My kids really look forward to Halloween week. They love coming to class in fancy dress and I usually dress up too. Take advantage of the celebration to make your English lessons super fun for little ones!
I appreciate that there are many teachers and schools that don’t allow Halloween activities for religious reasons, and also that for very young children the spooky stuff may not be appropriate. In this regard it really comes down to knowing your students and what’s appropriate or acceptable where you are teaching. For example, where I live in Galicia, northern Spain, witches (or "meigas" as they call them here) are deeply rooted in the region's cultural heritage. My three and four year old students are not at all scared by witches, skeletons or monsters. Nonetheless, I do keep these things on the “cute” side for them because they are so little and choose my Halloween activities accordingly.
With that in mind, I’ve tried to offer a selection of games, activities and crafts here that include spooky and non-spooky options and which cover age ranges from 3 - 8 years old. As an ESL teacher, most of the games and activities are designed to teach Halloween related vocabulary, but they will also work well (or can be adapted) for classes with native English-speaking kids or even at a Halloween party!
There so many ideas for Halloween activities here you could probably get a week’s worth of classes from them!
TPR and Flashcard Games
Knock, Knock, Trick or Treat!
I always do this at the start of my class to introduce the vocabulary and explain the concept of “Trick or Treat!”!
Hold some Halloween flashcards in a pile and turn them over so the backs are facing. Ask the kids to knock on the back of the top flashcard as if it was a door and say “Trick or Treat!” Turn the flashcard over as if you were opening the door, making a creaking sound to reveal the character on the other side. Say the word, and ask your students to repeat it. Continue with the rest of the flashcards.
I follow up this game with a real “Trick or Treat”! I have the kids leave the classroom and stand around the door. When I close the door they must knock on it, and when I open the door they say “Trick or Treat!” I give them each a sweet as they come back into the classroom. If you plan to do this, it’s really important you check with the parents first about any allergies, food intolerances, or if a child is even allowed to have sugar. You could give stickers or some other non-food item in this case.
Click here to download some FREE HALLOWEEN FLASHCARDS!
This game works well for 3-4 year olds. Teach actions for different Halloween characters – e.g. fly like a witch, crawl like a spider, meow like a cat, jump like a frog, flap like a bat, stomp like a monster etc. Put some picture flashcards of the characters in a bag. Have a child take one out, and everybody does the action for that character. Repeat for all the cards.
Who Am I?
This is a good follow-up to Halloween Actions. Put the picture flashcards of Halloween characters in a bag. Have a child take one out without showing the others. The child does the action for that character, and the others guess which character it is. Repeat, so all the children have a turn.
Spooky Simon Says
This game works well for 5-8 year olds. Use actions for different Halloween characters (see "Halloween Actions" for some examples). Give an instruction, for example “Spooky Simon says jump like a frog!", and the children must do the action. When you give the instruction without saying "Spooky Simon says…", children must do nothing. See who’s listening carefully!
Spiders and Sweets
Take the Halloween flashcards and use blu-tac to stick one or more small pictures of spiders and sweets (candy) to the back of each card before playing. You could choose to stick either one spider or one sweet to each card, or mix it up (2 spiders and 1 sweet on one, no spiders and 3 sweets on another, etc). Do this before class, or make sure the kids don’t see you doing it! Scatter the flashcards face up in the middle. Ask a child to name a card and have them turn it over. They keep the spiders and/or sweets that are on the back of the card. Continue until all the cards have been turned over. Children then count how many spiders and how many sweets they have at the end. Of course, you don’t have to use spiders and sweets to play this game! You could use spiders, cats, pumpkins, worms…anything you want!
This is a variation of the game “Secret Sheep”. Space the children out around the room and have them curl up with their heads in their arms. Walk around and touch one child on the arm. That child must make a ghost noise. The other children must guess who the secret spook is!
Halloween Alphabet Stew
For this activity you need a plastic cauldron or other recipient, some large letter cards and some object flashcards or real objects. Take some letter cards that spell out a Halloween word (eg. S-P-I-D-E-R). Place one or more objects (or object flashcards) that begin with each letter of the word and place them in the middle, or scatter them around the room.
Show the children each letter one by one and say, for example “For our Halloween stew, we need something that begins with “S”. Stick the “S” card on the board, or place it where the children can see it. The kids then look for an object (or flashcard) beginning with that letter and put it in the cauldron.
Continue in the same way with all the letters. At the end, ask the children if they know what word the letters spell out. As an added surprise you could then make that Halloween character “appear” from behind the cauldron. For example, if the word is “spider”, hide a toy spider or flashcard behind the cauldron and show it at the end!
This activity can be adapted for different ages and levels. For older children, you could mix up the order of the letters so they have to arrange them in the correct order at the end, like an anagram. For younger children, do the letters in the correct order so the word is already spelled out at the end. For really little ones use a word card with a picture to help them.
Magic Potions & Spooky Brews
The following “potions” use the classic vinegar and bicarbonate of soda fizzing reaction, but it really is magical for young kids! This is such a hit in my classes that I do it every year. Depending on the age and level of my students I use one of the following variations:
Simple Bubbling Potions
Take one or two glass bottles. I found these lovely coloured glass bottles in my local “dollar store” – they look very magical and they have a narrow neck, which works really well for the potion to fizz out of dramatically! The instructions for the potion are the following:
- Sit the bottle in a tray and fill it just over half way with water.
- Add a splash of “slime” (dish soap or liquid laundry detergent)
- Add some “magic powder” (bicarbonate of soda). With narrow necked bottles, use a plastic funnel to add the bicarbonate of soda. Make sure to add the equivalent of a couple of spoonfuls.
- Add some coloured raindrops (liquid food colouring). You can experiment with colour mixing here! Add at least six drops of colouring to the bottle.
- Finally add the magic liquid (vinegar). Pour into the bottle until the mixture starts to fizz. Use a long thin stick to stir up the potion if necessary and get it fizzing even more!
- Say ABRACADABRA altogether!
I do the Bubbling Potions with my 3 – 5 year olds. I usually let each child add an ingredient, helping them where necessary. I recommend you be particularly careful with the food colouring, however!
This is a level up from the Bubbling Potions, and I do this with my 6 – 8 year olds. A plastic cauldron would be ideal for this activity, but I couldn’t find one so I used a beautiful metal teapot that I had at home instead. It actually worked really well, as the fizzing foam came out of the spout too!
Collect different ingredients for the witch’s brew and put them into jars. I used plastic spiders, plastic insects, plastic frogs, plastic eyes, some pieces of crystal and a revolting slimy rat I got from a toy shop! You could use anything you want or have to hand, of course.
Make up a “recipe” for a witch’s brew including some or all of your ingredients. Make sure to include all the ingredients from the Bubbling Potions too! Read out the recipe and ask each student in turn add an ingredient. Here’s an example of a recipe sequence:
- Sit the cauldron or teapot in a tray
- Fill it just over half way with "rain" (water).
- Add a splash of “slime” (dish soap or liquidlaundry detergent)
- Add 2 spoonfuls of “magic powder” (bicarbonate of soda).
- Add 3 spiders
- Add 2 eyes
- Add 1 crystal
- Add 5 insects.
- Add 6 drops of bat blood (red liquid food colouring).
- Give everything a good mix.
- Add dragon pee (vinegar - important that this is the last step!)
- Say ABRACADABRA altogether!
There are loads of great Halloween crafts you can do! Here are some of my favourites:
Silly Face Pumpkins
Tissue Paper Ghosts
Young kids can learn how to draw a witch with Flip and Penny Pencil in our fun guided drawing video! This activity is appropriate for 4 – 6 year olds and is great for familiarizing young children with the language as they follow the instructions for the drawing.
This was drawn by Ilanah, aged 4!
Blindfold “Pin the…” Games
This is a classic party game, and I usually have one on hand as a time filler activity. I have a few different variations and like to tie it in to whatever craft I might be doing with my kids. The traditional game is to blindfold a child and have them stick a particular item in the correct place on the poster (the classic is “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”).
Very young kids may not like being blindfolded, so you could just let them stick the items on – it’s all good spatial awareness and motor skills practise at the end of the day!
Some possibilities are:
- Pin the face on the pumpkin
- Pin the spiders on the web
- Pin the tail on the cat
- Pin the face on the monster
- Pin the face on Frankenstein
- Pin the frog in the cauldron
Pin the spiders on the web
Pin the face on the pumpkin
Spooky Feely Boxes
This is another fun activity, but I only do it with my 7 – 8 year olds - it’s a bit too scary for very little ones!
Take some shoe boxes and paint them black. Cut a flap at one end so it folds down and place a recycled shallow plastic food tray in each box. I use adhesive Velcro to fix the trays in place so they don’t move around, and so I can remove them to wash them afterwards. Cut squares of fabric and glue them over the flaps with contact glue, or a hot glue gun.
Finally make some spooky labels for each box. Have the kids read the labels and put their hands in each box. See if they can guess what the objects really are!
Here are some ideas for the contents of the boxes:
- Vampire heart – a peeled tomato
- Witch Eyes – peeled grapes
- Worms – cold cooked spaghetti
- Mummy fingers – raw carrots wrapped in gauze
- Cockroaches – dates
- Tarantula legs – pipe cleaners
Some of my favourites for 3 - 6 year olds!
Halloween - Tea Time Monkeys
Our very own Flip and Flop bring you this super catchy Halloween song! You can support us by downloading the song from iTunes or Google Play, or listen on Spotify!
What’s in the Witch’s Kitchen by Nick Sharratt
This is an ingenious lift the flap book that has kids guessing what nice and nasty things are hidden in different parts of the Witch’s kitchen. It’s aimed at younger kids, but older ones will still enjoy it. It does include a bit of potty humour, so if you’re uncomfortable with that this book isn’t for you!
Go Away, Big Green Monster! By Ed Emberley
Excellent for reviewing parts of the face and colours, as well as encouraging participation as kids shout “Go Away!” for the last half of the book.
Winnie and Wilbur: Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas
This is the first book in the series and is a fun story for reviewing colours. You can get kids joining in with saying “Abracadabra!” when Winnie does her spells and guessing what colours Winnie might turn Wilbur.
If you need some time-fillers or no-mess Halloween activities, I’ve also got a selection of free Halloween themed printables you can use!
Pumpkin Hide and Seek
Pumpkin Letter Match
FROM OUR STORE
This is a really fun, non-competitive game that gives your young students loads of speaking practice for parts of the body, colours, and counting. It includes DIY templates so your kids can make their very own game to take home, plus follow-up activity sheets for them to describe their monsters. You can play the game in a group, or set it up as an individual activity for fast-finishers!