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Trick or treating and carving pumpkins are probably the first things that spring to mind when we hear the word ‘Halloween’. But there are also a number of scholastic – yet spooktacular – activities the whole family can enjoy!
Keep children engaged with their 11 plus prep whilst still having fun on Halloween. With our favourite educational pastimes that celebrate this special, magical holiday you can ensure that your child enjoys all that All Hallows’ Eve has to offer and learns a few things at the same time too.
The story of Halloween – and why we celebrate it – is a fascinating one; and there’s no better time to give your son or daughter a bit of a history lesson. You can ‘trick’ them into learning some important facts by tying it to the fun of the holiday.
The holiday owes much to the ancient Gaelic festival Samhain, which took place on the same day. Samhain marked the change of the seasons; a time at which believers thought the boundary between the world of living and the world of the dead was at its most fragile, allowing members of this world to connect with souls in the next. Celtics would light large bonfires in their villages to protect themselves from evil spirits that wondered the earth on the 31st.
Halloween means ‘hallowed evening’ and takes its roots from the traditional European celebration ‘All Hallows’ Eve’. Along with ‘All Saints’ Day’, which occurs on the following day (November 1st), All Hallows’ Eve was an occasion on which to commemorate various ‘hallows’ or saints. ‘Halloween’ became a commonly-used abbreviation of All Hallows’ Eve.
There are so many images of zany zombies or scary skeletons dotted around during Halloween – making it the perfect time to encourage an interest in human anatomy. There are a range of skeleton-themed props and games that you can purchase; or, if you’re in the mood to get a bit messy, you could opt for the tried-and-tested (and always popular) activity of putting squishy food items in a tub and asking your children to guess – using touch only – what body part they’re meant to represent (peeled grapes for eyeballs and cold cooked spaghetti for innards, etc.)!
We’re also big fans of the ‘Straw Skeleton’ game from Education.com: an easy, educational Halloween game that allows children to explore the different parts that make up a skeleton. To play the game, all you need is some black paper, plastic drinking straws, clear, non-toxic glue, white chalk, and scissors.
First, you cut the straws up in to a range of different sizes to represent the different bones in a skeleton. Next, ask your child to treat the straws like a jigsaw and put them together in the shape of a skeleton (we recommend having a simple drawing of a skeleton to hand, with the different bones labelled, so that your son or daughter can learn from this whilst piecing their ‘skeleton’ together). Once the skeleton is complete, your child can lift each piece of straw up and put a bit of glue underneath to hold it in place. Finally, draw a skull using the white chalk, and put aside to dry. Afterwards you could label the different bones together to take the lesson one step further!
Cooking is a brilliant activity for young people of all ages; and whilst it might seem a little complicated at times, children as young as nine are able to follow a recipe without too much guidance. It’s also a really fun way to work on literacy and mathematical skills. We love this gloriously gruesome ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ dip from ForkandBeans.com. A simple yet tasty guacamole recipe presented in a really inventive way, the dip will be fun to make and assemble, and will make a great centrepiece at any Halloween-themed party!
If you’d like to indulge in a spot of spooooky baking with your son or daughter, why not update your usual cupcake recipes with some colourful decorations themed around the season? Pumpkins, ghosts and monsters are easy to construct from coloured fondant icing. Alternatively, try making these scary pastry snakes or healthy frozen banana ‘ghost’ treats from BBC Good Food.
The excitement this time of year inspires lends itself really well to artistic expression; pumpkin carving is a big part of traditional Halloween festivities, after all. Here are a few of our favourite educational games that meld arts and crafts with learning.
Pumpkin carving: ‘faces and feelings’ game. If you’re keen on creating jack-o’-lanterns but would like to try something a bit different, here’s a fun game that involves pumpkin carving – this is a good one for parties as it requires a group of children. Get a selection of poems and stories (we like this Halloween-themed list from Scholastic) and a hand-held mirror, and take it turns to read aloud, looking at your faces in the mirror as you go. Brainstorm a list of emotions with the group, and then call out the names: happy, sad, angry, etc. Ask the children to pull faces to reflect the emotions and take photos for them to look at after (alternatively, you could pass round more mirrors so they can look at themselves). Finally, tell the children to choose an ‘emotion’ and try and carve their pumpkin’s face to match. This is an educational Halloween exercise that also gives children a valuable introduction to reading body language and being sensitive to emotions.
Drawing monsters: mix ‘n’ match game. This educational Halloween game gives children the chance to let their imaginations run riot whilst improving cognitive skills and information recall. Again, this is best played in a group. Provide every child with a large piece of paper and a set of colouring pens and tell them to draw a scary monster. Once the pictures are finished, take the drawings and cut them up into equal-sized sections (the smaller the sections, the harder the game will be, so bear this in mind and adjust according to the age of your audience). Turn the pieces over and let the children take it turns to flip them and try and match the pieces up (a bit like a jigsaw). You could introduce an element of competition by seeing who can put the drawings together the quickest – the first to finish gets a special Halloween treat!
We hope you have a brilliantly scary week ahead. From all of us at Mentor, Happy Halloween! Plus, we have more ideas on how to make the most of your holidays with fun activities for all the family. You can always ask your tutor for more ideas as well!
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