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.

10 Frank Facts About Hot Dogs

StephanieFrey/iStock via Getty Images
StephanieFrey/iStock via Getty Images

Americans love a good hot dog—so much so that, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, we consume about 20 billion of them a year, which works out to about 70 hot dogs per person. In celebration of National Hot Dog Month (July) and National Hot Dog Day (July 17), here are some facts about franks to enjoy during your own summer barbecues.

1. Hot dogs have a surprisingly contentious origin.

Sausages have a history that stretches back to at least the time of Homer’s Odyssey, but the origin of the hot dog is just as tricky to pin down. There are multiple claimants to the invention of the hot dog, each with a slightly different innovation. Was the hot dog invented by the first person to shorten the name of German dachshund sausages to “hot dogs,” or the first person to put a sausage in a bread roll, or the first person to create a dedicated bun for holding a sausage? All of these creators have laid claim to the title of Hot Dog Inventor, but none have been conclusively verified.

2. Hot dogs might be sandwiches.

Hot dogs are tricky to define in another way as well, and both the general public and official organizations seem to have very strong opinions on whether hot dogs fall into the category of sandwiches or not. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says hot dogs are their own entities, but Merriam-Webster supports calling a hot dog a sandwich, based on the fact that it is just a piece of split bread with a filling.

3. Los Angelenos consume the most hot dogs per year.


iStock

While you might expect Midwestern grill-masters to buy up the most hot dogs, the actual top consumers are Los Angelenos, who purchase 34 million pounds of franks a year. And Californians also top the per capita rankings: as of 2010, San Francisco consumed the most hot dogs per person per year.

4. Regional hot dog styles add a serious punch to the basic dog.

Chicago is famous for dogs with onion, relish, pepper, pickle, tomato, mustard, and celery salt, but Coney Island-style hot dogs with chili, cheese, mustard, and onions are popular in their eponymous region and in Michigan. The South prefers slaw and chili on its hot dogs, while wrapping them in bacon and deep frying are popular in other regions.

5. Japan has invented some colorful hot dogs.

The Japanese also love their original hot dog varieties, and black hot dogs took over the Tokyo market in 2013. The bun and sausage are dyed with black charcoal ash, which apparently makes no difference to the flavor.

6. Hot dogs and baseball have a long history.

Sausages have been served at baseball games since at least the 1890s. One story says that they were first served at the ballpark by the German who owned the St. Louis Browns, while another story claims an ice cream vendor decided to switch his product on a particularly cold day at the ballpark. Either way, they're still going strong after more than 120 years.

7. Hot dogs are the headliners at America's most famous eating competition.


iStock

While legend has it that the first hot dog eating contest was held in 1916 to settle a casual bet—over who was the most patriotic, no less—the first recorded contest was in 1972. In that event, the winner ate 14 hot dogs in 12 minutes. In 2018, competitive eating legend—and now 12-time Nathan's champion Joey Chestnut—set a new event record, polishing off 74 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes.

8. Hot dogs have been fed to royalty.

In 1939, the King and Queen of Great Britain visited Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York. In true American spirit, the First Lady made sure to serve hot dogs during a picnic at their Hudson River property. Apparently, King George VI enjoyed them so much that he asked for seconds.

9. Hot dogs made Clara Bow famous.

To drum up business, the newly minted Nathan’s Famous hot dog restaurant at Coney Island hired a pretty redhead to serve its customers. Soon after, she was discovered by a vacationing talent scout, and became internationally famous as the silent film era's "It Girl," Clara Bow.

10. There is official hot dog etiquette.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council put out this video on the correct way to eat a hot dog. The whole video is worth a watch, but some highlights include: no ketchup if you're over the age of 18, no wine pairings, no utensils, and it should only take five bites to consume the entire hot dog (though you can take seven bites for a footlong). It might not be proper Emily Post material, but how can you argue with the "Queen of Wien"?

14 Revolutionary Facts About Bastille Day

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On July 14, 1789, Parisian revolutionaries stormed the Bastille fortress, where Louis XVI had imprisoned many of his enemies—or those whom he perceived to be enemies of the state. For many, the place had come to represent nothing short of royal tyranny. Its sudden fall foretold the French revolution—along with a holiday that’s now celebrated throughout France and the world at large with cries of “Vive le 14 Juillet!

1. In France, nobody calls it "Bastille Day."

The day is referred to as la Fête Nationale, or “the National Holiday.” In more informal settings, French people also call it le Quatorze Juillet (“14 July”). "Bastille Day" is an English term that’s seldom used within French borders—at least by non-tourists.

2. Originally, the Bastille wasn't designed to be a prison.

The name “Bastille” comes from the word bastide, which means “fortification,” a generic term for a certain type of tower in southern France until it was eventually restricted to one particular Bastille. When construction began on the building in 1357, its main purpose was not to keep prisoners in, but to keep invading armies out: At the time, France and England were engaged in the Hundred Years’ War. The Bastille, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoinewas conceived as a fortress whose strategic location could help stall an attack on Paris from the east.

Over the course of the Hundred Years' War, the structure of the building changed quite a bit. The Bastille started out as a massive gate consisting of a thick wall and two 75-foot towers. By the end of 1383, it had evolved into a rectangular fortress complete with eight towers and a moat.

Such attributes would later turn the Bastille into an effective state prison—but it wasn’t actually used as one until the 17th century. Under King Louis XIII, the powerful Cardinal de Richelieu began the practice of jailing his monarch’s enemies (without a trial) inside; at any given time, the cardinal would hold up to 55 captives there.

3. The Bastille was loaded with gunpowder. 

In July 1789, France was primed for a revolt. Bad weather had driven food prices through the roof, and the public resented King Louis XVI’s extravagant lifestyle. To implement financial reforms and quell rebellion, Louis was forced to call a meeting of the Estates-General, a national assembly representing the three estates of France. The First Estate was the clergy, the Second Estate held the nobility, and all other royal subjects comprised the Third Estate. Each estate had a single vote, meaning two estates could defeat the other estate every time.

The Estates-General met in Versailles on May 5, 1789. Arguments between the Third Estate and the other two boiled over on June 20. King Louis responded by physically locking the common people’s representatives out of the room. The third estate, now calling themselves the National Assembly, reconvened on an indoor tennis court and pledged to remain active until a French constitution was established.

The King sanctioned the National Assembly on June 27, but then sent troops into Paris to deal with growing unrest. He made his problems worse by dismissing finance official Jacques Necker, who supported the Third Estate. The National Assembly and everyday citizens began to take up arms. On July 14, 1789, revolutionaries burst into a soldiers’ hospital in Paris and seized 3000 guns and five cannons. Then, they broke into the Bastille where a stockpile of gunpowder lay. 

4. The July 14 "storming" freed only a handful of prisoners ...

The French revolutionaries who broke into the Bastille expected to find numerous inmates. In reality, the prison was almost empty except for seven captives who seemed to be in relatively good health. We may never be certain of their identities. Some accounts claim that four of the prisoners had committed forgery, two were regarded as lunatics, and one was a disgraced nobleman. Other sources are less specific. A report penned on July 24 agrees that four were forgers and another came from an aristocratic family—but that the other two vanished before anyone could definitively identify them.

5. ... and the Marquis de Sade was almost among them.

You probably know him as the man whose conduct and erotic writings gave rise to the word sadism. In 1784, the aristocrat was transferred from another prison to the Bastille, where he languished for the next five years. Within those walls, de Sade penned several books—including his notorious novel One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom.

He surely would have been freed when the Bastille was stormed. But on June 2, de Sade started yelling at the passersby beneath his window, claiming that people were being maimed and killed inside and begging the people to save him. The episode got de Sade transferred once again—this time to an insane asylum outside Paris. His removal from the Bastille took place on July 4, 1789. Ten days later, rebels stormed inside.

6. Thomas Jefferson donated money to the families of the revolutionaries.

As America’s minister to France (and a big fan of revolution), Jefferson took a lively interest in the Bastille incident—which broke out while he was living abroad in Paris. Although Long Tom didn’t witness the event firsthand, he eloquently summarized everything he’d learned about the siege in a detailed letter to John Jay. On August 1, 1789, Jefferson wrote in his diary, “Gave for widows of those killed in taking Bastille, 60 francs.”

7. A huge festival was held exactly one year after the Bastille was stormed. 

By July 14, 1790, the Bastille had been destroyed, its pieces scattered across the globe by souvenir collectors. France now operated under a constitutional monarchy, an arrangement that divided power between King Louis XVI and the National Assembly. Meanwhile, hereditary nobility was outlawed.

To honor these advances, the government organized a huge event called the “Festival of the Federation,” which was to take place on the first anniversary of the Bastille showdown. As July 14 approached, French citizens from all walks of life came together and set up some 40,000 seats in preparation. When the big day finally arrived, King Louis arrived with 200 priests and swore to maintain the constitution. The Marquis de Lafayette—who’d famously helped orchestrate America’s revolution—stood by the monarch’s side. Later on, Queen Marie Antoinette got a huge cheer when she proudly showed off the heir apparent. Among the spectators was dramatist Louis-Sébastien Mercier, who later said, “I saw 50,000 citizens of all classes, of all ages, of all sexes, forming the most superb portrait of unity." 

8. Several different dates were considered for the French national holiday.

Here’s a trick question: What historical event does Bastille Day commemorate? If you answered “the storming of the Bastille prison,” you’re both right and wrong. In 1880, France’s senate decided that their homeland needed a national holiday. What the French statesmen had in mind was an annual, patriotic celebration dedicated to the country and her citizens. But the matter of choosing a date turned into an extremely partisan ordeal: Every available option irked somebody in the senate on ideological grounds. For instance, conservatives were dead-set against July 14 (at least at first) because they felt that the 1789 Bastille incident was too bloody to merit celebration.

Alternatives were numerous. To some, September 21 looked attractive, since the original French Republic was created on that day in 1792. Others favored February 24, which marked the birth of France’s second republic. Another option was August 4, the anniversary of the feudal system’s abolishment.

Ultimately, though, July 14 managed to win out. After all, the date marks not one but two very important anniversaries: 1789’s attack on the Bastille and 1790’s peaceful, unifying Festival of the Federation. So by choosing July 14, the senate invited all citizens to decide for themselves which of these events they’d rather celebrate. As Senator Henri Martell argued, anyone who had reservations about the first July 14 could still embrace the second. Personally, he revered the latter. In his own words, July 14, 1790 was “the most beautiful day in the history of France, possibly in the history of mankind. It was on that day that national unity was finally accomplished.”

9. Bastille Day features the oldest and largest regular military parade in Western Europe.

This beloved Paris tradition dates all the way back to 1880. In its first 38 years, the parade’s route varied wildly, but since 1918, the procession has more or less consistently marched down the Champs-Elysées, the most famous avenue in Paris. Those who watch the event in person are always in for a real spectacle—2015’s parade boasted some 31 helicopters, 55 planes, 208 military vehicles, and 3501 soldiers. It’s also fairly common to see troops from other nations marching alongside their French counterparts. Two years ago, for example, 150 Mexican soldiers came to Paris and participated.

10. In France, firemen throw public dances.

On the night of July 13 or 14, people throughout France live it up at their local fire departments. Most stations will throw large dance parties that are open to the entire neighborhood (kids are sometimes welcome). Please note, however, that some fire departments charge an admission fee. Should you find one that doesn’t, be sure to leave a donation behind instead. It’s just common courtesy.

11. The Louvre celebrates by offering free admission.

If you’re in Paris on Bastille Day and don’t mind large crowds, go say bonjour to the Mona Lisa. Her measurements might surprise you: The world’s most famous painting is only 30 inches tall by 21 inches wide.

12. Bastille Day has become a truly international holiday.

Can’t get to France on Bastille Day? Not a problem. People all over the world honor and embrace the holiday. In eastern India, the scenic Puducherry district was under French rule as recently as 1954. Every July 14, fireworks go off in celebration and a local band usually plays both the French and Indian national anthems. Thousands of miles away, Franschhoek, South Africa, throws an annual, two-day Bastille celebration—complete with a parade and all the gourmet French cuisine you could ask for.

Then there’s the United States, where dozens of cities organize huge festivals on this most French of holidays. New Orleans hosts a doggie costume contest in which pet owners are encouraged to dress up their pooches in handsome French garb. Or maybe you’d like to visit Philadelphia, where, at the Eastern State Penitentiary museum and historic site, Philly citizens re-enact the storming of the Bastille while guards keep the rebels at bay by hurling Tastykakes at them.

13. A huge solar flare once took place on Bastille Day.

NASA won’t be forgetting July 14, 2000 anytime soon. On that particular day, one of the largest solar storms in recent memory caught scientists off guard. An explosion caused by twisted magnetic fields sent a flurry of particles racing toward Earth. These created some gorgeous aurora light shows that were visible as far south as El Paso, Texas. Unfortunately, the particles also caused a few radio blackouts and short-circuited some satellites. Astronomers now refer to this incident as “The Bastille Day Event.”

14. You can find a key to the Bastille at Mount Vernon.

The Marquis de Lafayette, 19, arrived in the new world to join America’s revolutionary cause in 1777. Right off the bat, he made a powerful friend: George Washington instantly took a liking to the Frenchman and within a month, Lafayette had effectively become the general’s adopted son. Their affection was mutual; when the younger man had a son of his own in 1779, he named him Georges Washington de Lafayette.

The day after the storming of the Bastille, the Marquis de Lafayette became the commander of the Paris National Guard. In the aftermath of the Bastille siege, he was given the key to the building. As a thank-you—and to symbolize the new revolution—Lafayette sent it to Washington’s Mount Vernon home, where the relic still resides today

This story originally ran in 2016.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER