There’s no activity that isn’t made more enjoyable by introducing a competitive element. Get a friends and neighbours to submit a photo of their efforts for judging, or place them outside their front doors, and your children can vote for the best. You could even devise a rating system, from “good effort” to “Oh my gourd”.
Read more: How to grow and carve pumpkins
Fancy dress competition
Fortunately, dressing up is one element of Halloween that can continue unabated during the pandemic. If you’re joining in the fun yourself, you may want to consider a specific 2020-themed costume. Ideas to consider include: Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer; Donald Trump in a face mask (don’t forget the orange face paint for this one); Joe Exotic, the Tiger King; and Dominic Cummings (dig out your shabbiest clothes, a scarf, a lanyard and a sign for Barnard Castle and you’re most of the way there).
You could even organise a local Halloween costume parade, if you have the energy, and encourage spectators to join in with an 8pm “clap for scarers”.
Make your own toffee apples
There are plenty of recipes online and children can help decorate them with chocolate sprinkles, nuts or hundreds and thousands. It’s also a good deal more sanitary than apple bobbing, which is really only something you should do with your bubble this year.
If you really feel you’re going to miss this particular game, why not set up “apple fishing” in your front garden? All you need is a paddling pool and a child’s fishing net. Or, if you want to go all out, attach a magnet to the end of a fishing rod, spear the apples with metal paper clips and have the kids go to town.
This can be done over coals on a barbecue if you don’t want to go to the trouble of building a fire (Let’s not burn ourselves out before Bonfire Night).
Throw a Hogwarts-style Halloween feast
Decorate your dining area appropriately, then serve up a mini-banquet of Halloween comestibles: get creative with strips of red pepper to make scary-faced pizzas; bake a pumpkin pie if you’re that way inclined; if not, you can buy in or decorate your own Halloween-themed cupcakes. Serve it all up with a garish-coloured fruit punch complete with floating lychee “eyeballs”.
To make it more Hogwarts, the Harry Potter fans in your house can dress as their favourite character from the books.
Pick your own pumpkin
Start the fun early by visiting a local farm offering pumpkin picking: a wholesome and, more importantly, outdoor activity that’s as safe as any can be in Covid times.
Go bat watching
This will be more fruitful if you first make your garden bat-friendly. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends increasing the food supply – compost heaps and ponds both generate the type of insects bats like – and providing shelter, for example by placing a bat box on a tree trunk or wall.
Create an indoor Halloween trail
If the weather is rotten, you can take the fun indoors by creating a treasure trail around the house with clues and Halloween treats along the way. Like an Easter egg hunt, but with fewer eggs and more chocolate eyeballs. The prize at the end could be anything from a Horrible Histories book (educational) to a hollowed-out pumpkin full of sweets (less so).
Have a Halloween film night
For a low-effort celebration, close the curtains, light some candles and curl up on the sofa with popcorn and a scary movie.
Tell ghost stories
Hang up a sheet to create a kind of indoor tent, turn out all lights except for a torch, and take turns to read or tell spooky tales.
Throw a Halloween disco
If you’re in the garden, you could invite a couple of friends to join in. If not, there’s no reason why you can’t have a dance in your own sitting room, just like they did in the olden days. Halloween playlists could include the themes from Ghostbusters and The Addams Family or Zombie by The Cranberries. Your children will be too young for all of the above, but this isn’t just about them.