Archive for August, 2010

August 30th, 2010

Trick Or Treat Safety Tips

Vintage Hallowen Trick or Treat BagTrick or Treating is the best part of Halloween for the young and young at heart. All October long we plan our costumes, stock up on candy, and get ready for a great time.

The days of children safely navigating house by house looking cute and gathering trick-or-treat goodies have gone by in most American neighborhoods. But fear not, there are plenty of safe alternatives for your little (and sometimes big) trick-o-treating fans.

Here are a couple of safe trick-or-treat ideas for schools, churches, and communities that are great alternatives to ensure a fun and safe time for all the kids.

Source: All Hallows Eve

Trunk or Treat

Instead of having the kids go door to door, get with your neighbors (or church, community group, etc.) and host a Trunk or Treat event. This can be done at night or in the daytime and there is very little set up and preparation. Just decorate the inside of your trunk and display the candy in a really cool way. When the event is over, close the trunk and drive home. Use caldrons, skeletons and rats for a spooky theme. Or use pink fabric, a toad, and a tiara for a frog princess theme.

This is a perfect safe Trick or Treat idea for schools and can translate into other settings easily. If you are hosting the event in your neighborhood, all of the participants can park their vehicles at the end of their drive way. This is a great way to indicate who is and who is not participating in the event.

If you are hosting the event at a church or community center, have all of the participants park their cars in a circle. Explain to children and parents that they should only go to the cars inside of the circle. This is a great way to manage who is around and predators will be easily recognized.

Mall Hosted Trick-or-Treating

Most cities across the US will have at least one mall that hosts a trick or treating event. Check your local listings and the mall website for dates and times. Usually during this event, children can travel the mall, visiting various retailers for treats. Children can definitely dress up, and actually, it is encouraged! The participating stores will have some sort of sign posted indicating they are participating in the event. This is a great event because your children are able to have fun in a familiar and safe environment, and you can shop!

If you are still up for traditional Trick-or-Treating or if you know trick-or-treating will take place in your neighborhood follow these safety tips provided by the National Safety Council.


The National Safety Council urges motorists to be especially alert on Halloween.

  • Watch for children darting out from between parked cars.
  • At twilight or later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing.

Before They Go Out

Before children start out on their “trick or treat” rounds, parents should make sure that:

  • Children travel only in familiar areas and along an established route and youngsters understand not to eat any treat until you have inspected it.
  • Plan and discuss the route trick-or-treaters intend to follow. Know the names of older children’s companions and a return time has been established

Costume Design

  • Remember: fire-retardant materials for costumes and loose but warm clothing underneath.
  • Outfits should be made with light-colored materials. Strips of reflective tape should be used to make children even more visible.

Face Design

  • When buying special Halloween makeup, check for packages containing ingredients that are labeled “Made with U.S. Approved Color Additives,” “Laboratory Tested,” “Meets Federal Standards for Cosmetics,” or “Non-Toxic.” Follow manufacturer’s instruction for application.
  • If masks are worn, they should have nose and mouth openings and large eye holes.
  • Knives, swords and other accessories should be made from cardboard or flexible materials. Do not allow children to carry sharp objects.
  • Bags or sacks carried by youngsters should be light-colored or trimmed with retro-reflective tape if trick-or-treaters are allowed out after dark and carrying flashlights will help children see better and be seen more clearly.

On The Way

Children should understand and follow these rules:

  • Do not enter homes or apartments without adult supervision.
  • Walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic, if there are no sidewalks.


To ensure a safe and enjoyable trick-or-treat outing for children, parents are urged to:

  • Give children an early meal before going out.
  • Insist that treats be brought home for inspection before anything is eaten and when in doubt, throw it out. Don’t allow children to eat anything that is “suspect.”

Safety tips courtesy of the National Safety Council.

Visit us at Operation Letters to Santa for almost 1000 pages of Holiday Activities, Christmas Carols, Christmas Sheet Music, Holiday recipes, Free gifts and downloads and so much more!

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August 24th, 2010

26 Inexpensive and Fun Autumn Family Activities


Autumn ScarecrowCheck out these great, fun and cheap autumn activities for you and your family to enjoy:

  1. Apple cider is its best during autumn, and when heated it makes a wonderful hot beverage to warm little bellies up after they’ve been playing in crisp weather.
  2. Bundle up, as the weather is getting colder. Just to be silly, have a contest to see how many layers of clothes your kids can put on at a time. Prizes can also be given for how quickly they get their extra clothes on and off.
  3. Corn roasts can be particularly wonderful in early autumn when conducted with fresh sweet corn over a barbecue grill.
  4. Drive to a place where trees are plentiful, just to observe the turning of the leaves.
  5. Every autumn, some birds fly south for the winter. Notice what types of birds live near you and look up whether they migrate or stay put. See if you recognize any other kinds of birds in transit, like Canada geese.
  6. Figure out how many days there are in autumn by counting the days on the calendar between the first day of autumn and the first day of winter.
  7. Go on a nature hike at a state park, and bring along some popcorn and warm apple cider in a thermos.
  8. Hay-rides are often sponsored by nearby farms or community groups. Look for one and join in the fun.
  9. In the mornings during autumn, you can often see your breath when you walk outside. Help your kids look up why this happens and ask them to explain it to you.
  10. Jump in piles of raked leaves, but make sure the rake is somewhere else first.
  11. Kandy Korn is a favorite autumn candy. Fill a large jar with Kandy Korn and have your kids guess the number of pieces in the jar. You will have to count them beforehand and keep people from eating any.
  12. Leaf rubbings can be made with a crayon and a piece of paper placed over a leaf. The leaves you make can then be decorated and hung up as an autumn decoration as well as a teaching tool for helping your children learn the difference between different types of leaves.
  13. Make pumpkin loaves with your kids to give to grandparents, teachers or others as a wonderful autumn treat. Those of you who don’t bake well can fool everyone with boxed mix.
  14. Nobody likes a spoilsport. Many sports are active during autumn, so take your children to a local school’s sporting event, like a basketball or football game. Cheer for a team and explain the object and rules of the game.
  15. Oranges, reds and browns are prevalent during autumn. Call out one of the color names and have your kids make a list of everything they can think of which is that color. The child with the most things on their list wins.
  16. Potatoes are incredibly versatile. Make a list with your kids of every way you can think of to cook a potato, and then have them help you prepare potatoes in each way down the list.
  17. Quite appropriate also is to make lists together of sights, sounds and smells associated with autumn and help each child develop their list into a poem that can be read to their class at school or before Thanksgiving dinner.
  18. Read your kids a spooky story like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “The Telltale Heart” or a Goosebumps book. Then you can make puppets and act out the story for grandparents.
  19. Scarecrows can be silly or scary. Build a scarecrow with your kids out of household items and put it in the yard.
  20. Turn all your clocks back one hour on the appropriate day, and explain to your kids why we have daylight savings time. Ask them to figure out whether you get one hour more of sleep or one hour less of sleep during the autumn.
  21. Use strips of colored construction paper to weave interesting placemats for Thanksgiving dinner.
  22. Very soon it will be Halloween. Have your kids draw pictures of what costume they’d like to wear this year, or have them cut out pictures from magazines and make a collage of Halloween-themed things.
  23. Weathervanes are often depicted on the tops of farmhouses or barns. Find a weathervane near where you live, point it out to the kids and explain why it’s there. Then with tape, scissors, tin foil, cut up pizza boxes and cardboard rolls that come from paper towels, try to make one together.
  24. X-amine the animals around where you live and see how their behavior changes with the seasons. Make a list of the animals you see and how they prepare for and endure colder weather.
  25. You could make garlands for your outside trees by stringing together popcorn, cranberries or paper designs. You could also make birdfeeder ornaments by putting peanut butter on pinecones and hanging them up. This way, you’ll help the birds and squirrels prepare for winter as well as have fun decorating trees.
  26. Zzzzzzz. When the weather is cold outside, it is blissful and relaxing to hide under a big comforter and take an afternoon nap with your kids.

Visit us at Operation Letters to Santa for almost 1000 pages of Holiday Activities, Christmas Carols, Christmas Sheet Music, Holiday recipes, Free gifts and downloads and so much more!

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August 21st, 2010

Fun and Free Family Activities for Autumn

Source: The Dollar Stretcher

Are you looking for some autumn activities for the whole family that won’t cost a mint? Are you racking your brain trying to come up with autumn family fun ideas suitable for your three-year-old, as well as your 12-year-old?

Autumn is a great time of year to get outside, take in the crisp fresh air, admire the beautiful foliage, and appreciate the mild weather while it’s still with us. What better time to make a family date and do the following fall-like activities:

  • Fun and Free Family Activities for AutumnVisit an apple orchard and pick your own apples. You can make a day out of this by not only picking apples but packing a basket and finding the perfect spot for a family picnic. First, plan to also visit the orchard’s country store (if they have one) to pick up some apple cider or other fall treats to add to the picnic basket. Don’t forget to store apples in a cool, dark place when you get home. Later on, you can have fun making caramel apples and apple pies.
  • Invite friends and family over to have a raking or yard cleanup party. Ask everyone to bring their favorite seasonal dish and have a potluck while you’re at it. (Of course, you’ll want to coordinate this aspect of the party, as you don’t want to end up with four dishes of homemade applesauce.) This is not only a great way to clean up and winterize your yard but have a fun get-together at the same time.
  • Take a nature walk in the woods and point out interesting trees, plants, and wildlife. If you’re not up on the names of trees and plants, you can check a book out of the library that will serve as a guide. Encourage everyone to pick up leaves to press later on. They can make collages or all kinds of pictures and crafts from them. (One year for an autumn-themed birthday party, we used pressed leaves under a clear table covering for an impressive look.)
  • Likewise, make a trip to the pumpkin patch and then bake your own pumpkin pies. This is great fun for the kiddies, and they’ll enjoy baking and eating the pumpkin seeds, too. It’s the perfect time to begin teaching little ones about cooking and measurements, as well.
  • If the kids are a bit older, consider taking a longer hike. Make sure everyone has the proper clothing and footwear, as well as food, snacks and drinks. It’s a great way to commune with nature and get out in the open. It’s great exercise, too!
  • Get together with friends for a once-a-month (or more) autumn potluck. Make a heaping batch of beef stew, chili, or your favorite big batch meal, and call several family friends to join you with side dishes. Next month, let someone else do the same, and keep it up. Just think, if you do it more often, say once every two weeks, that cuts down on cooking for everyone!
  • Research museums in your area. Plan a day trip to one that you’ve never been to before. This is an especially helpful hint for those rainy weekends that creep up during the autumn months, and it’s educational. It can also lead to new interests and new field trips.
  • If you live anywhere near a farm, arrange a hayride for your family and friends. Later, bring them back to the house for hot cider, popcorn, pumpkin pie, and any other fall goodies you can dream up.
  • Find a local festival or fair. These are always fun for everyone with all the sights, food and activities to partake of and they are almost always on a weekend for your convenience.
  • Check out school and church bazaars as early as October and November to find very affordable holiday gift items. You’ll be surprised at some of the terrific sales you’ll get at these holiday markets. The children will be so pleased when they can find items that will fit in their budget, plus it makes for a fun day for everyone.

Autumn goes so quickly, so be sure to make the most of it by getting out and participating in some of the above activities.

Take the Next Step:

Autumn is a wonderful time of year, but it passes quickly. Start making some plans now, so you’ll be ready when the leaves start to change and the temperature starts to drop. There are many wonderful things to do. Maybe you’ll want to try one of the above activities or ask around and see what’s available in your neck of the woods.

August 20th, 2010

Implementing Your Faith into Halloween Trick or Treating

Christian HalloweenMany people don’t celebrate Halloween because of their religious beliefs. While that should certainly be respected, how about using the holiday as a way of ministering instead of avoiding it all in all?

Here’s an example of how one Christian woman, we’ll call her Ann, combines her faith with trick or treating every year. 

Starting the day after Halloween every year, Ann begins preparing for the next year’s trick or treat guests. You see Ann believes that Halloween is a way of opening her door to the children who may, down the line, want to know more about Christianity. She starts preparing goodie bags well in advance and plans well.

Each child who comes to her door receives plenty of candy, but that’s not all. She also includes things in the bag of goodies such as:

  • Faith based coloring books
  • Stickers
  • Games
  • Pencils & Erasers
  • Notepads
  • Anything with a message from the Bible

Each child also gets something age appropriate explaining Jesus. Things like Cd’s with Bible stories, Veggie Tales videos, and other things are bought throughout the year at dollar stores, Bible book stores, etc. so as to spread the cost out throughout the year.

Why does Ann do this? Her prayer is that when any of those children is ready to learn more about Christ they will remember her as the one who knows Him and can help them do just that.

Ann also decorates her home for the holiday with pumpkins. You won’t find traditional witches and ghouls carved in the sides of her jack-o-lanterns. Instead, crosses, angels and the words of Jesus are the carvings of choice.

For those who might be thinking Ann probably doesn’t get a lot of visitors to her home each year think again. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Each year between 80 and 100 kids ring her doorbell. The past few years have seen a decrease in the number of visitors she gets due to her neighborhood parents doing Trunk or Treat activities.

Trunk or Treat is where parents gather at the school and give candy to the children from the trunks of their car versus going door to door on Halloween night. For folks like Ann, it can be a little sad, but she realizes the positive of having been able to do what she does for over 10 years in her community.

Do you have suggestions or tips for Halloween activities for families of any and all religions? Please share them!

August 17th, 2010

Harvest Party or Halloween Party?

Harvest PartyMany parents, for varied reasons, are getting out of the traditional Halloween spirit of trick or treating. For some parents it is a fear of their children getting a hold of tampered with candy or being bullied by older and stronger gangs of teens who really shouldn’t be trick or treating in the first place.  For other parents it can be a decison based on religious beliefs.


Many of today’s parents who are Christians themselves when polled identified Christmas as their favorite holiday as a child. Many of those same parents chose Halloween as one of their favorite holidays as a child too. Alas, that was before we got so very, very politically correct and before just about everyone was offended by something or another.


In the 1970’s and 1980’s there were reports of razor blades and needles being put into apples being handed out to trick or treating children. Around the same time there were reports that candy and taffy were being laced with poison.

To my personal knowledge these incidents ended up being unfounded but Ann Landers and Dear Abby spoke of the dangers of trick or treating, and all over America concerned parents began to make changes to their Halloween traditions by either closely monitoring their children’s activities or changing their activities altogether when it came to Halloween and trick or treating.

Church sponsored parties for neighboring children first became popular in the 1980’s. During the hours of trick or treating it was common to find the church doors open offering children an alternative to traditional trick or treating. These alternatives still had every kid’s favorite part of the holiday – candy, but also included games and an overall safer way to spend the night. It was also common for churches to rather demonize Halloween by labeling it a pagan holiday. This was the start of Harvest parties replacing the trick or treating and scary Halloween parties.

To replace the door to door trick or treating or Halloween parties, some parents also considering Harvest or Fall parties. These are basically a watered down version of the traditional Halloween.

This leads us to wonder:

Where Exactly Did the Worry About Halloween in Christianity Come From?

Follow along as we see how it all came to be that many Christian parents’ now choose to celebrate Harvest without the “evil” and scary side of Halloween.

The Celtic’s celebrate the end of summer on Halloween by sacrificing to the gods of the Druidic tradition. Their belief was that the lord of death (Samhain) would send out evil spirits to attack the living. The only protection from the lord of death was for them to disguise themselves as evil beings or spirits, thus the costumes.

Wicca followers celebrate Halloween as one of two high and “holy” days. Following the Celtic belief as outlined above and worshipping Samhain, Halloween becomes a very evil day in the eyes of the Christian believer.

Fourth Century Christians, in an attempt to get away from this evil, began to focus and celebrate Christian saints. This is what we now know as All Saints Day on November 1st. It was during this time that parents, realizing that they could not completely get away from this day, began to allow their children to dress up in costumes that were non-evil such as brides, princesses, pumpkins and football players.

October 31st and Halloween will come each year. I hope this brief history on the emerging Harvest parties and Halloween will give you some insight when choosing how you will spend this day.

No matter which tradition you follow, be safe!

August 15th, 2010

Add Fun to Fall Functions with Photo Props & Stand-Ins

Source: ShindigzParty 

From the first of the harvest festivals to Oktoberfest and beyond, you can add both to décor and to event activities with a fun fall Photo Stand In from ShindigZ Party.

Here’s the scoop on our photo stand-ins. Colorful and theme-perfect, they have cutouts for attendees to place their faces for hilarious photo keepsakes. Some are right-sized for setting up on a table, counter or bar, while others are tall enough to sit on the floor near the entrance or other center of the party action. The tall stand-ins can be personalized with two lines of event information or seasonal message or greeting. All are free-standing cardboard pieces that are reusable if handled and stored with care.

Harvest Party Scarecrow Photo Prop

Harvest Party Scarecrow Photo Prop

  • For any sort of fall theme, pick out a fall harvest standup large or small. These photo ops feature scarecrows and harvest fruits and colors from down on the farm.
  • Greet Oktoberfest guests with a large, personalized Oktoberfest Photo Stand-In along with other pieces from our full line of Oktoberfest Party Decorations.
  • Looking for something a little more haunting? Our selection of Halloween photo cutouts gives you choices of classic Halloween characters and cut-out faces for one or two people at a time.
  • Photo props and stand-ins are sure to add an unexpected, extra punch of decorating flair as well as a favored activity to your fall events. Visit our Photo Stand In pages to match a photo prop to your event!

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