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11 Fun Halloween Projects (Beyond Jack O'Lanterns) You Can Do With Your Kids

Halloween is lots of fun for kids, from decorating a pumpkin to trick-or-treating. But there are plenty of other Halloween projects you can do in between. Here are some fun family activities for children of all ages.

1. TOILET PAPER ROLL FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER

Your toddler probably isn't old enough to know about Frankenstein, but this simple and adorable project is fun anyway. All you need are a toilet paper roll, some markers or paint, golf tees for the bolts, and a couple of googly eyes. See how it’s done at No Time For Flash Cards.

2. HALLOWEEN HAIR GEL SUNCATCHERS


These days, parents often use ziplock bags to keep fingerpaint contained. Jackie Currie at Happy Hooligans adapted that idea to create suncatchers using translucent hair gel. Kids put a little hair gel in a sandwich bag along with a couple of drops of food coloring and small Halloween or fall items, then mush it all together for mess-less mayhem (as long as the bag is properly closed). The translucent gel lets the kids clearly see the decorative additions, and the sun shines right through when the bags are taped to a window.

3. SPIDER SUCKERS


Dress up your lollipops for trick-or-treaters or a Halloween party by making them into spiders! All you need are some pipe cleaners, googly eyes, scissors, glue, and spherical sucks like Tootsiepops. Cut the pipe cleaners in half, wrap them around the lollipop stick, glue on the googly eyes, and voila: a spider! The complete instructions are available at I Heart Naptime.

4. MINIATURE MUMMY


It’s easy to make miniature mummies—just use your kids' toys! It's as easy as wrapping a Barbie doll or action figure in gauze (you can see the complete instructions here). The finished mummy can be attached to a wreath, or you can string several of them together to create a spooky garland.

5. EXPLODING PEEP GEYSERS


Grab some packages of ghost-shaped Peeps and a plastic bottle for this fun experiment. Cut the top off of the bottle, drop in the Peeps, and pop it in the microwave—then ask your kids what they predict what will happen to the marshmallows once you turn the microwave on. Hit start and watch the marshmallow expand right out out the bottle, like supernatural ectoplasm. The finished product is not only a mess, but a hot mess, though it's apparently easy to clean up.

6. MUMMY DOGS

scoochmaroo via Instructables

Making yummy mummy hot dogs for dinner is simple enough for even young children: They just need to wrap hot dogs in crescent roll dough. If the wrapping is a little raggedy, it just makes the mummies spookier!

7. FLYING GHOST ROCKETS


To pull off this fun project, you'll need clear film canisters—with spooky ghost faces drawn on in black marker—cornstarch, water, and Alka-Seltzer. Add the cornstarch and water to the canisters, mixing well; next, drop in a piece of Alka-Seltzer, pop the top of the canister on, and flip the "ghost" over to rest on the top. Stand back and watch as the ghosts go flying! You can find step-by-step instructions here.

8. HALLOWEEN BOWLING SET


Sure, this DIY bowling set is Halloween-themed, but it's fun enough to play with year round. The six 9-inch-tall pins are cut from 4.5 feet of 1x4-inch wood. After sanding down the edges, you can decorate them as whatever spooky creature you'd like using googly eyes, construction paper, and markers. Players bowl using a bouncy ball painted to look like an eye.

9. HOMEMADE SLIME


If your kids are old enough to keep the mess in one room, make your own slime for gooey, squishy fun! Steve Spangler gives us five different recipes for slime, from the classic borax recipe to shaving cream slime, depending on how ambitious you are and what you want the finished product to be. One will glow in the dark under a blacklight, as pictured above, and one is even edible!

10. FRANKENWORMS

Gummy worms come alive in this Halloween science project. It’s the old baking soda and vinegar volcano trick, without the mess of an eruption—and they're a great trick for any Halloween party. Cut standard gummy worms lengthwise at least four times, then drop them into a cup that contains a baking soda and water solution; let sit for 15 minutes. Then, carefully remove the worms from the baking soda solution and put them in a jar of vinegar and watch the magic happen. The reaction of baking soda with vinegar creates bubbles of carbon dioxide that will make the worms move and even float.

11. MAD SCIENCE TEST TUBE RACK


The test tubes in this rack contain water mixed with fluorescent pigments, lit by a blacklight—and, if you feel like setting up a microcontroller, you can even make them blink creepily. The instructions by John Park at Adafruit take you through building the rack (with or without wiring), mixing the potions, and controlling the lights. Your child will want to keep this as a bedroom lamp forever.

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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holidays
10 Things You Might Not Know About Chinese New Year
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Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning February 16, China will welcome the Year of the Dog, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world's total population rings in the new year.

1. THE HOLIDAY WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO SCARE OFF A MONSTER.

Nian at Chinese New Year
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As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A LOT OF FAMILIES USE IT AS MOTIVATION TO CLEAN THE HOUSE.

woman ready to clean a home
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While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. IT WILL PROMPT BILLIONS OF TRIPS.

Man waiting for a train.
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Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is estimated to prompt nearly three billion trips over the 15-day timeframe.

4. IT INVOLVES A LOT OF SUPERSTITIONS.

Colorful pills and medications
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While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. SOME PEOPLE RENT BOYFRIENDS OR GIRLFRIENDS TO SOOTHE PARENTS.

Young Asian couple smiling
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In China, it's sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, some will opt to hire a person to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they're in a relationship and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. RED ENVELOPES ARE EVERYWHERE.

a person accepting a red envelope
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An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it's best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. IT CAN CREATE RECORD LEVELS OF SMOG.

fireworks over Beijing's Forbidden City
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Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there's more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. In 2016, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. BLACK CLOTHES ARE A BAD OMEN.

toddler dressed up for Chinese New Year
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So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday symbolize good fortune.

9. IT LEADS TO PLANES BEING STUFFED FULL OF CHERRIES.

Bowl of cherries
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Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand—last year Singapore Airlines flew four chartered jets to Southeast and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons were being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. PANDA EXPRESS IS HOPING IT'LL CATCH ON IN THE STATES.

Box of takeout Chinese food from Panda Express
domandtrey, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, the franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

A version of this story originally ran in 2017.

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