First of all, you should know that I am no Halloween expert. I've never been particularly into "spooky season." The sight of bones, skulls, zombies, and gore make me slightly uncomfortable. In fact, when my oldest child was five, my husband gave me a nudge to buy a few Halloween decorations for the house. I let him know that fall decor was my jam and I didn't really want to display witches and bats. Still, he encouraged me to do it for the kids. So I did. I now own handful of cheery Halloween-specific items. That's it.
That said, I have learned over the last ten years that kids do love Halloween, so I try to make it festive. This year, I hosted a Halloween Book Breakfast, which is definitely the beginning of an annual tradition!
You want to know which books to read? I've got you covered. You want to make some fun foods? I can help with that. You want to plan a party that's low-key and stress-free? I know how to make it happen.
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First, the books.
Whether you read two or twenty, you can make the time spent together special. After all, reading aloud is all about connection. Here are my favorite Halloween picture books:
Ghosts in the House (Kohara)
We read this three times at our book breakfast. It's short, delightfully creative, and not a bit scary. A little witch moves into a haunted home. She gathers up all the ghosts and... puts them in the washing machine. You'll have to read it to find out what happens when they're clean and dry!
A Job for Wittilda (Buehner)
Not a Halloween-specific book, but it's about a witch, so it's close enough. I could read this book and stare at the illustrations every week for the rest of my life. Wittilda loves cats. In fact, she has forty-seven of them. But it's getting hard to feed them, so she goes out in search of a job. The hair salon doesn't exactly work out for her. But she finds just the right fit when a pizza parlor needs a delivery person.
Bonaparte Falls Apart (Cuyler)
Poor Bonaparte is a little skeleton who is falling to pieces. Every time he throws a ball or rides a bike, he loses bones. His monster friends try creative approaches to help him stay together. The illustrations are sweet and so is the story.
The Little Kitten (Killen)
This one doesn't scream "Halloween" but it involves dressing up, cats, fall leaves, and a witch, so I definitely think it counts. Little Ollie (dressed as a cat) takes her kitten to play in the woods. While there, they discover a lost cat and help him find his way home. I love the black & white drawings, paper cut-outs and shimmery leaves.
Stumpkin is practically perfect. He's bright orange, perfectly round, and has no bad side. But he has a stump instead of a stem and nobody seems to want a Jack-o-lantern without a stem.
Pick a Pumpkin (Toht)
This rhyming text takes readers through a familiar tradition of picking pumpkins from a patch, enjoying cider and donuts, and carving the pumpkins into glowing jack-o-lanterns. The illustrations are as nostalgic as the story.
No Such Thing (Bailey)
The illustrations make this story a standout. It's out of print, so check your library. It tells of Georgia, who observes strange things happening. But she has all the evidence to assure herself that there's no such thing as ghosts.
Room on the Broom (Donaldson)
A classic! When a witch and her cat ride through the sky on their broom, the wind picks up and snatches the witch's hat, bow, and wand. Animals kindly gather her things, but each wants to ride on the broom. Will there be room for everyone?
Creepy Carrots (Reynolds)
Not a Halloween book, but with spooky themes and a black-and-orange color palette, it's practically perfect. Jasper Rabbit eats carrots everywhere he goes. Until one day, when the carrots start following him.
The Scariest Book Ever (Shea)
The ghost narrator is terrified of what might happen on the next page. If you decide to turn the page, he's not coming with you. But, with the turn of each page, the reader will discover that there's nothing scary at all.
It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse (Numeroff)
This board book has the familiar face of Mouse (from "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" fame) and is just right for toddlers. Mouse has seven pumpkins on which to paint faces. He paints different expressions on each. Little ones will love seeing the happy, scary, silly, and surprised pumpkin faces.
It's an alphabet board book, but the retro illustrations are sure to make adults swoon. "C is for Candy. D is for Dracula." The text is simple, but this book is a winner for it's dandy pictures.
Next, the food.
I prefer to serve food that I can prepare easily in advance. All of these recipes fit the bill! I like to involve kids in making some items, then surprise them with others.
Go-Go Squeeze Halloween-themed applesauce pouches
Ghoul's Mix M&Ms
* Nutter Butter cookies * white Wilton candy melts * Wilton candy eyes *
Melt white Wilton candy melts in microwave. Dip top side of each cookie in melted white chocolate. Add 2 candy eyes. Add sprinkles, if desired. Place on parchment paper to cool and harden
Apple Slices with Caramel and Spider Webs
* Sliced apples * caramel dip * dark chocolate chips * white Wilton candy melts *
Place 1/3 c. dark chocolate chips in ziploc bag. Melt in microwave. Cut a small hole in one corner to use ziploc as a piping bag. Pipe spider webs onto parchment paper. It's easiest to start with an "X", then add lines in between. Once you have the framework, scallop the interior web. Repeat the process with white candy melts. Allow to harden completely on parchment paper.
Slice apples and arrange on platter. Drizzle caramel dip over apples. Tip: if you subscribe to the Digital Play Pack, this month's PDF has an excellent and easy recipe for caramel. Place hardened spider webs on top.
Mandarin Orange Cups
* mandarin oranges (canned or fresh segments) * orange cupcake liners or nut cups *
Place orange slices in cupcake liners. That's it. I told you these 'recipes' were easy.
* white paper cups * black marker * milk *
Let kids draw ghost faces on paper cups. Pour milk and serve.
* cake donuts * plastic fangs * Wilton candy eyes *
Cut apart top and bottom section of fangs. Cut 1/4 inch off the back of each to shorten. Push fangs into center of donut. Add eyes.
* celery sticks * creamy peanut butter * Wilton candy eyes *
Pat celery sticks with paper towel until dry. Place a scoop of creamy peanut butter in a small ziploc bag. Cut hole in one corner of the bag. Squeeze bag to pipe into celery. Decorate with candy eyes.
Salted Caramel Popcorn
(recipe from Offbeat Butters)
12 c. air-popped popcorn
1/2 c. Offbeat brand Salted Caramel Butter
1/2 c. raw honey
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. dark chocolate chips
1/4 c. white chocolate chips
dash sea salt
Add Salted Caramel Butter, honey, and vanilla to a saucepan and heat on low. Stir until melted together and smooth.
Place popcorn in a large bowl. Pour hot caramel mixture over the top and stir until well coated. Dump onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Place the chocolate chips in two separate bowls. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between until smooth
Drizzle chocolate and white chocolate over popcorn, then sprinkle sea salt over the top. Let chocolate harden before eating.
Last, the logistics.
In advance of the party, set out books. Display them on the buffet table, kitchen counters, dining table, on easels. Make them the star of the show! I promise, it won't matter whether or not the books are familiar favorites or new titles. The kids won't care if the books are bought or borrowed. Most of all, they want time with YOU. The act of centering a celebration on reading together will help you create connection with your kids.
Set a festive table. I'm a big fan of paper plates for ease of cleanup. Plus, they're cute! You might set out pumpkins, throw confetti or spiders across the table, use a Halloween tablecloth, or light orange candles. Just make it colorful and out of the ordinary.
Prepare a craft or simple activity. I printed coloring pages for the kids to work on as they arrived. Once everyone is gathered, we moved on to the food and books.
I invite children to fill their plates with foods they choose, then sit down at the table.
I let each child have the chance to select a book! Choice is so important and empowering to kids.
I always read while they color and eat. When kids' hands and mouths are busy, they'll be able to sustain attention longer. Always follow their lead. If they start to leave the table to go find toys, I don't push it. Continue to read to those who are interested.
I like to let kids play in a physical way. Run around outside. Play on the swings or slide, or play tag. Jump like Jack-o-lanterns or move like mummies. After the kids have wiggled, they're often interested in another story.
I hope these ideas give you a starting point for planning a Halloween Book Breakfast that will create memories and connection in your own family!