A “Do-it-Themselves” Halloween

We had a do-it-yourself Halloween last year.

Now, you’re probably thinking I mean one of those Halloweens where the mother gets all crafty with Pinterest-inspired homemade decorations and costumes for each child that perfectly fit their current obsessions or go with a very cute overall family theme.  But that’s not at all what I mean.

When I say we had a do-it-yourself Halloween I mean that the kids did it themselves.


Life has been a blur around here, and when I realized how quickly Halloween was approaching and how many things I had on my plate, I just sort of let Halloween come.  I really didn’t do a thing.  No fancy costumes, no fancy decorations.  I bought three pumpkins and two bags of candy and dragged out the Halloween box from the basement.  That’s it.  The kids took over from there.

The kids put out the spooky snake wreath and smothered our dead mums with cotton cobwebs and fake spiders and were very pleased with the effect.  They even cleaned and carved and decorated their own pumpkins without any supervision.  I was sad not to do it as a family, but I was really behind on some projects and boy, that carving provided me with a whole afternoon of quiet time to get things done while the kids were happily engaged with their safe little pumpkin carving saws.


Charlie spent a whole day making his costume.  He was a space squid.  His costume consisted of his old astronaut suit from last year, a paper grocery bag, a tomato box, some other cardboard from the recycle bin and all the scotch tape in the house.  He looked a little more like some kind of space recycling activist or something.  We got some funny looks out trick-or-treating, but he was pleased as punch with his creation.  He went around the house singing, “Who you gonna call?  SPACE SQUID!!!”


Hazel dressed as Anne of Green Gables (with suspiciously brown hair).  We recently listened to the book on tape and Hazel has found her bosom friend.  She and Anne are the most kindred of spirits.  So, she felt it was only natural to dress like Anne for Halloween.  She knew exactly what she wanted to wear (a certain dress from her closet). I guess it does kind of look like something Anne Shirley would wear (before Matthew was so kind to get her her puffed sleeves).  The fact that I never got around to finding some red hair dye and a straw hat for her didn’t seem to bother her one bit.  She thought the dress and basket and braids would do the trick and everyone would know what she was going for.  And it worked out great.  Most people didn’t ask who she was, but those kind souls who did ask responded with such recognition and delight when she revealed her identity that she felt extra great about her costume.


Emmeline resurrected Hazel’s old Lady Bug costume from the costume box.  She knew she was the cutest lady bug around and strutted her stuff all over the neighborhood gathering candy. And Peter was a very cute pumpkin (Hazel’s idea the the neighbors had costume we could borrow).

After a dinner of black bean soup (thanks to the nifty and easy peasy Halloween dinner idea here) we met up with some friends and went in search of candy.  For the first year, my kids were all really excited about Trick-or-Treating and all the neighbors were so kind to them. We just did a few blocks and then their candy bags felt sufficiently heavy and we happily headed home with our loot.


At first, I felt pretty lame that I was so hands-off this year with Halloween. Maybe I could have at least helped Charlie find some better materials to make his costume. Maybe I could have squeezed in some time to find a hat or hair dye for Hazel. Maybe I should have helped the kids carve their pumpkins or make our house extra spooky and festive.  But, this year it just wasn’t in the cards.  And you know what?  Halloween was a big hit. The kids were perfectly happy – in fact they were delighted that I let them do everything their way this year. And because I wasn’t stressed out of my mind trying to pull something elaborate off, I was able to really enjoy it all as I stood back and applauded the kids’ efforts.

One of these years I’ll delight my children and have a do it MYSELF Halloween.  I promise.  But, I can’t promise I can improve on that space squid.

QUESTION: What kinds of things have you done to simplify a holiday celebration?

CHALLENGE: If you’re feeling stressed-out or overwhelmed this year, take a step back and consider ways your children could take more of the leadership role.


  1. camdancer says

    I still remember my family’s best ever Passover. We’d just arrived in Israel and didn’t realise that EVERYTHING shuts for the festival. So we were in a new city, a borrowed house and couldn’t buy anything from the shops. We had to think sideways about most of our traditions. We thought about why we did certain things and then had to think how we could honor that reason in the best way we could. It was years ago so I can’t remember the details but it was a lovely family celebration. I’m sure we learnt far more about the holiday than we would have done if everything had been handed to us. Sometimes making it simple means you can get to the heart of the holiday.

  2. Katherine Wheless says

    I loved your post! It reminded me of when I was young and refused to wear the plastic masks that came with the store-bought costumes. My creative and accommodating mom suggested I make my own, so I did—-with a paper sack and feathers, I made a cat mask. It was so home-made and really didn’t remotely resemble a cat, but I loved it and paraded around with it proudly! Makes me laugh now, but it also makes me appreciate my mother (no longer living) who encouraged us to make our own stuff, write our own plays and stories, draw and sing and just generally live a creative life. We need to let go of our perfectionistic visions and allow our children to create their own.

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