1. Draw a large letter on black construction paper (like a big "H" for Halloween) and ask your child to glue candy corn onto the letter, covering it completely. Practice making the letter sound: H-H-H-H-Happy Halloween! Then ask your child to name other objects that start with the same letter.
2. Go apple picking or explore a pumpkin patch while singing Apples & Bananas. This song helps little ones practice manipulating vowel sounds. Listen to the Baby Genius version of the song here.
3. While your child is exploring the great outdoors, ask her to collect three different objects in nature, like leaves, apple seeds and acorns. Then divide a piece of paper into three equal sections (see diagram below). Label the sections "First," "Second" and "Third" and ask your child to glue the objects onto each section in sequential order. Then prompt your child to retell the story of discovering each object as she points to the pictures: First I saw this pretty red leaf... This activity reinforces sequence of events and the concept of reading from left to right.
4. Play a family game of "freeze dance" with the song Monster Mash. In addition to freezing when the music stops, everyone has to recite this tongue-twister: Menacing monsters mingle at the monthly monster mash!
5. Ask your child to rewrite his favorite fall recipe to create a spooky dish. For instance, your famous pumpkin bread that calls for cinnamon and sugar can be transformed into mummy muffins made with ashes and ground toenails. Yum!
6. Take turns going around the dinner table to tell a Halloween story. Each family member adds one or two sentences to the plot and then passes his turn onto the next person. The sillier you are, the more motivated everyone will be.
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7. Instead of watching TV, set aside some Scrabble family time! Mix things up by applying "triple word score" to all words related to fall or Halloween.
8. Challenge your teen to research information about Halloween themes or legends such as the Headless Horseman, Dracula, werewolves and vampires. Are they fact or fiction? Are these sources reliable?
9. In true Halloween style, turn off the lights and hold a flashlight up to your face. Conduct a dramatic reading of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell Tale Heart. (Aside: I always end up with an English accent during my dramatic readings. It just seems more exciting that way.) Afterwards, gather the family around the computer to watch this awesomely spooky animated rendition of the story, narrated by James Mason.
10. Talk with your child about what she's been reading lately. Does she recommend any books? Were there any books she disliked? Why? Discussion always has the potential to spark a learning opportunity.