There’s something ghoulish in the air of October. The cooler winds blow summer away and yield to winter’s beginnings. October culminates with Halloween, a holiday that’s eerie, spooky, and full of treats. Build anticipation with your group for the month end holiday using the activity ideas below. Members will surely have a “Spooktacular October.”
PUMPKIN PAINTING – Provide a small pumpkin for each participant, or ask participants to work in small teams to decorate a larger pumpkin. Set out a variety of acrylic paints, paintbrushes, water, paper towels, glitter, and other craft supplies, turn on some Halloween music, and let their creativity take over. Then, display finished pumpkins throughout your facility. (If using real pumpkins, dispose of them before they get soft.)
CARAMEL APPLE BAR – Set out bowls of soft caramel, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, and other toppings. Ask your dining team to slice apples right before the activity so that they don’t brown. Instruct members to pick up apple slices with a skewer or lollipop stick, dip in the caramel, then dip in a topping of their choice. Assist members as needed. (Provide options for people on special diets.)
REMEMBERING THE GHOUL TIMES – Reminisce with participants about Halloween. Ask about their favorite costumes, how they put together their costumes, any Halloween pranks they participated in, and how they celebrated Halloween as kids. Reminisce about carving pumpkins, haunted houses, and trick-or-treating. Display Halloween props, such as pumpkins, witch hats, flashlights, or Halloween masks to prompt memories.
WHO DONE IT – This game works best in smaller groups, no more than 10-12 participants. Give each participant an index card and pen. Ask them to write one fact about themselves that most people don’t already know. Examples are: “I went skydiving” or “I’ve traveled to six different countries.” Once everyone finishes, collect their cards and shuffle. Distribute one card per participant. Each person takes a turn reading aloud the card they’ve been given. This person then has to guess who wrote the card. The guessed person simply says “yes” or “no.” If the first person guessed correctly, give the guessed person a chance to share more details about their fact. If guessed incorrectly, collect the card and move on to the next person. At the end of the game, reread each card that hasn’t been correctly identified and ask the writer to reveal themselves.
OLD WIVES TALES – October is a great month to discuss old wives’ tales (or superstitions or urban legends) with your group. Prior to the activity, do a quick internet search for a list of tales and their origins. Then, ask participants to share any tales they’ve heard. When participants run out of tales, begin to share some you’ve found on the internet. Share the origins and discuss if the tale is fact or fiction.
SAFE TRICK-OR-TREAT – Invite a school group preschool group, or nearby neighbors for a safe, indoor trick-or-treat. Station members with buckets of candy or other treats around your activity area. As children attend, direct them in a single path so that they stop at each station. Encourage your members to come in costume.
SENIOR TRICK-OR-TREAT – Bring back the nostalgia of this kid-favorite activity by planning a senior trick-or-treat. Set up a few trick-or-treat stations throughout your facility, such as the nursing stations, dining room, common spaces, front desk, and/or director offices. Ask staff or volunteers to pass out candy or other treats to participants. Set parameters around the time. Provide participants with Halloween hats, capes, silly glasses, wigs, and other accessories. Parade around your facility as a group, stopping at each designated station.
MUSICAL SPELL – Invite members to come sit for a spell and listen to haunting classical music. The first few notes of J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor is enough to send chills down the back and spark Halloween memories. Find a copy of the song on the internet or at the library. Play the piece and encourage members to close their eyes while listening. Then, ask participants how the music made them feel and what memories it brought back to them. Other possible pieces of music: “Night on Bald Mountain” or “Danse Macabre.”
ALL-INCLUSIVE COSTUME CONTEST – Take your costume contest to the next level this year by turning it into an all-inclusive costume contest. Ask staff to pair with members who might need assistance dressing up, so that no one feels left out. Themes could include Disney characters/movies, celebrity couples, group band, a box of crayons, or characters from a fairy tale.
BOO BASH – October isn’t complete without an epic Halloween party. Work with your dining team to lay out a Halloween-inspired Boo Bash. Hire an entertainer to play some appropriate tunes (e.g. “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf,” “My Favorite Things,” “Thriller,” “Age of Aquarius,” “Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Witchcraft.”) Create a photo backdrop using black, orange, purple, and green streamers. End with a costume contest, awarding prizes to scariest, silliest, best couple, most original, and best team effort. Serve apple cider and pumpkin cookies.
SPIDER WEB LANTERNS – Here are two fun ways to add homemade Halloween decor with your group. Insert a battery operated votive candle to the spider web mason jar lanterns and use as centerpieces at your Boo Bash or in dining rooms. Make these spider nest lanterns earlier in the month and hang them from the ceiling to create a haunting look.
HALLOWEEN FEATURE FILM – First aired in 1966, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, is a classic Halloween special that you can’t skip. Feature this animated comedy and turn it into an intergenerational family event.
SPOOKTACULAR OCTOBER TRIVIA
- Which candy was the first wrapped penny candy in America: Peppermints, Tootsie Rolls, or Laffy Taffy? Tootsie Rolls
- Halloween is the second-most commercially-successful holiday, but which holiday comes in first? Christmas
- Halloween is said to have originated in which country: Ireland, Scotland, or England? Ireland
- Jack O’ Lanterns weren’t always carved out of pumpkins. From which vegetable were they originally made? Turnips
- Which Christian religious day comes the day after Halloween? All Saints (Hallows) Day
- Which popular fall festival activity did the Romans bring to Britain when they invaded? Bobbing for apples
- Trick-or-treating, as we know it today, started gaining popularity in the U.S. during which decade? 1930s
- Approximately 90% of parents admit to doing what with their children’s Halloween loot? Eating it
- What are the colors on a piece of candy corn? Yellow, orange, white
- It’s said to be bad luck to have which animal cross your path, especially on Halloween? Black cat
SPOOKTACULAR OCTOBER THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.” ~ Erma Bombeck
“Spooktacular October” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2019 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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