A Preschool Halloween Curriculum
Halloween Customs and Traditions (History and Social Studies)
by: Fran Wisniewski
Halloween is based on an ancient Celtic holiday known as Samhain [sah-win] which means, "summer's end".
Halloween is a very old holiday that is still celebrated in countries around the world today, and each country has it's own interesting set of customs and traditions. Myths and legends surround this mysteriously spooky holiday, but Halloween can also be a lot of fun with a little imagination and creativity!
Halloween is a major event in our home. We go apple and pumpkin picking, make crafts to put around the house, read spooky stories, bake, attend parties, trick or treat and many other fun activities. We've made a tradition out of the things we like to do during the fall season and we've had a lot of fun doing it.
We try to add something new to our family tradition each year and now it seems as though the whole month of October is just a series of events that lead up to Halloween!
What kind of fun activities do you do with your family around Halloween time? Are there places you like to go, events you enjoy attending, or activities you look forward to doing with your family and friends every year?
Talk to your child about some of your family traditions; tell them what you used to do for Halloween and ask them what they would like to do. If you don't have any traditions, think about making some! While your talking about traditions, why not make a memory by making a Halloween fun book!
Get our popular eBooks designed to instill
a life-long love of learning! They include:
Learning with Little Lulu Lemon — This exciting eBook includes over 25 fun, hands-on activities and recipes themed around the versatile lemon that the whole family will enjoy.
Universal Preschool's Learning Calendar! — Enjoy over 190 fun, historic, and event-themed activities for learning with little ones all year long.
These eBooks will save you time and money and give your children a head start on early learning in a fun, playful, and developmentally appropriate way.
Click HERE to Order or Learn More!
Halloween Fun Book (Writing)
What does your child like the most about Halloween? Find out with this fun activity!
Here's what you'll need:
- 1 page of black and 1 page of orange construction paper (other colors can be used also)
- Old magazines with a Halloween theme and/or Halloween graphics
- Hole punch
- Gel pens or white crayon (for black paper)
- Markers (for orange)
- Cut each page of construction paper into 4 equal parts. (Ask your child to put the pages together any way they like to form a book.)
- Punch 2-3 holes on one side of the book (your child might need some help doing this).
- Tie off each hole with yarn to bind the book.
- *Ask your child to look through old magazines and cut out pictures of the things they like most about Halloween.
- Have your child glue pictures to the back and front of each page of the book. (Don't forget to glue the corners!)
- Write the name of each picture someplace on the page. (Use big bold letters.)
- Invite your child to decorate the front, choose a title, and write their names when they are through.
*Graphics Option: Print graphics in black and white and ask your child to color them in before cutting them out. Continue with instructions.
Tip: Encourage your child to put just one type of picture on each page. If your child chooses to put a pumpkin (or 3 pumpkins) on one page, you can put the letter "P" in the upper right hand corner and the word "Pumpkin(s)" below the picture.
Variation 1: Write "3 Orange Pumpkins" below the pictures to make a color and counting book.
Variation 2: Make a Halloween scrapbook. Take pictures of the things you do before and on Halloween or use pictures from last year. Caption each page by using your child's words under each picture.
Halloween with Corduroy! (Reading)
What are some of Corduroy's favorite things to do for Halloween? Read and find out!
(A Lift-the-Flap book) by B. G. Hennessy
(Character Created by Don Freeman)
Corduroy is getting ready for Halloween! Join Corduroy as he goes pumpkin picking with his friends, enters a painting contest, and some other fun things. But wait! Someone is following Corduroy everywhere he goes! Can your child guess who it is and where he/she can be found next?
Hint: Corduroy's cute little friend can be found on every page!
Corduroy's Best Halloween Ever! by Don Freeman
Corduroy is having a Halloween party! What will Corduroy's costume be and what will he do when one of his friends ruin theirs? Read and find out how Corduroy makes sure everyone has fun on Halloween!
If you can barrow the two books from your library at the same time, you can have twice the fun!
"Corduroy's Halloween" (must be the lift-the-flap version) and "Corduroy's Best Halloween Ever!" are very similar books, but each have a different story to tell. The books share many of the same fun pictures, but the pages that look the same are just a little bit different. Compare the two books and find out who can spot the differences first!
Carving Pumpkins (Social Studies)
People around the world have carved lanterns out of vegetables and gourds for centuries. When the Irish began coming to America, they found that pumpkins were larger and easier to carve than turnips, so they decide to keep carving pumpkins!
When you carve a face into a pumpkin it is called a, "Jack-O-Lantern". A Jack-O-Lantern is believed to keep out evil spirits on Halloween night.
Ask your child to get to know their pumpkin a little bit better with the following activities:
- Look at the pumpkin and feel it. Is the outside smooth or rough? What does the stem feel like?
- Find out if pumpkins float or sink!
- What does your pumpkin weigh before you carve it? What does it weigh after?
- Take a tape measure and find out how big your pumpkin is!
- How many seeds do you think your pumpkin has?
Create a Pumpkin! (Math)
Before you carve some real pumpkins of your own, play this fun pumpkin game and get some practice making faces. The sites below have downloadable pumpkins and face parts that can be easily incorporated into the game. You can also make your own game pieces with the directions below.
What you'll need for the homemade version:
- Construction paper (orange, green, brown, yellow and black)
- 1 die with dots
For the template version:
- Templates from these sites:
- Jack-o'-Lantern Faces Cut and Paste Crafts
- Craft Pumpkin
- Crayons, markers or paint
- 1 die with dots
Homemade version: Cut out fun shaped pieces for your pumpkin: Make long and short bodies, eyes, nose, mouth and a curvy stem. (If you make eyebrows use straight lines, wavy lines and other fun types of lines) Be creative by using triangles, circles, squares and other fun shapes for the pumpkin's face. Make a flower for the nose or oval eyes if you want!
Template version: Ask your child to color the template pieces and cut them out together.
How to play:
The object of the game is to give your pumpkin a fun face and to be as creative as possible.
Each number on the die represents a pumpkin part. You'll a need to roll a 1 in order to get a pumpkin body and begin the game. (If you get a number other than 1 you can not take the part until you have a body.) Allow the youngest player to start the game. You can use the suggested rules or make up your own. Allow your child to count the dots on the die and pick the body part that corresponds to that number.
- Pumpkin Body
- Eyebrow or some other piece
Playing with Additional pieces: If you would like to add other fun decorations consider: a leaf, cheeks, hat, hands, feet and hair! Don't forget to use different types of eyes, noses, mouths and stems to keep it interesting.
Bonus Activity: When the game is through, ask your child to pick a pumpkin shape that matches his/her pumpkin and put on the eyes, nose and mouth that they would like a parent to carve out of the real pumpkin!
Want some more practice making pumpkin faces:
Go Batty with Science! (Science)
Halloween is a great time to introduce your child to the most fascinating flying mammal if all: the bat. In the book "The Truth about Bats (The Magic School Bus)" by Eva Moore you and your child can learn about these amazing creatures together.
"Dancing Bat" (Experiment)
This fun yet simple experiment will help your child to understand how a magnet works. Parents are encouraged to do a bit of prep work to save time.
- A small clean glass baby food jar with a metal lid
- White or blue sewing thread (pre-measure so that the bat will be centered in the jar when it hangs down)
- 1 paper clip
- 2 semi-strong magnets that will fit inside the lid
- Clear tape
- 2 of the same bat pictures, stickers, graphics, or cut outs that will fit the width of the jar (the length of a paper clip works great)
- Blue paint and brush
Note: Never let your child put a magnet in their mouth!
Tip: A clear plastic container can be used instead of glass. If you're using a container with a plastic lid, glue one magnet to the inside center of the lid ahead of time.
- Ask your child to paint half of the outside of the jar like a night sky and let it dry. (If your child wants to add a moon and stars with yellow or white paint, have them do that first then paint half the jar blue when dry.)
- While you are waiting for the paint to dry, asking your child to cut out the right size bat for the jar. (The bat should be able to move around the jar freely and not get stuck on the sides. You might want to trace or have the right size bat waiting for your child.)
- You child can then take the paper clip and thread and tape them to the back of one bat. The paper clip should go from wing to wing if you don't want it to be seen. The thread should go up toward the head if you want it to "dance" up right.
- Have your child cover the back with another bat to hide the paper clip and thread. (clear or double stick tape can be used for this step if you are not using stickers)
- Put a small piece of tape on the other side of the thread and adhere it to the bottom of the jar. The bat should be centered in the jar.
- Put a magnet on the jar lid (inside or out) and close the jar.
- The bottom is now the top so put the metal side down on the table and your bat should "dance" around inside. Give the jar a giggle if it stops.
How it works:
If your child wants to know why the bat is "dancing around", let them try and figure it out before you explain it to them.
Explain that the magnet is attracted to the paper clip. The magnet pulls the paper clip toward it and that makes it seem as though the bat is dancing round in the jar.
Give your child another magnet and let them "attract" the bat from the outside of the jar. What happens when the magnet is put on top of the jar? On the side? Around and around?
Talk to your child about "repel" and "attract"
When two magnets come together they are "attracted" to each other.
When the magnets push away from each other, they are "repelling".
If your child has more questions, you can explain that magnets have two poles: a north pole and a south pole. Like poles "repel" each other while opposite poles are "attracted" to one another.
The bat will move toward the magnet. Use different strengths of magnets and observe how the bat reacts. The bat will go crazy when you put it between two like poles if you use strong enough magnets!
Encourage your child to explore other objects around the house to see how they react when a magnet is near.
A word of warning: Keep magnets away from babies, credit cards, VHS and cassette tapes and other electronics!
Variation: Make a "Dancing Ghost" or "Dancing Spider" instead of a bat. To make the ghost read, The Magic School Bus Gets A Bright Idea for the spider read, The Magic School Bus: Spins A Web before doing the project.
Kooky Clay! (Science and Math)
Trick or Treat Bag (Art)
If your child is going to go trick or treating, then they will need something to put all their treats in! Your child will have a great time making this creative container!
You'll need: a sturdy paper bag with a handle and craft supplies such as stickers, stamps, markers, stencils, Halloween pictures, glue, scissors ect.
Allow your child to decorate the bag any way they want to a few days before Halloween and they will have a one of a kind trick or treat bag!
For more fun bags and containers check out: Halloween Treat Bags
Glue putty is a lot of fun to play with and makes a great project to do with kids of all ages. Mix up a batch today for hours of creative play!
- Step one:
- 1 T. Borax
- ½ C. Warm water
- Step two:
- Zip top bag (snack size is good)
- 1 T. Water
- 1 T. White glue (Elmer's works best)
- 2 Drops food coloring
- Mix the borax and 1/2 C. warm water in a bowl and set aside.
- Put remaining water (1 T.), glue and food coloring into a zip top bag, zip the top and mix well.
- Stir borax and water before adding 1 tablespoon of the mixture to the zip top bag and zip the bag up.
- Mix well and let stand 1 minute or let your child squish it until it firms up.
- Remove the putty from bag; squish it a bit by hand, and play!
Note: Young children can do all of the above steps under adult supervision. Allow them to measure, pour, mix and squish at every step! Store the putty in an airtight container when not in use.
Trick or Treating (Social Studies)
Trick or treating is an exciting tradition for parents and children around the world. Dressing up and walking door to door to receive candy from neighbors and friends is a lot of fun. But what do you do with all that candy when you're done?
Here's one tradition that you might want to begin in your household that Diane Keith wrote about in the Unpreschool newsletter in 2004:
Before the kids go trick-or-treating explain that they will receive all kinds of Halloween treats. Tell them that for safety reasons, when they get home, they must sort through their loot and throw away anything that isn't store-bought and/or sealed in a wrapper. Then, they can pick out the treats that they like best and set them aside to eat. (I'll leave it up to each of you to decide if you will limit the number of treats, and/or designate times when the treats can be eaten.)
On Halloween night they can put the rest of the candy in a bag by their beds. When they go to sleep, the Halloween Fairy will come and take the candy they don't want and give it to boys and girls who couldn't go trick-or-treating this year. The Halloween Fairy will reward their generosity by leaving a special Halloween gift. (In our home, the Halloween Fairy left a toy or game, and sometimes cash for the candy.) My kids were delighted with this arrangement, and happily opted to part with MOST of their candy to gain favor with the fairy. Perhaps our tradition will work for you.
If not, remember that many dentists now offer money for candy. They pay by the pound. So, contact your dentist and find out if they are offering this cash incentive to get kids to turn in their candy.
As a member of the "Unpreschool" list you can access the archives. If you would like some more ideas on what to do about the candy your child picks up from trick or treating refer to message 30 and message 31 on our list.
Spooky Sounds (Music)
Ask your child to name some spooky sounds. If they have some trouble coming up with something, help them out a little by asking them to imitate these sounds:
Do The Mash...The Monster Mash!
If your child is not quite up to spooky sounds, maybe a fun Mash is more his or her style! Show your child how to do "The Twist" move to this song or make up a dance of your own!
Ghost, bat, wolf, creaking door, howling wind, hissing cat, screeching owl, squeaking mouse, creaking tree, a scream, a kooky laugh, thunder, groan
Encourage your child to make sounds with other objects: crumple up a piece of paper or noisy plastic, slam a door, stomp on the floor, scratch on a door or table, open a door slowly and see if it creaks.
Make up a spooky story using some of these spooky sounds. Incorporate the sounds into the story. For example:
One dark windy night (sound like wind) an owl (screeching sound) swooped down and caught a mouse (squeak).
If you would like a change of scenery this Halloween or a safer place to trick or treat, try some of these places:
- Malls: Many malls have trick or treating for the kids. You'll wind up with a lot of the same candy but the whole idea is to go out and let the kids have fun! One of the advantages of being home during the day, is that you can go early and beat the after school crowd. Call your local mall to find out if they have trick or treating and what time it begins.
- Stores: Allowing your child to dress in costume before going out on regular errands can be a fun trick or treating experience for them. Many stores allow their workers to dress up for Halloween and it is fun to see a clown at check out offering candy to the kids!
- Library: Call your local library and find out if they have a special program for or around Halloween.
My local library has a Halloween program a few days before Halloween and then gives treat bags to the kids as they leave. They also give out stickers, bookmarks; little treats and candy on Halloween day!
- Trunk or Treat: There are many local churches holding "trunk or treat" in their parking lots. Local people sign-up, decorate their cars, trunk and space in a Halloween style, and hand out treats to the kids. It is a fun and safe way to trick or treat.
Make a bottle/carton toss game: Clean and save plastic bottles or milk cartons and decorate them in a Halloween style with construction paper, markers and stickers. Use rolled up socks, bean/rice bags or tennis balls to knock them down. This inexpensive craft makes a great game for parties.
Recipes (Home Ec)
Here are some fun and festive treats you can try out with your little one!
Egg, slice of bread, butter/margarine and a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter
Cover one side of a piece of bread with butter or margarine and cut out a ghost shape (reserve for later). Put the non-buttered side into a very warm buttered frying pan. Turn over when slightly browned Crack an egg into a bowl (scrambling is optional) and slowly add the egg to the center of the ghost shape. When ready, flip the egg over, cook to desired readiness and serve.
Cook up the reserved ghost shape in the pan to desired readiness and serve with the egg.
Remember to let you child help by buttering the bread, cutting out the ghost shape and cracking the egg into the bowl.
Tip: Any cookie cutter can be used for this fun treat.
Open FACE "Pumpkin" Sandwiches
Since it's getting close to Halloween, you will see many Jack-O-Lanterns around the neighborhood. Universal Preschool Founder, Diane Keith, suggests making funny pumpkin faces on open face sandwiches...
You'll need an assortment of condiments such as sliced olives, red or green bell peppers cut into strips, carrot coins or tips or curls, parsley or basil or lettuce leaves, raisins, o-shaped cereal, cucumber, apple slices, banana pieces, etc.
Just take a piece of whole grain bread and use a round or pumpkin shaped cookie cutter to cut out the bread in the shape you want. Then, spread some peanut or other nut butter, or soft cream cheese, or even pesto on the topside of your bread. Now, decorate it by making a funny face using the condiments you like.
When it is cold outside warm up with a delicious cup of apple cider!
- 2 C. apple juice or cider
- 1 T. brown sugar packed
- ½ T. maple flavored syrup
- ¼ t. pumpkin pie spice
- Cinnamon stick
- 1 t. butter
- Whipped Cream
Pour apple juice/cider into a medium saucepan and heat on a low setting for about 2-minutes. Add brown sugar, syrup and pumpkin pie spice. Cook until steam rises out of the pot (do not boil) and the sugar is melted (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until melted.
Pour or ladle cider into cups and serve with a cinnamon stick or top with whipped cream. This recipe makes 4 1/2 C. servings
Remember to let your little one help by measuring the ingredients, pouring the juice into the cold pot, and stirring under adult supervision. An adult should ladle/pour and serve the hot beverage.
Make a Pumpkin Shake!
These delicious recipes make a great treat!
Remember you can always use soy or rice products in place of cow's milk and regular ice cream to keep it fun for everyone!
Books to read:
"Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin" by Mary Serfozo
Peter is searching for the perfect pumpkin! But what does he plan to do with the pumpkin when he finds it? Why not read and find out!
"Nate the Great and the Halloween Hunt" by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Nate the Great and his faithful dog Sludge solve yet another mystery. This time the wily detectives accept the case of a missing cat on Halloween eve. It seems that Rosamond's cat, Little Hex, has disappeared. Little Hex hates Halloween and likes to hide until all the tricking and treating are over, but this time Rosamond fears that Little Hex may really be lost.
Here are a few more ideas for you to make and do with your children:
Halloween Memory Match Game: Use index cards, stickers or stamps to make memory cards. Be sure to make two of each card.
Spider Hand: Fold a piece of purple or black paper in half and help your child to trace his/her open hand along the crease. Keep the paper folded when your child cuts out the hand and watch that the crease does not get cut. When the hand is fully cut out, cut off the thumbs. Open it up and ask your child to give the spider eyes and a mouth. If you want the spider to hang, punch a hole in the bottom, tie a length of yarn to it and hang it from a window!
Make a pumpkin centerpiece: You'll need a small pumpkin, leaves, acorns, pinecones, glue, and a paper plate.
Put the pumpkin in the center of the paper plate, surround it with the leaves, acorns and pinecones. When your child gets the design they like, ask them glue it to the plate.
- Finger plays and songs
- 5 Little Pumpkins book
- Make pumpkin spice scented play dough
- Make a spooky paper lantern and light it with a glow stick: Use orange, white, and black paper and Halloween stickers and stamps to decorate.
- Make a paper lunch bag pumpkin
- Make a Spooky Halloween Mobile
- Make Carmel Apples
Here are some of the resources I used for the article.
History of Halloween:
Trick or treating:
Strong magnets can be purchased at Radio Shack.
About the Author
Fran Wisniewski is UniversalPreschool.com's Worldwide Ambassador. She keeps our site updated with information on preschool policies worldwide. To learn more visit: Universal Preschool Around The World. Fran is also the List Owner of Natural Learner at Yahoo Groups.
The Halloween Fairy and Open Faced Pumpkin Sandwich excerpts compliments of Carschooling author Diane Flynn Keith.