Halloween falls on
October 31st each year. Although it's origins are somewhat
disputed, Halloween is generally believed to have originated
from the old pagan holy day Samhain, the time when the veils
between the worlds grew thin and the dead could communicate with
the living. It was thought that spirits might be seen walking
on the night of Samhain, and that evil spirits might do one
harm. Jack O' Lanterns are thought to have originated as
an attempt to scare away evil spirits. The word
"Halloween" is derived from the earlier name "All Hallows Eve".
People having been telling each
other spooky tales for hundreds, probably thousands, of years.
This collection of short ghost stories from the American
Folklore website, includes the Black Dog of West Peak and
the ghosts of the White House.
More spooky tales collected from
North Carolina, including the Maco Light -- a tale of a headless
train engineer reliving his last moments before the train crash
that killed him and who, ever after, searches the swamps for his
pencil illustrations in a realistic style
effectively communicate Jamie's pride as a very
young gardener. He plants a seed, then grows and
harvests a pumpkin from which he saves seeds for
next year. The large, detailed drawings capture
Jamie's anticipation and pleasure just right. The
garden creatures appearing on every page and
grandpa, whom we catch sight of now and then, are a
delightful supporting cast. Nonreaders can easily
follow the story in pictures alone. Parents and
educators working with young children shouldn't miss
this satisfying book in the tradition of Ruth Krauss
and Crockett Johnson's The Carrot Seed
and Bijou Le Tord's Rabbit Seeds.
If you like the "Brown Bear, Brown Bear"
book illustrated by Eric Carle, you'll love this Halloween version of
the story using an orange jack o' lantern, white ghost, green witch and
etc. to help children learn their colors, develop listening skills, and
pattern recognition. The only hitch? You'll have to
either trace the patterns provided or draw the images free hand onto the
felt. We did ours drawing free hand. But you can buy
graphite paper at the craft store (such as Michael's) to lay over the
felt (black side down), then cover with the pattern picture and trace.
As you press your pencil down, following the lines, the graphite
transfers the lines onto the felt. You can then trace over these
lines with your permanent marker. Then just cut out the
shapes and embellish, if you wish, with puff paint and small googly
For this fun and simple fingerplay,
children pretend to grip the handle of an imaginary stirring spoon.
Be sure to explain that a "brew" is a big pot of witch's stew (or etc.)
so they can make sense of the stirring. This is a super
popular preschool song that even young toddlers can do.
I'm stirring and stirring and
stirring my brew<hands hold "stick" and stir
with big circular motions>
out forward in wave-like motion, like a spooky gust of wind>
out forward in wave-like motion, like a spooky gust of wind>
Stirring and stirring and stirring
my brew <hands hold "stick" and stir with big circular
hands out forward in wave-like motion, like a spooky gust of wind>
hands out forward in wave-like motion, like a spooky gust of wind>
Tip toe, tip toe, tip toe
<using 2 fingers on each hand, pantomime them walking forward>
fingers suddenly explode forward, hands opening all at once, fingers
splayed open -- as if to startle>
For added fun, say the "tip toe" part in
a very soft voice, then "Boo!" with a very loud voice.
Five Little Pumpkins
This popular fingerplay can also be a
flannel board story. Simply cut out five pumpkin shapes from
orange felt and decorate each with a jack o' lantern face. We like
to use a sharpie (permanent) marker to color the face, then go over it
with black fabric paint (squeezable puff paint). As another
option, you can print jack o' lantern pictures (including clip art) onto
printable transfer paper, then cut out the jack o' lanterns and iron
them onto the felt. Note that "dark T-shirt" transfer paper shows
up best on colored felt, however regular transfer sheets will generally
blend into the orange of the felt, making a fun effect. (You
can always highlight with permanent marker and/or puff paint.)
When using transfer sheets, be sure to read instructions carefully.
If you have trouble getting your pieces to stick to the flannel board,
hot glue a tiny piece of velcro to the back -- use only the stiff
There were 5 little pumpkins
sitting on a gate.<Hold up 5 fingers. Use your other
hand, laying sideways, to be the gate.>
First one said, "Oh my it's getting late!"
The second one said, "There are witches in the air."<Hold up second finger>
The third one said, "But we don't care."
The fourth one said, "I'm ready for some fun!"
up fourth finger>
The fifth one said, "Let's run and run and run!"<Hold up fifth finger. Pantomime running, with feet.>
Then "wooooo" went the wind,<sweep both hands out forward
and up, with spooky wiggling fingers -- like a spooky gust of wind>
and OUT went the lights. <while arms are still out
in front, straight, clap hands together loudly>
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.<roll
fists around each other, as for "wheels on the bus go round and
Black bat, black bat fly around. Black bat, black bat touch the ground. Black bat, black bat fly up high. Black bat, black bat touch the sky.
A small bat puppet works well for this
song. With it you can act out the words of the song.
Children can act it out with their hands, or with paper bats that they
have made for art.
Itsy Bitsy Spider
The itsy bitsy spider went up the
water spout<crawl fingers up imaginary spout>
Down came the rain<raise
hands then lower them with fingers wiggling>
and washed the spider out.<hands crossed at wrists sweep apart>
Up came the sun<make circle
with arms, or hands, and raise>
and dried up all the rain.<raised hands swish gently, slowly from side to side while lowering>
And the itsy bitsy spider went up the
Play Raffi's "Spider On The Floor" song
and let children act it out, with the spider crawling on the floor,
leg, etc. Get a party pack of spider rings and give one
to each child to use with the song.
Or create spider "puppets" by cutting pieces
of super thick black yarn and tying them together. The black
strands are the "legs". Use one extra long piece (18"-24") to
tie it together and act as the string handle that children hold to
wiggle the "spider".
Lead the children in
Knees and Toes" while wearing a spider puppet on one hand.
Be sure to crawl it around at the start and finish for smiles and
Put on silly spooky Halloween party music and
have kids move like different Halloween characters, walking
with stiff arms and legs like a mummy or Frankenstein monster,
flapping their arms to fly like a bat, moving slowly on all fours
like a spider, panting and running (on 2 legs or 4) and howling like
a werewolf, twirling about and swishing their wands like a fairy
princess, etc. For extra challenge and fun, play
"freeze" -- having them freeze their position each time you pause
Lesson plan for helping students write
their own ghost stories, based on family tales, urban legends, or their
own imaginations. Also helps kids understand the function of the
great tales handed down through the ages -- in the days before
television and the printed word.
The Story Map interactive is designed to assist students
in prewriting and post-reading activities by focusing on the key elements
of character, setting, conflict, and resolution.
Not all kids are allowed to celebrate
Halloween because some adults see it as a celebration of things that are
scary and even evil. But read this article on the Christian
origins of All Hallows Eve (Halloween), and discuss it with your friends
and family. Do you think Halloween is "bad for kids", or do
you agree with the writer that spiritual faith means we can have a sense
of humor about life, even the parts that would try to scare us and bring
Check out this cool National Geographic
site about real mummies. Learn about the different ways that
mummies are created and find out what cultures -- and what conditions in
nature -- create them. A fun exercise in mummy detective work is
Pumpkin Sink or Float Experiments
Gather an assortment of Halloween and
fall items to see what sinks and floats. Fill a water table, dish
tub, or sink with water. Let kids experiment and record
their results on a chart. Possible items: pumpkins of
varying sizes, gourds, apples, ears of corn, plastic skeleton and other
the Yuckiest site on the web -- but in a good way -- Worm World has
interesting facts about worms and their role in the ecosystem.
What better time to check out creepy crawlies than Halloween!
Creepy Cannibal Squid!
Blood Sucking Assassin Bug!
Counting Survey & Graphing
Get a notebook or a clipboard and keep
track of what kinds of costumes you see this Halloween. How
many pirates? How many princesses? Monsters? If
you're not sure what someone's supposed to be, just ask! The
next day, you can make a graph to represent your data.
If you want to get really fancy, try
graphing age versus costume type -- you'll have to ask kids their age
for this of course. Find out if some kinds of costumes are
more popular with younger kids, older kids, or teens. And what
about adults? What kinds of costumes do they usually choose?
(Note: this might be the ideal project if
you've decided to stay home and pass out the candy on Halloween, if
you're stuck home with a cold. But if you can tote a clipboard and
keep track of what's going on even while trick-or-treating, then give it
a try. Just watch out for cars -- and goblins!)
See how number and spacing affects
texture and shape. Use this Math Cats program to draw string art
spider webs. Just set the sliders to different numbers to
create different looking webs. Don't forget to "reset" between
webs. See if you can create a web that looks like some you've seen
out in nature.
Every year your parents have to estimate
how many children will come to the door, so they know how much candy to
purchase. Help them figure it out this year. And then
try estimating some other things this Halloween: how many kids in
a "scream" mask are you likely to see, how many houses will give out
candy, how many neighbors will decorate their yards with a pumpkin (a
ghost, a scarecrow, etc.), and so on. You'll have to draw on
your memories from previous Halloweens in order to make your
Then on Halloween, use a small notebook
or a clipboard to keep track of your estimated predictions.
Jot down the number of each house with a pumpkin and etc. and then add
it all up to see how your predictions matched what really happened.
How close were you?
For extra credit: try to express
the relation between predictions and outcomes in percentages.
For example, if you predicted that 10 houses would display a scarecrow,
but only 8 did, then only 80% of the predicted scarecrows were
displayed. Or if you predicted that 10 out of 100 houses
would have bat decorations, then you predicted that 10% would have bats.
Estimating and Counting Pumpkin Seeds
Lay out some old newspapers on top of the
kitchen table and cut open a pumpkin -- then estimate how many seeds it
contains. (Be sure to check with your parents first!) Of
course, you'll have to count the seeds when you're done to see how close
you came! But after you've gone to all that work of
separating the seeds from the pulp you can toss them onto a baking
sheet, spritz them with an oil spray, salt them and toast them up for
eating. (Bake at 250 degrees F for 15 minutes.)
More Pumpkin Estimating
Try to guess how much your pumpkins weigh
just by looking at them, and visually comparing them to other things
(like a 5 pound bag of sugar, etc.)! Now pick them up and make a
new guess, based on the apparent heaviness. Then check this
guess against the bathroom scale. How close did you come?
Was your pumpkin heavier or lighter than you expected? Why
do you think this is?
Next, try to predict how many inches
around your pumpkin is (circumference). Then get out a
dressmaker's tape measure and measure around the fat part of the
pumpkin. (Or wrap a piece of yarn around, then compare the
length of the yarn to a ruler or yardstick.) How close were
you? Now try the same thing, measuring in centimeters.
When you're all done, cut the pumpkin
open (with adult help) and take a look at the inside. If your
pumpkin was much lighter than you expected, it may be because it was
rather dry inside. If it was heavier than expected, then it may be
very moist and pulpy inside.
Check out these adorable, and easy, crafts from
Family Fun. Pick up your flour and salt at a bulk discount
source like Smart & Final or Costco to make even large classroom
batches of salt dough inexpensive. The best thing about these
ghosts is that they are open-ended and cook up in the microwave.
You don't carve these pumpkins, but they will brighten up your home
inside or out with their adorable good looks.
The craft instructions call for wooden skewers or toothpicks, but we
found that heavy gauge floral/craft wire worked even better.
Another tip: while it's great to let kids brush on their own
coat of paint, an adult can speed up the prep by spray
painting in advance. (Helpful for when the project must be
completed and dry to go home in a short time.)
Hand Print Spider MobileFold
a piece of black construction paper in half. Place the "heel"
of your hand over the fold and trace your hand. Now cutout the
handprint -- without cutting through the
folded section! Now, unfold the print and you have a
spidery shape. Glue on some googly eyes and attach a piece of
thread, yarn, or string to hang your spider (elastic string is
great). Very cute craft for young children.
(Note: since spiders only
have 8 legs, you can snip off paper thumbs, or simply overlap heel
of palm more deeply onto paper, and don't bother with tracing the