Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. First of all, people just give you chocolate. And I loved becoming someone or something else for a single night. And did I mention the chocolate?So I got to thinking: What if I could combine my love for Halloween with my love for learning? Here are some holiday-themed activities that can be adapted for any child in pre-K through sixth grade. I do recognize that the candy may fly into the mouth faster than you can say “Boo!” Still, these activities offer ways to build school-based skills into the October fun.
Candy Classification (Science)Now, some of you may need to hide the candy to save it for trick-or-treaters. Still, if it’s possible to have the candy out, try classification. Classification, or sorting, is a foundation skill of many science lessons. Begin with some easy classifications: Sort candy by color or size. Push yourselves to come up with as many ways to classify as possible. Does weight work? Ingredients? Texture? Wrapper type? You might come up with the first category to model the game and your child can come up with the next. If candy is too tempting, this is a game you can play with virtually anything: fall leaves, houses, costumes, etc.
Terrifying Tales (English)Granted, your child’s costume may evolve (that is, totally change) by the end of the month. Still, it’s fun to create imaginary adventures for a character based on her choice of Halloween outfit. Whether your child is a Rubik’s cube or a princess, she can decide what her favorite food, color and activity might be. What’s her name? Where was she born? What are her parents like? Does she have pets? You could begin the story with “Once upon a time, there was a pig named Betsy…” Your child can deliver the next line as you build a story together, alternating sentences. Given that my child’s current plan is to be a flying pig, we’ve had fun thinking about when the pig got its wings. (Bonus: This is a favorite distraction for a rough car ride.)
Have your child count out five candies from the loot bag. Now that one is in his mouth, how many are left? How can we get the number back to five? Subtract one from the loot pile and add it to the eating pile. For older children, you might get adventurous with multiplication. Simply create a grid of candy. For instance, create 2 rows of 3 candies. By counting across the top and down the side your child will see that 2 x 3 equals the amount of candies all together (6). Was math ever so yummy?
Sumptuous Subtraction (Math)
Devilish Descriptors (English and Health)See if you can use the five senses to explore the candy. Try this along with your child. Each of you first examines the candy in the wrapper. What are some things you notice? Place the candy near your ear and crinkle the wrapping. Unwrap it. Break off a piece and bring it to your nose. Slowly, place it in your mouth, inviting yourself (and your child) to simply taste before chewing. Then chew slowly for several bites. Finally, swallow.
What was that like? You could do this in silence or talk as you experience it, honing your child’s ability to describe. Try closing your eyes while you experience an unknown candy. What are some of the tastes and smells you detect? We all know it’s hard to restrain our impulses in the best of situations, and it may be Herculean when chocolate is nearby. Consider: How much healthier would we all be if we truly appreciated and tasted every bite of food, candy or otherwise?
Horrifying History (Social Studies)For older children, look into the origins of the holiday. Check out http://www.history.com/content/halloween for some short videos explaining how Halloween came to America all the way from ancient Celtic culture. Who knows? Your 10th-grader might want to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. And your fourth-grader may want to investigate those ancient Celts.
Scary Stories (English)I asked some local teachers and librarians for their favorite books that go “Boo!” Julie Daniels, a speech and language pathologist at Main Street Early Education Program and a YogaKids teacher, loves Where’s the Halloween Treat? by Harriet Ziefert to build vocabulary for preschoolers. It’s a fun lift-the-flap book that kids adore. For the kindergarten-through-third-grade set, Sally Daniels, a longtime librarian in the North Syracuse Central School District, recommends the pun-filled The Hallo-weiner by Dave Pilkey, which the School Library Journal calls “the funniest Halloween story ever written.”
For students in third or fourth grades, Quinn Gardner, children’s librarian at Petit Branch Library in Syracuse, suggests Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery, a funny story by Deborah and James Howe about a family who discover a baby rabbit while watching Dracula in the movie theater. For kids in fourth grade or above who crave scary-story shivers, Gardner proposes Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz. If your child hasn’t yet discovered poetry, try It’s Halloween, by Jack Prelutsky. Gardner also reminds us that Halloween might be the perfect opportunity to discover Harry Potter. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first book in the Harry Potter series and is great for kids from 8 to 100.
Emma Kress, a teacher at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, has held a variety of educational posts at levels from pre-K to 12th grade. Send comments about this article to email@example.com.