There's a ghoul sitting on the toilet. There's a werewolf picking its nose. There's a little witch eating eyeballs (boiled eggs) and a pre-school zombie drinking a beaker of blood (tomato juice).
This can mean only one thing: Halloween is here again.
Here's our countdown of 13 horrors, headaches and howling good times that await you and your little monsters on October 31st.
It's great fun – if slightly surreal – to wander the streets at night with a pack of pint-sized werewolves. Having shaken down the next door neighbours for Haribo Horror Mix, your kids will then insist on banging on every door in the postcode, while you lag six paces behind in your role as protector, squirming quietly.
2. Monster mash up playlists
Whether you're hosting a Halloween party, or just welcoming trick or treaters, playing tunes adds a spine-chilling touch to the evening. Embrace your inner Bobby Pickett and no guest or visitor will be able to resist shaking their spooky stuff.
Everyone loves a macabre root vegetable, but modern kids expect more than crude triangle eyes and a wonky mouth. Come Halloween, you'll have your five-tool pumpkin carving kit laid out like a brain surgeon's scalpels, and a template of a Gothic castle that's so fiddly you'll slice the tip off your pinkie while doing the battlements and pump arterial blood up the kitchen walls. Unfortunately, your children will assume it's all part of the Halloween routine, and laugh uproariously instead of calling an ambulance.
4. The costumes
Back in the day, you made do with talc, ketchup and plastic fangs. Now, thanks to the rise of the party shop, our children expect to be decked out as undead cheerleaders, corpse brides and miniature Grim Reapers (complete with PVC scythe and hemorrhaging ribcage). Next thing you know, they've roped you into dressing up as Herman Munster and Catwoman to welcome their party guests, and have put hellhound horns on the nonplussed labrador.
5. Huge vats of jelly
It's messy, yes, but all children love being blindfolded and digging around in jelly to find buried creepy crawlies. Great for a kids' Halloween party – just have several miles of kitchen roll to hand.
6. The days out
Every Halloween, for one night only, all your local family attractions spook themselves up for a fast buck. And so, even though you only popped into the local farm shop for Kettle Chips, you'll find yourself ushered onto a Haunted Tractor Ride and chased around the cowsheds by farm-hands revving actual chainsaws.
7. The awkward questions
The morbid nature of Halloween is a minefield when you've got curious kids. Over lunch, you'll find yourself explaining the Salem witch trials and the concept of Heaven and Hell (like Santa's naughty/nice list, essentially, but with more serious consequences). By tea-time, they'll have nagged you into admitting that we're all skeletons underneath our skin, and that a coffin is a box that you're nailed into for all eternity. Sleep well, now.
8. Face painting
Back in the '80s, kids had a straight choice between a skeleton or a witch's cat. In the modern era, face painting has progressed to the point where the average steady-handed mum can outdo an Oscar-winning Hollywood make up team. There's something slightly disturbing about collecting your toddler from a Halloween party to find they've got a gaping axe wound in their cheek, their mouth stitched up and maggots crawling out of their eyes. Especially when you forget to clean it off and they nudge you awake at midnight.
9. Kids taking control
For one night only you are at the mercy of the kids who are armed with a face-painting kit, lots of hairspray and some keen back-combing skills. Embrace it - you know you want to.
It's hard to gauge your kids' threshhold for horror. They were cool with Monsters Inc. They weren't phased by Sid's bedroom in Toy Story. They handled The Nightmare Before Christmas. Nobody wet the bed after Box Trolls. But on reflection, perhaps sticking them in front of the transformation scene from American Werewolf In London was a step too far...
11. Spooky food
Any other day, your kids won't touch cauliflower with a bargepole – but tell them it's the putrefying brain of a wandering zombie and they'll tuck right in. If you've got fussy eaters, seize this window of opportunity by feeding them witch-fingers (a ham roll-up with flaked almond fingernail), stomach bile (pea and ham soup), werewolf droppings (onion bhajis) and bog-beast eyeballs (mozzarella with pesto).
It's three decades since you last played it, but still nobody has topped the timeless party game of assembling kids in a circle, turning out the lights, then passing around peeled grapes (eyeballs), a marigold full of sand (severed hand), a watermelon (decapitated head) and a handful of popcorn kernels (rotten teeth). You could also try Pin The Tail On The Werewolf, or subject yourself to that old favourite, Mummify The Parent In Andrex.
13. Arts & crafts
With pipe cleaner spiders scuttling across the kitchen table, bog-roll bats flapping in the hall and a front garden full of polystyrene gravestones, your house is starting to feel like Blue Peter if it had been hijacked by Satanists. Sadly, however impressive your results, you'll invariably go on Pinterest to find yourself outdone by Jolene from Iowa, who's constructed a flawless full-size Freddy Krueger from toothpicks and pasta shells.
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