Ramping Up to Halloween

When it comes to looking forward to Halloween, parents can open up the possibilities. With imagination and luck, the paradigm can be altered to where candy is the last thing on kids’ minds. Suggest trying something new this year. Parents can be genuine, generous, and spontaneous in planting these notions. Any kind of official family meeting probably feels, to a kid, like a courtroom or at the very least, a board meeting. So try subtlety. What notions might be subtly introduced?

Let’s start with decor. Do you have a front yard? In that case, kids can create a visual environment that will be the envy of the neighborhood. Even if there is only a side yard, backyard, or garage to work with, it is possible to create a spooky environment for your children’s own enjoyment, and to share with invited friends. As an added bonus, a project of this kind makes the holiday more about giving than getting, which is always nice.

The idea here is to create some family traditions that are even more attractive than trick-or-treating. Kids like to make things, and they also very much enjoy spending time with their parents’ attention focused on them in a way that is not critical or judgmental, but benevolent.


So if you don’t have any large cardboard boxes around, obtain some from the back rooms and alleys of local businesses. Then help your kids design, and color or paint, life-size grave markers, either comical or dead serious (evil chuckle), their choice. Hold the tombstones up with sticks, or fastened to upturned plastic buckets, or just lean them against a fence or wall. Cardboard is also good for making black cats with arched backs, weird little gnome figures, and so forth. Another advantage of cardboard is that it doesn’t need to be stored until next year, but can be recycled.


Did you know that if you take a glass soda bottle and partly fill it with water and blow across the top of it, an eerie sound is produced? You might have a child who would be happier making scary sound effects than trekking around the neighborhood. Is there a front porch? Rather than collect candy with the mob, a theatrically-inclined child might prefer to make the porch their stage, in a sinister costume, stirring a cauldron, cackling wickedly all the while.

If you don’t have that kind of space, is it possible to temporarily spookify one room with an orange light bulb and some silhouettes cut from dark paper tacked to the walls? Or even try miniaturizing. Turn a cardboard box on its side, paint it, and make a diorama or room box. Decorate and furnish it with scraps and bits, and see what kind of spooky lighting effects can be accomplished with a glowstick or two.

Inspiration abounds

Feeding the words “make haunted house” into YouTube will produce pictures of many inspiring do-it-yourself Halloween projects. Haunted house creation can be done on the cheap, and plenty of Americans have become local heroes by creating homemade creepy scenes. Furthermore, it can be done on a very limited budget, plus scrounging.

It can become a year-round project, to check out second-hand stores, garage sales, and other likely venues for used props and wardrobe items. Many cities have Facebook groups or similar online arrangements for matching up donors of free stuff with people who want, for instance, a bushel of plastic pumpkins or several square yards of leftover “cobwebs.”

The whole idea here is to create absorbing activities that a child can take part in, and fill the weeks that lead up to the holiday with these activities. Every minute that a child spends painting props or creating fright wigs, is a minute they are not using to feed their faces. Imagination and ingenuity can be sparked, and maybe even lead to new interests that will influence a child’s educational path or vocational inclination. Some day, when your daughter or son is the most acclaimed makeup artist in the horror movie field, and also not morbidly obese, you might look back on these humble beginnings as the best idea your family ever had.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Nezumi66/Public Domain

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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