1. Start simple.
You may have great plans for your decor — indoors and outdoors. If you try to do it all at once, you will be stressed. Instead, as you go through this badge program, make notes of what you want to do. Afterwards, break it down so you have a few things to do each year . . . or perhaps only one if you are looking at something complicated. This way not only will you have time to do it right, your decor will be different every year.
2. Check it twice.
As you set up and as you pack away your decorations each year, look them over carefully. If something is damaged or not working, determine if it’s worth fixing it or if it would be better to replace it. This will save you aggravation in the long run . . . and you can spend time in the off-season repairing your Halloween decor.
If you have kids, you’re more likely to do a fun theme. This might just be your version of “cute” Halloween. For young adults and older people, you may choose to go with a “scary” theme. Both of these are rather generic. You can also choose a movie theme with Halloween-type elements that you can use as a guide. “Harry Potter”, “Dawn of the Dead”, “Frankenstein” and “Nightmare Before Christmas” each have their own elements that can be used in movie-themed decor. Perhaps you’d like something between these two like a graveyard, asylum, clowns, farm or pirate theme. Choose your theme so you can select elements that works together.
4. Think before starting.
Ask yourself some simple questions before starting your decorating. These are just a few. You’ll probably add to the list each year as you learn about what to do and not to do.
- Is it safe for kids of all ages?
- Will you build or purchase your pieces?
- If you’re building pieces, do you have a place to save the tips / tricks of experts?
- Where will you display the decorations? Do you need to move / adjust / clean the areas?
- Have you planned a layout / timeline so you can get everything done for Halloween?
- Will you need electricity for movable elements, lights, fog machines, etc.?
- Is your display large so you need to determine traffic patterns and plan for items like fencing or rope lights to help guide people?
- Is your decor visible from the road? Will people stop and park? Do you have a plan to keep kids safe?
- Do you have enough light so people don’t trip? Check for dark spaces.
- Do you have a maintenance plan / time for repairs, repainting, etc.?
- Do you have special pieces that you will only be putting out the day of or a couple days before Halloween only to minimize damage / vandalism?
- Do you have storage for the pieces during the off-season? Are there issues (such as fitting through doorways) that need to be considered?
Selecting the Pieces
You can choose to do a few tombstones or an entire graveyard. Use names of friends and family on the tombstones or choose to do the corny version with names that are more humorous than realistic.
To make an effective graveyard, you want to go beyond just the stones. Lighting your tombstones can make a big difference, so if you decide to use this kind of decor, plan on this. You can also add dried / dead flowers, body parts and other small pieces to help draw interest to the area.
6. Caskets, coffins and containers.
Fear of the unknown — or what might be in the box — is a great idea to play up on Halloween. False bottoms, triggering mechanisms and other possibilities allow you to “break out of the box.” Explore sites to see ways these can be built and displayed.
From wooden cutouts stuck in the ground to flying cheesecloth, you can make ghosts out of almost anything. Explore the ways ghosts are made and displayed.
You might want monster parts, full monsters, monsters coming out of the ground . . . well, you get the idea. Monsters include undead, aliens and anything not considered “human”. As you look at monsters, keep track of those you’d like to incorporate into your theme. You can choose a specific type of monster and create a theme around it.
9. Bats and cats.
Black creatures . . . such as bats and cats . . . can be added to your decor. Usually they are not enough for a theme. These creatures can be used for additional detail. Keep them in mind while you’re selecting your pieces.
Use of jack-o-lanterns can be for light, mood setting or just decoration. Experiment with different looks for your jack-o-lanterns that fit with your theme. If you plan on using candles inside, be sure they are out of the way of flying capes and the like.
11. Spiders and webs.
Dropping spiders is great for a scream. Fishing line hung in pieces over a trail can grab like webs and add to the creep factor. Look at the ways you might incorporate these elements into your theme or even be your theme.
12. Recycled props.
Using recycled materials to make props is a great idea . . . especially since you save money. Look through the list below and see if you can incorporate any of these into your decor.
- Bottles and jars
- Tin cans
- Chicken wire
- Bare, fallen branches, dead flowers, etc.
- Candle stubs and wax drips
- Animal bones, shells, feathers
- Treat buckets
13. Bits and pieces.
Spread around small pieces that grab someone’s attention. It adds detail and depth to your decor. Include things like fake hands, dead flowers, wigs, scratch marks, broken finger nails, bloody hand prints or other things that help instill a feeling of unease.
14. Trickin’ the treats.
Planning on handing out treats? Depending on who is attending, you can do anything from warm apple cider (with a bit of alcohol for adults) to preparing bags so eager hands aren’t spreading germs. You don’t have to stick to candy. Add spider rings, plastic insects, stickers or other creepy crawly to make it more fun. Don’t forget you can also craft small items for treats.
From eerie sound effects to special holiday songs, there is always something to hear. Explore your music collection. What can you use to add to your Halloween festivities?
16. Dry ice.
Dry ice or a fog machine will help create a moving fog to help set the atmosphere. Check out how each of these works and which you would be most likely to use for your chosen theme.
17. Tickle the nose.
Scents can also add to the experience. I’ve been to many haunted houses where you can smell the plywood and paint. Not too scary. The scent can be as simple as incense or burning sage. If you have a fog machine, you might be able to get scented solution. Check out what you have available and brainstorm how you can add this sense to your decor.
18. Other indoor props.
Indoor props tend to be smaller and more susceptible to the elements. List items you normally use indoors for props. Below is a list of some of the things my family does for the holiday.
- Picture fun — additions to family photos such as a witch hat on someone’s head
- Ghostly hand — ice for punch, frozen in glove
- Small gourds — serve as pumpkins in table decorations
- Skulls and spiders — scattered around to change normal decor into Halloween
- Flat plastic canvas decor
- Blood prints
19. Outdoor props considerations.
Outdoor props need special attention to make sure they are protected from the weather and sun. If you have a display you want to protect, adding fencing will help minimize vandalism. Brainstorm ways to keep your outdoor decor safe.
20. Other outdoor props.
Depending on your theme and materials on-hand, your possibilities for decor are seemingly endless. Check out these ideas and add some of your own.
- Porch light to black or orange
- Rope lights
- Signs directing traffic
- Maze made out of black plastic trash bags, hay bales, sheets, plywood, shrubbery, etc.
- Friends and family dressed up
- Leaves and yard debris
- Monster tracks
See the Enrichment Project badge program “Halloween Crafts” for items to help craft decor items.
Sites to Explore