I’ve been doing this Occupational Therapy gig for four years now, which means four Halloweens! I love Halloween. We go all out decorating the front of our home with skeletons, ghouls, and spiderwebs. Costumes are always a big to-do and we usually start planning them at the end of summer. And I just love Halloween-themed occupational therapy play! Here are my top seven favorite Halloween activities:
1. Silly Jack O’Lanterns
Addresses: tactile (anytime we use glue I count it as tactile- this can be a tricky thing for some kids to stand on their hands), fine motor coordination, scissor skills, self-concept/body awareness, sequencing, directionality
Every October, I sit down with my huge stack of Redbook, Sports Illustrated for Kids, and HGTV magazines and go through them and cut out a bunch of eyes, noses, and mouths. The kids love when I pull them out. I have them cut out the pumpkin shape and then we look at our faces in a mirror and talk about what is at the top of our face and in the middle and at the bottom. Understanding prompts like top, bottom, and middle are very important pre-reading/pre-writing skills. We then pick out facial features and try to make the silliest faces we can. The kids laugh so much and are always so excited to go into their classrooms to show their peers their silly jack o’lanterns.
2. Wiggly Eyed Play-doh
Play-doh is always great for strengthening hands in a fun way! Every Halloween I hide wiggly eyes into a jar of play-doh. The smaller the eyes, the better and trickier! I always encourage the kids to listen to the play-doh as they shake it and have them guess what could possibly be making that noise inside of the play-doh. And then we dig in and search. They have to pinch the wiggly eyes with the same fingers that they’ll use when they develop their tripod grasp for writing. We keep shaking the play-doh to figure out if we have found them all or not. After, I have the child flip them all so they are upside down. We then roll the play-doh into a ball and squish it “flat like a pancake” on top of the eyes and peel it up to find a silly, blob monster with a bunch of eyes!
3. Hole Punch Spiders
First we start off with a spiderweb. I have them draw a cross on their paper and then an “X” over that cross- usually for preschool aged kids, I would be doing one right beside them as a visual model. Did you know that children aren’t even expected to truly see a diagonal line or draw one until they are five? So sometimes we do the “X” hand-over-hand. Then we fill in each of the triangles with either horizontal or vertical lines. Sometimes I add green and red cues for the kids- green means “go: start your line there” and red means “stop: end your line there”. After the spiderweb is done, we get to use a super cool spider punch that I found for 50 cents in the clearance section at Walmart a couple of years ago. The spiders are tiny- which means more fine motor manipulation for my clients as they pick them up and glue them to the spiderweb!
4. Gross Motor Spider Web Games
Found this one on Pinterest a couple years ago. I make a giant spiderweb on the floor with masking tape. And then the kids have to do various walks on the lines- sometimes we just balance- one foot in front of the other. Sometimes we walk on our tiptoes, sometimes we stomp, sometimes we walk on our hands and feet- hands on one line and feet on the other. Other times, we jump from line to line. I usually add in a component like plastic spiders that have to be picked up with tongs and then put into a jar, so you’re then also working on fine motor skills. At home, we’ve added in sight words and multiplication facts. The boys get asked a question and then they have to move through the spiderweb without stepping off to get their answer.
5. Giant Spider Web
Addresses: balance, coordination, body awareness, core strength, vestibular and proprioceptive input, fun! The trickier it is and the more your head changes position and the more input you have to put in your hands, the more you get out of it!
Make a giant spiderweb in a hallway in your home with yarn or crepe paper and have loads of fun trying to make your way through the spiderweb without touching the web!
I love Goop and we make this pretty often so it’s not solely a Halloween activity but there is something about this slime that makes it feel pretty perfect for Halloween. Cornstarch, water, and food coloring or watercolor paints are all you need. Play around with the amounts to get different consistencies. This is fun stuff- it feels hard when you try to scoop it up but then it turns to liquid as it runs through your fingers! You can hide little objects in it to encourage pinching them to get them out and you could draw shapes or letters in it as well.
7. Ghost Fight
Addresses: bilateral integration, whole body coordination, proprioceptive and vestibular if your kids are really going all out, crossing the midline, motor control, visual-motor integration, emotional well-being (if using as a punching bag after a frustrating day)
Take a couple white trashbags and fill them up with old newspaper or plastic shopping bags or whatever you have handy and hang them from the ceiling. And then use Nerf guns or fling bugs to shoot at the bags/ghosts. We also like to fight them, literally. I find this to be a great activity for kids on rainy days with too much energy and maybe kids with a little bit of frustration or anger about something not going their way that day. The last time we did this, we pretended it was a ninja (it wasn’t Halloween time) and my boys spent a good hour doing different kicks and punches and jumping off of chairs at the ninja.
Check out my Halloween Pinterest Board for even more fun ideas!!!