It has not yet been determined whether trick-or-treating is a no-go in Toronto, but with Ontario’s COVID count reaching 700 today, or the highest number ever, things aren’t looking good. 

From taped-off playgrounds to ZOOM birthdays, this is yet another blow for the kids, and parents (like me) aren’t feeling great about delivering the news. But despite the altered circumstances (whatever they may be) there are still lots of creative ways to make this year’s Halloween special.

Decorate Like It’s Your Job

Most of us think that Halloween is all about the candy, but it isn’t. Much of the fun around this season is walks to school that are exponentially enhanced by spotting bats, rats, and ghoulish things. Order decorations online to minimize your time in stores, or grab yourself some super-affordable Halloween trimmings at your local dollar store. Get your kids to help make your house the spookiest on the block!

Have Fun with Halloween Crafting

When I think back to last year, one of the highlights of the season was when my son (who was 5 at the time) and I spent an afternoon turning toilet paper rolls into Halloween characters. We made about a dozen, which we’ve held onto all year. He even occasionally pulls out the vampires and spooky cats to play with them. This is one of literally thousands of DIY crafting ideas that you can find online, from creepy-crawly slime to DIY haunted houses. Michaels has an entire Halloween section full of ideas for you to try with your family.

Organize Halloween Night In Advance

Start figuring out now what you’ll do on the night of Oct 31st. Some of our friends have shared that they will be doing a candy hunt in their backyard at dusk, or meeting with one other family for ghost stories and Halloween treats. Pumpkin carving and a ZOOM Halloween costume contest is a great time for all involved. If it’s not raining—and you have some space to play with—you might consider hosting an outdoor screening in a yard or laneway of a favourite freaky film.

Book a Toronto socially-distant Haunted Walk for your bubble

Let a cloaked guide lead you on a walking tour through the Distillery District, University of Toronto or the downtown financial district. Walks happen every night, and are carefully organized to ensure safe and healthy protocols, including a limit of 12 people per walk from no more than 3 social circles. More info here. 

A Totally Terrifying Dinner

In the days leading up to Halloween (or on the night itself) cook up some scary dishes, like this Graveyard Taco Dip or this horrifying rib dish. One could easily spend hours on Pinterest planning the most blood-curdling menu.

SPFX Kids (Ages 9-16)

Blow your kid’s mind by signing them up for a virtual SPFX makeup class, led by Toronto makeup artist Misty Fox. They’ll learn how to make film-ready gashes and scars to spook both you and their friends. The “Fresh Brains” course starts Oct 3. 

Pumpkin Spotting for the Little Ones

Just like the enjoyment of spotting rainbows in windows early on in the pandemic, putting out pumpkins or pumpkin art in windows, is such an easy thing to do, and a big thrill for a little kid to spot.

Flashlight Night Walks  

If a guided walk isn’t your thing, consider exploring decorations in other neighbourhoods by planning some evening walks of your own on the other side of town. With the sun setting earlier each day, it’s easy to enjoy playing I Spy on a night walk and still make it home for regular bedtime. 

Extend Halloween for the entire month!

Halloween can be so much more than just getting candy on one night of the year. Fall rituals can be enjoyed all month long. If photos on Instagram are any indication, Torontonians have been apple picking in droves. Autumn hikes, baking together, visiting a pumpkin patch and jumping in leaf piles aren’t necessarily Halloween activities, but organizing a month of fun fall activities will definitely lessen the blow of losing one special night. 

Participate in a Unicef Walkathon

This year, Unicef is encouraging families to dress up and walk around their neighbourhood to help raise money for children around the world. If kids are signed up by October 9th, they’ll receive a Halloween card they can wear around their neck with a QR code to help collect digital donations. Surprising neighbours with an unexpected costume parade will bring cheer to the block, and it feels good to be a Halloween Hero. 

The pandemic might steal our door-to-door ritual, but costumes will always be a welcome activity. Some of my most vivid memories are from dressing up for Halloween for school, not trick-or-treating at night. I loved seeing everyone’s costumes. While the kids can’t try on each other’s hats or wigs, they can still get into character and surprise one another. BOO!

No matter how you choose to spend the holiday this year, it’s going to look a little different from previous experiences. And that’s okay. We’ll all get through it together. Hopefully we can think of this year’s Halloween as wearing its own, temporary costume.