With Halloween right around the corner, do you have all your ducks (or pumpkins, as it were) in a row? No? Not to worry. Here are some Halloween goodies that can help you get your spooky on — in a kid-friendly way, of course. All of them are aimed at almost all ages, with appropriate adult supervision.
Surface Carving Kit (Pumpkin Masters)
What’s Halloween without carved pumpkins? Looking for spooky, cute, or something in between? Pumpkin Masters has all the tools and accessories you and the kids could possibly need to decorate the perfect pumpkin, while keeping it fun, safe, creative and affordable: carving kits, patterns (many are free to download on their website), specialized tools, jack-o-lantern lights, flashing strobe lights, and more. If mom, dad, or the teenagers who haunt your home want to do something a little (or a lot) more complicated, we’ve got you covered. Our new favorite is the Surface Carving Kit, which, as you can guess from the name, has you do your carving on the surface of the pumpkin — without having to hollow it out or clean seeds off your floor. And surface-carved pumpkins last longer. The kit comes with three interchangeable carving tips, 12 patterns, and more —enough to get you off to a great start. On their website, Pumpkin Masters also has video instructions and on-line carving contests. www.pumpkinmasters.com
Pumpkin Talker and Halloween Pics ‘n’ Props (Hallmark)
Pumpkin Masters is far from the only game in town. Hallmark’s Pumpkin Talker line comes with easy-to-use templates for carving Batman, Cinderella, Scooby Doo, or a nameless scary jack-o-lantern (each Talker is sold separately and includes one pattern). The templates are easy to use, and when you’re done, put the Talker device into your pumpkin and the motion-activated voice will “speak” in the character’s voice whenever someone comes near. The one we tried, Scooby Doo, is a family favorite and sounded just like the lovable dog from the show. $14.95.
Hallmark’s Halloween Pics ‘n’ Props kit comes with a haunted house backdrop and a ton of props, masks, and other stuff to make great pictures or holiday cards to share with your family and friends. It also comes with a photo album so you can make a coffee table book people will look at a lot more than the wine one you bought but no one ever looks at … $29.95. www.hallmark.com
‘Room on the Broom,’ by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
After a long morning of pumpkin carving and photo shoots, what better way to unwind with the family than by curling up and sharing a book. Donaldson (a UK Children’s Laureate from 2011-2013, and Scheffler are the same author-illustrator team that created the critically acclaimed series "The Gruffalo” and “The Gruffalo’s Child.” The book is very cute and comes as either a regular or board book (for about $4.95), as well as on DVD (about $8.50). Kids Preferred has created an adorable line of plush toys (sold separately for $14.95) to accompany the book, including a Witch, Cat, or Dragon, all of which are the perfect reading companions for youngsters. www.kidspreferred.comandroomonthebroom.com/us
‘Halloween Stories Collection, Volume 2’
Too exhausted to even pick up a book? If so, Scholastic has the next-best thing: 14 not-really-scary stories that will be a hit with early and/or pre-readers. These movies bring best-selling children’s storybooks to life and promote a love of literature. Filled with skeletons, witches, and more seasonal spooks. But remember, this is a family activity, so be sure to watch the videos with your children and get them talking. $21.27. www.scholastic.com