Monday, September 19, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Halloween Fairy Tale Carnival by Erin Uda

(Click HERE for image source)
Ok, so I know this is early and not so much outdoors- as it is holiday-inspired, but since the kids will be outside to trick-or-treat, (and since you will need sufficient time to prepare for such a big event) I thought I’d stretch it a bit this week. If you want to get outside, you could hold this at a park or pavilion. Just be sure to have a weather back-up plan.

I’ve never been a big fan of the scary aspect of Halloween, and I don’t know many kids who like to be terrified, so for this year’s party I’ve come up with a slightly-spooky theme that I think is entertaining as well as appropriate for young kids. Fairy tales are naturally a bit dark and spooky, especially since so many of them are set in a dense, shadowy forest. Add to that all the witches, wolves, beasts and magic and you’ve got a recipe for adventure. Hope you have fun!


There are so many fairy tales out there that the amount of activities available is endless. Choose a few from the list below, or use your favorite fairy tale as inspiration for a new station. If you’re having a bit of brain-block, post a comment with your favorite fairy tale and I’ll see what I can come up with.

(Click HERE for image source)
Rapunzel’s Rope Climb Tower
  • Hang a rope from the ceiling. You can use a specialized rock climbing rope, a sturdy jump rope, or whatever else you have handy. If you’re using a gym, consider hanging the rope from the basketball hoop supports; if you’re doing this at a park, try the cross-beams of the pavilion. Remember to have some sort of cushioning underneath for falls (pillows or old mattresses work well for this). 
  • Decorate the wall or surrounding area with a fake stone tower. There are some great stone wall decorations available at party supply stores.  
  • The object of this station is to have the kids try to climb to the top of the rope. If you have both older and younger kids, try setting up two stations; one with the regular rope with a couple of knots tied into it for traction and another in conjunction with a slide or other slanted surface to help the little ones climb. 
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: The Witch, Rapunzel, or the Prince
Jack’s Beanstalk Relay
  • This is based on the same activity as Rapunzel’s tower, only a little more involved. Create an obstacle course with the following actions: Climb up a slide using a rope to help, then down the stairs, through some obstacles, pick up a ‘golden goose’ and take it back to the beginning. 
  • Try to keep the actions related to the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale. The obstacles could be giant versions of things, like a huge stone step they have to climb (made out of a table covered with a brown or grey cloth), or hula hoops spread out as stepping stones or clouds they have to jump on. 
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: Jack or Jack’s mother
(Click HERE for image source)
Little Red Riding Hood / Grandma’s Cottage
  • Create a cottage. Decorate the inside with Grandma’s bed, hang Red’s cape on the wall. Set up a few tables in the cottage.
  • Fight the wolf in a battle of wits as he sits in the bed. Or set up a few chess sets for the older children to play; they can play against each other or ‘the Wolf’ you have stationed there. If you don’t want to use the bed, include a few riddle stations, where the wolf poses easy riddles to those who visit the cottage. If you’re not feeling good about either of these, turn this station into an arm-wrestling booth. 
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: the Wolf or Granny
Hansel and Gretel
  • Create a forest trail running around (or meandering through) the entire perimeter of your park or facility. The trail can be created by strewing leaves (real or fake), mulch, rocks, or even carpet tiles or garden stones. 
  • The trail should lead to a witch’s cottage. For better Hansel and Gretel effect, leave bread crumbs along the path. 
  • Set up a candy buffet in the center of this station. You could decorate with ovens and gingerbread men, etc. The children trade their coins in for a small box or bag that they can fill with candy. Try small plastic bags that close with a twist-tie or paper take-out boxes for portion control. 
  • Fortune-telling by the Fates. Have a couple of witches give fortunes while the children are waiting for their turn to get candy. Remember the fake eyeball! 
  • Attendant: Witches
(Click HERE for image source)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ Cottage
  • Set up a cauldron and go bobbing for poisoned apples.
  • Set up a wishing well. To make it easier to fish for prizes (gold coins or small wrapped candies) put the well on a high table so the person attaching the candy can sit underneath. You could also try using a weak magnet and paper clips. 
  • This is a great place to add other traditional Halloween games.
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: Snow White or any of the Dwarves.
The Black Forest / The 12 Dancing Princesses
  • Create a dance floor decorated with forest trees, disco balls, spider webbing hanging from the ceiling, and other spooky touches. 
  • Plug your iPod into a large speaker and play some fun music for the kids to dance to. Playlists could include songs from fairy tale-inspired movies, Kids Bop, or your own personal favorites. 
  • On one side of the dance floor, set up a stool or small table. Stand the children on it (make sure it’s steady) and take pictures of the child’s shoes. Try to get a shot that includes her face while focusing on the shoes; she may want to take them off and hold them for the photo. Decorate the table with old ballerina slippers (found at good will) and other types of dance shoes. You can let the child make a craft using the photo (decorate a photo frame) or send it home later as a souvenir/thank you card. 
  • If you’re brave, you could have a real dance company put on a short performance. 
  • Attendant: The Dancing Princesses (or just parents)
(Click HERE for image source)
The Beast’s Castle
  • This watered-down version of a haunted house is where ordinary objects come alive and talk to you as you walk through the Beast’s castle. It shouldn’t be too scary for the little ones, but just surprising enough to make them jump. 
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: Beauty or the Beast
The Princess and the Pea
  • Set up a pile of sleeping bags, a small foam mattress, or yoga pad and put marbles underneath. Have the children lie on the bed and guess how many marbles they’re laying on. 
  • You can also have a jar full of dried peas displayed. Let the children guess how many peas are in the jar. 
  • Did someone say Edamame eating contest?? 
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: the Princess or the Queen
(Click HERE for image source)
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • For the youngest children, play a game with the sizes small, medium, and large. Place sets of small, medium and large items in this area; point to the different items in the room and ask what size they are. Try decorating with the items mentioned in the book: bowls, chairs and beds (or pictures of beds, anyway).
  • Play the cups game where you mix up three cups and they guess which one the gold coin is under. When they get it wrong, say “Too hot!” or “Too cold!” If they get it right, they keep the coin.
  • Play the hot/cold game to find hidden coins in this area. When they’re going away from the coins, say “You’re getting colder!” and when they get close to a coin, say “You’re getting hotter!”
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate.
  • Attendant: Goldilocks or the Bear Family (with all three bears)
Three Little Pigs
  • Let the child be the wolf and try to knock down three different piles of items: straw, sticks, and bricks. Set up the straw in a tee-pee shape, the sticks in stacked bundles, and the bricks like dominoes so they’re easy to knock down. Use a baseball or other weighted item.
  • Give each child a straw and ask them to blow a small bouncy ball (or other item) to the end of a long table. Have a line down the middle of the table length-wise and set up races, one child on each side. Bumpers on the edges and in the middle would definitely make this more child-friendly.
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate.
  • Attendant: the Wolf or a Pig
(Click HERE for image source)
Little Mermaid
  • Decorate this station with netting and a Hawaiian or sea theme.
  • If you don’t use the wishing well from Snow White's Cottage, set up the fishing game here.
  • Set up a small kiddie pool and fill it with ducks, some of which have a number or shape marked on the bottom. Let the children choose a duck to see if they earned a coin. If you can, find floating objects that relate to the fairy tale such as fish, mermaids, or crabs.
  • Hold a ‘Sea-legged’ (three-legged) race to get their land-legs functioning again
  • Hang a sturdy net and have the children climb it; or use an existing playground installation
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate.
  • Attendant: Mermaid
The Frog Prince
  • Set up a photo station using this fairy tale as the theme. Use a wooden cut-out of a prince / princess and a frog and set them up for parents to take photos. If this is too difficult to find, use cardboard cutouts of fairy tale characters or other Halloween standards like mummies or Frankenstein. 
  • You could also have a large plastic frog the girls can kiss, since most of them will likely be in princess attire. 
  • Attendant: Prince (designated photographer, optional)
(Click HERE for image source)
Cinderella’s Slipper Store
  • This station is costume central. Kids can add to their costume with face painting or accessories (spread out trunks full of dress-up items), get their photo taken for the costume contest / party scrapbook, and vote for their favorite costume.
  • Hang each child’s picture up on the wall with a number on it using string and clothes pins. Set up a table below the display with crayons, scraps of paper, and a large cauldron where people can put their votes.
  • Consider having a few wacky mirrors here for the kids to look at themselves in.
Rumplestiltzkin’s Bargain Basement
  • This is the food station, where children use the coins they have collected to purchase drinks, food, and other trinkets/items.
  • Decorate with straw or hay bales, spinners (you could use modified wagon wheels or even upside-down bikes if none are available) and baskets of gold coins. When the children pay, have them throw their coins over the counter into the baskets.
  • Use apple juice/cider if you want it to look like butter-beer, cranberry juice if you want it to look like blood, and homemade root beer if you want it to look like a potion. Or go with something simple and have boxed juices.
  • Red’s baked goods display, with baskets of cookies and treats, including miniature caramel apples.
  • Attendant: Rumpelstiltskin, the Miller’s Daughter, or Red Riding Hood
Pumpkin Patch
  • This is the arts and crafts area. Set up some tables and chairs and let the creativity flow.
  • Decorate pumpkins using paints, pins, etc. Try some of these nifty ideas I found on Pinterest or come up with a few of your own:
Pumpkin in lace tights
Bat Pumpkin
Dracula teeth pumpkin
Paper pumpkins
  • Print out a stack of fun internet coloring sheets, set them on a kid-sized table along with a bunch of crayons in fun containers and Voila! You have a coloring station. If you decide to use a candy bag as your invitation (see below) set up a table where the children can decorate their bag. You can find inexpensive canvas or paper bags anywhere. Or use a brown paper lunch sack and THIS craft idea from Family Fun.
Tips and Tricks
  • Use 10x10 or larger canvas pop-up coverings for each cottage/station. They’re easy to manage, don’t take up much room, and allow the activity to spill out the sides a bit. 
  • Line your entry or Hansel and Gretel trail with glowing jars made by emptying out a glow stick into a mason jar and shaking it. You can usually find glow-sticks at the dollar store. 
  • Send separate invitations to the parents and the kids. Ask the parents to help with the stations; let them choose from the attendant costume list. 
  • If you’re holding a costume contest, be sure to include the categories and rules with your invitation; deliver them early, especially if you want your guests to come in fairy tale costumes. 
  • You can use lots of things besides a standard letter as the invitation. To make your invite memorable, try printing the party info on a candy bag they can bring and decorate, a photo card with the image of a spooky forest or your family in costume, or make a small candy house with the info printed on the base. If you sent your invitation early, you may want to send out a reminder a week before; include a couple of gold coins in this for the guests to spend as soon as they arrive.

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