years.

posted by fishfucker at 9:21 PM on October 18, 2006

I had a commercial Popcorn maker (bought from Sam's). Set it up on a table on my porch, bought small bags from a rest. supply house. I start popping about 20 minutes before dusk to lay in a supply. The aroma has the kids and parents stampeding to my house. First year I popped about 10 lbs of corn, second year word spread and I shut down after popping 30 lbs. I also had some store bought candy for "those who were concerned," but had very few takers. We gave the popcorn to everybody, parents included. Our house became known as the popcorn house.

I also took the brown lunch sized paper bags, put about two inches of sand in the bottom, placed a tea candle in the sand. I had a stencel of a witch on a broom that I stamped on the bags in black poster paint. When the candles were lit, it looked like a full moon glowing with the sillouette of the witch. I lined the driveway and path up to the porch with the bags. The kids just loved it.
posted by JujuB at 9:25 PM on October 18, 2006

When I was a kid there was a guy with a huge bowl of change on our street. Each kid could take ONE handful of change. Stupid but fun.
posted by clairezulkey at 8:34 AM on October 19, 2006

When you ask kids about their costume, please don't say, "And what are you supposed to be?" The lamest adults on the block were always the ones who couldn't figure out the costumes. Even if you don't know, take a page from any kindergarten teacher's book and say, "Tell me about your costume!"

30 years later I can't recall who gave out what, but I definitely remember adults who said, "And what are you supposed to be, little girl?"
posted by hsoltz at 9:18 AM on October 19, 2006

Please please please don't call out the kids without costumes or the kids who seem too old. I was both most years, as we were poor and my parents were incapacitated by drugs and alcohol, so I chaperoned my uncostumed younger siblings around the neighborhood to keep them safe(r). It was terribly embarassing to have it pointed out (we thought) that we were too poor for "real" costumes and were wandering around in ripped up old clothes without even masks. For me trick or treating was often miserable enough without the extra attention.
posted by bilabial at 4:18 PM on October 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

JuJuB just described one of the coolest things about the Halloweens I spent as a kid in El Paso. They're called luminarias IIRC and for some reason we didn't all freak out about the fire hazard. (Which isn't really very high if nobody kicks them over; the flame from a tea candle isn't tall enough to light the bag.) They are beautiful and very ambient-creepy, all at once. Highly recommended.

The other cool thing was that the Hispanic community were much less stingy with the candy than Anglos were. Good on them.
posted by eritain at 1:19 AM on October 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

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