Our experts share tips for planning a smaller, safer holiday celebration that doesn't sacrifice on fun.

'Tis the season for trick-or-treating, but in the midst of a global pandemic, you may decide to plan a smaller, safer holiday celebration for your kids. And though celebrating Halloween will require some careful planning this year, there are lots of creative alternatives to door-to-door candy collection. Our favorite option? A Halloween-themed scavenger hunt. "A scavenger hunt is the perfect way to stay safe this Halloween," says Cori George of Hey, Let's Make Stuff. "Many scavenger hunts can be done without coming in contact with anyone outside your family, which makes them a great choice for Halloween in 2020."

woman and child dressed for halloween holding tablet
Credit: Getty / mediaphotos

Along with providing a safe alternative to traditional Halloween activities, scavenger hunts are entertaining and engaging. "A Halloween scavenger hunt is simply a hunt for Halloween-themed items, either just for fun or as part of a friendly competition," explains Britni Vigil of Play Party Plan. "Each individual or family gets the same list of Halloween items to search for throughout your neighborhood. If you want to make it a competition, see which team can find them (and take a photo for proof) all first."

Keep contact to a minimum.

Make no mistake about it: Our experts say that planning ahead is key if your goal is to treat your kids to a safe and successful Halloween scavenger hunt. For the lowest contact celebration, plan the scavenger hunt in your own backyard for just your kids. If you want to extend the fun to the rest of your quarantine pod, have a discussion about safety guidelines with parents ahead of time; then, focus on the fun. "Send out instructions (but not the list of items) to participants ahead of time, so you don't need to gather everyone together closely to go over rules," Vigil says. On the day of the hunt, she suggests delegating one single person to distribute the lists and pens, and making sure they wash their hands before they do so. "One person should hand them out individually rather than passing to one and letting them pass to the next," she explains.

Keep groups small.

If you do decide to open up the scavenger hunt to people outside of your immediate household, keep the group small and ask only those you really trust. To avoid creating a super-spreader-style situation, Vigil recommends having individual families or households hunt together, rather than mixing people from different areas together in groups. Even better, you can have groups hunt at their own homes, then share their findings virtually via email or on a video call.

Make it a walking hunt.

If your group is a little older and understands the importance of safety protocols, consider a walking scavenger hunt, which will take your family on a tour of the town. George suggests downloading a free template for a neighborhood-specific Halloween hunt, then heading out on foot (with masks, hand sanitizer, and a social distancing plan). "A neighborhood Halloween scavenger hunt…is great if you have neighbors that decorate their home and porches for fall," she explains. "Walk down the streets in your neighborhood trying to find pumpkins, faux cobwebs, skeletons, and more!" You can also create your own scavenger hunt—it just requires a bit more brainwork. Or, to get the little ones thinking, download a free, clue-based template you can find online.

Host an indoor candy hunt with your family.

For a safer alternative to trick or treating, George recommends an in-home Halloween candy scavenger hunt. "Instead of trick-or-treating, use…a free template…for an in-house candy hunt, where kids can follow clue cards to fill their buckets with candy that's hidden around your home," she says. "You can also connect with friends and family members over Zoom for a virtual race to see who can get through the candy scavenger hunt first!"

Have sanitizer and goodie bags handy.  

As with any outing these days, Vigil says it's important to have hand sanitizer on hand to reduce the spread of coronavirus. "Make individual grab-and-go goodie bags, with candy and hand sanitizer, for groups to enjoy after the hunt when you can't go door-to-door for treats," she says. "Or, encourage everyone to bring treats of their own to enjoy outside together, at a safe distance."


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