Since many families like us are looking for fun alternative ideas to celebrate Halloween this year I gathered up some of our very favorite Halloween activities for kids with a STEAM twist!
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This year has been like no other. On Saturday my family and I attended a drive through Halloween event, in our hometown of Los Angeles trick-or-treating has been canceled, and our school is hosting a zoom Halloween dance party. I believe we need to do whatever is necessary to stay safe, and like you have been thinking about alternatives to traditional Halloween celebrations so that we can follow the guidance of our health officials.
For this reason I put together this list of Halloween activities we have done over the years both at home and in our after school classes. Many of these would be simple to set up at home for your kids and they will bring a holiday feeling to this challenging year. If you accompany them with lots of candy, maybe your kids will even forget about trick or treating for a little while!
PLEASE NOTE: All the images and videos below were taken in years past. Wear a mask and stay safe in 2020!
This activity was suggested to me by my co-teacher Tammy who saw it at an event years ago. We ending up making Frankenpumpkins two years in a row because our students loved it so much! We used it as a way to teach kids how to use real tools and introduce them to different types of fasteners. The soft pumpkin is ideal for trying out these fasteners.
Each student gets a mini pumpkin, “stubby tools”, and an assortment of fasteners including nails, screws and bolts. Stubby tools are standard sized tools with short handles and are perfect for smaller hands. See them here.
When we do this activity we first discuss how to match the right tool to the right fastener ie. screwdrivers to screws and bolts, hammers to nails, as well as the different types of fasteners themselves, i.e machine screws which are flat on the end vs. wood screws which are pointed. We also show our students how to poke a pilot hole in the pumpkin using a nailhead. This is useful if they want to use screws with flat heads.
After they use the tools we have some “flair” available for the kids to add some extra personality to their Frankenpumpkin!
This is a Halloween tradition for us because no child can resist becoming a “brain surgeon!” To make this I start with our recipe for Gelatin Streaking here and pour it into a brain mold. Brain molds are usually available at the Dollar Store or on Amazon here.
We introduce this project by telling kids to imagine they have just finished medical school and are now working as brain surgeons. The we task them with adding color to some very plain brains…
Kids then use pipettes to inject color into the gelatin. After a little while we give then some plastic cake cutters so they can slice up the brains to look inside.
This is great science lesson on colloids, a substance in which small particles of one substance are suspended throughout another substance but not chemically bonded. We also talk about how gelatin is produced from collagen, a connective protein found in animals that is extracted, dried and used to thicken liquids.
3. Mutant Toys
This fantastic STEAM project was inspired by Sid in the original Toy Story movie as well as the work of Dr. Frankenstein. When we do this in our after school classes we challenge our students to design new toys from old broken toys and toy parts. TIP: Use all those bits and pieces of toys and and party favors that have fallen to the bottom of your toy bin.
Here are the STEAM checkpoints this project covers:
- Physics: Kids will have to make their new creatures balance and stand up/hold together.
- Engineering: Taking apart a toy gives kids a glimpse into how real toys are constructed/made/assembled as they got look at individual components.
- Art: Some of these creations looked like incredible found object art pieces. They reminded me of the incredible assemblage pieces by Robert Rauschenberg.
- Language Arts: We asked the kids to name their creations and make a display base for each toy. During showcase time many of the kids talked about their toy and its attributes, creating a whole story about their creatures.
4. Icy Hands & Creepy Excavations
This is a great sensory play project for kids of multiple ages. To make the icy hands head over here to Happy Hooligans. We combined that idea with the animal rescue project found here on Mama Papa Bubba. We swapped our ocean animals and used plastic Halloween trinkets.
As children melt the ice to extract the figures inside they will be learning chemistry! In this project kids use a combination of warm water and salt to melt ice. Salt affects ice in a unique way. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but salt lowers that freezing point. When salt is dissolved in water it breaks into sodium and chloride ions. Those ions make it harder for water molecules to bond together and this make the ice melt faster.
5. Web Weaving
This is seriously the cutest little STEAM project ever! Kids will weave yarn web to catch some creepy crawlies and develop their fine motor skills at the same time. To do this project start with a paper plate and cut out the center. Have children punch holes along the plate rim and then give them yarn to weave through the holes to create a web. We also set up a separate station for kids to drop watercolors on the yarn to dye it.
Where’s the STEAM ?
- Science: Start this project with a lesson on spiders and why they weave webs. There are some great spider facts here on Wonderopolis.
- Math: Talk to kids about fractions and spacing as they punch their holes around the circle. You can also discuss patterns which they may or may not create with their yarn as they pull it from hole to hole.
- Art: If you decide to dye the yarn limit the palette to the primary colors and talk about color mixing.
- Design/Engineering: Once the web is complete bring out some additional materials to design a spider. We made pipe cleaners, beads, cotton balls, googly eyes and other materials available for our students to do this. Ask kids to consider what they learned about spiders to create their creature.
6. Monster Hands
I first spotted this project here on Flickr and immediately knew it could turned into great STEAM lesson! We used this project as way to introduce the design process to kids. First kids will design a monster on paper and then translate that design into a 3D model using a glove.
We asked our students to first trace their hand on a piece of paper and then imagine how they might make monster from the outline of their hand. We gave them about 15 minutes for this part of the process.
Next we told them they would be turning their 2D sketch into 3D puppet! We gave them each a dishwashing glove and made an assortment of materials available for them to recreate their design in 3 dimensions. This is a phenomenal way to demonstrate the added complexity a 3 dimensional design brings.
Some of our students had a hard time with this step but this is where mistake making and exploration really come into play. We encouraged them to keep trying. I absolutely loved the solutions they came up with!
If you know my blog well you know that oobleck is one of my favorite all-time substances. In this project you can use one of three methods for making it glow under UV light!
This is always a fan favorite! It’s one of the coolest chemical reactions and we try to do this project at least few times a year. Full instructions can be found in project #3 of this post.
We did this project in our after school classes last year and set up a black box so the kids could view their towers. We also gave them blacklight flashlights so they could make their project glow at home. I wrote about all the science behind UV light in this post.
How to make a black out box: Set up a large box with this style of blacklight inside it in a dark corner of a room or classroom. If possible mount the light to the underside of the box top with duct tape to cast light downward. To view the glowing projects kids will bring their glowing object or artwork to the box and view it.
10. Potions Lab
Invite kids to mix up their own creepy potions in this simple activity!
This super simple idea is a guaranteed hit! To do this we gathered the following (all toys were found at the dollar store):
- Empty plastic bottles and containers
- Plastic figurines
- Rubber eye balls
- Rubber animals
- Colored water
- Lavender seeds or other fresh herbs
Then invite kids to mix up some magic potions! Encourage them to give their potions fanciful names and uses. This will bring a storytelling element as they imagine themselves to be mad scientists!
More Halloween Actvities
I made this video a few years ago showcasing some of the projects above and below as fantastic Halloween party ideas. You can create mini at-home party for your family by mixing and matching some of these activities!
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