With neither traditional costume parties nor trick-or-treating this Halloween, what’s a kid to do? Art director, graphic designer, illustrator, and author Erin Jang (who is also the design mind behind our new Kids issue and a Domino contributor) recommends amping up the fun simply by turning off the lights and creating your very own glow-in-the-dark mini universe.
The Manhattan-based mom of two is an expert at reimagining everyday materials into playful items—a cardboard box becomes colorful dinosaur figurines; a paper bag doubles as (last year’s) Halloween disguise—with the help of her sons Miles (9) and Noah (4). Her advice? You can make memorable moments with things you have at home or buy something that is going to last beyond that one holiday and opt for pieces with longevity in mind. (Hint: Day-Glo is also excellent for New Year’s Eve and outer space–themed birthday decor.)
“Halloween lands on a Saturday this year, and with things being so different with COVID precautions, we’re trying to make the day feel like less of a letdown for our kids and keep the magic alive in small ways—while staying chill and realistic,” explains Jang. To save busy parents any extra work, she believes in incorporating holiday fun into your family’s regular routine: crafts and games, bath time, and dinner—just make it glow. “You can choose any one of these projects and it will still feel super-special,” she says. Here, the creative rounded up some of her favorite ideas for a sustainable, safe, and low-stress Halloween at home, so come sundown all you need to do is flick a switch.
Using white paper treat bags (which she asked her boys to draw on with a Sharpie but kept the end use a surprise), Jang then popped an LED tea light into each, filled them with a few candies and snacks, and scattered the bags around, scavenger hunt–style. “We live in a small city apartment, so we have to get creative about where to hide things—in closets and bathrooms or on bookcases,” she says. If you’re feeling ambitious and have a bigger space to explore, you can write clues to locate each bag.
Of course, there’s no shortage of glow-in-the-dark toy offerings out there. Rather than buying one-offs, add to an existing collection or building system, such as Plus Plus or Magnatiles, and allow your kids to expand their repertoire. A far-out nature-inspired puzzle brings the whole family together. And for the older set, writing out secret messages with a spy pen is forever cool. Pro tip: Jang recommends getting a small black-light flashlight, since some toys and books need to “charge up,” but the black light instantly makes things pop.
Reading together in the dark definitely ups the novelty factor. “Kids love any kind of flashlight. It makes story time way more thrilling,” says Jang, whose sons often pull out their camping headlamps at night, especially during the pandemic to shake up the usual routine at home. Some of their favorite glow-in-the-dark titles: Animals at Night, Nocturne: Dream Recipes, The Bunny’s Night Light, The Game in the Dark (for younger readers), and the Dr. Seuss classic What Was I Scared Of?
Throw it back to the ’90s with a kid-friendly foam party featuring glow sticks in a bubble bath (a classic but a goodie). And for a special drink with dinner, add a splash of tonic water to their juice or lemonade and watch it glow under a black light with the overhead lights turned off. (Little ones can have milk and the effect is similar.) Bonus: Parents can pour their own well-earned cocktail after hours to celebrate.
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