Turn this Halloween chore into a fun family event.

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Mother and children carving pumpkin in dining room
Credit: Peter Muller/Getty Images

One of the things that can help keep you sane during complicated times is to remember that while there are many things outside our control, we do have some control over how we let them affect us. Flipping the script on situations that might be disappointing is often completely within our power, and it usually just has to do with how we look at things.

This is extra important when kids are involved and you have to help them figure out how to deal with their own feelings and reactions. And never is this more complicated than when it is connected to a special kid-focused thing like Halloween. 

Halloween is, at its core, a kid's holiday. Sure, plenty of adults get in on the fun. There are theme nights at bars and restaurants, and it is a fun excuse for a grown-up costume evening.

But to take a year off from that is not nearly as gut-wrenching a disappointment as it is for the little ones. So, it is even more essential to land on an attitude that helps them still look forward to the day without being overly upset about what isn't happening.

And one of the best ways to do that is to plan a full day of small-scale Halloween spirit. After all, Halloween is on a Saturday this year, so the whole family can go all-in on some fabulous fun. And nothing can take a whole day like pumpkin decorating.

A Whole Day of Pumpkin Picking, Carving, and Eating

Start with a morning trip to a pumpkin patch to select the perfect pumpkins, hopefully fueled by some warm spiced cocoa and apple cider donuts.

Be sure to choose pumpkins that are of a scale appropriate to the family member, and do remember that smaller pumpkins are often harder to carve. If your kids aren't big enough to wield the tools themselves, then choose large pumpkins that will make an impact to work on in pairs or teams with either older kids or parents.

If you have concerns about carving, pumpkins can also be painted, decoupaged, or decorated in other ways, so choose the method that works best for your family.

Once you get home, plan a warming lunch, starting with a theme-appropriate pumpkin soup (in the fabulous pumpkin bowls, if you are so inclined) and grilled cheese cut into fun Halloween shapes or pressed in a pumpkin waffle/panini maker.

Children scooping out pumpkins
Credit: Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

Time to Decorate Pumpkins

Start by hollowing out all of your pumpkins, and making some roasted pumpkin seeds. Divide the seeds among the whole family and let each member season theirs to their personal taste before roasting. Once they are cool, you can do a taste test, and offer up some prizes for the best flavors.

Then settle into some serious decorating. If you are going to carve, be sure to have a great carving kit to use, and if you have a large family, maybe get two to share. If you are worried about the design aspect, don't hesitate to grab a stencil book to guide you. If you want to avoid carving your pumpkins, load up on paints, or paint markers. Or think outside the box and decorate with anything from stickers to glitter to candy.

Set a spooky table for dinner with a themed tablecloth, cups, and napkins. Serve something silly and fun like Zombie Meatloaf or Jack-o-Lantern Stuffed Peppers. Stir some pureed spinach into your favorite mashed potato recipe for "slime" potatoes, and wrap broccoli spears in thin strips of puff pastry or biscuit dough for mummified vegetables. Have older kids? Try a more upscale pumpkin curry. And for more fun, have everyone come to the table in their costume.

After dinner, decorate some Halloween cookies together for a dessert that becomes an activity, and then give out silly prizes for the decorated pumpkins. Have a "trick or treat hunt" in the house, looking for hidden candy, watch a Halloween movie together, work on a Halloween puzzle or coloring books, make a ghost fort in the living room and listen to a scary or read an eerie book. Have some other family friends get in on the fun with a Zoom pumpkin and costume share.

Once the kids have gone to bed, try an eerie nightcap like a Vampiros Mexicanos or Spiritful Hot Chocolate, and congratulate yourself on a day of amazing Halloween memories, and some traditions that might just stick.