Monday, October 26, 2009

About Those Halloween Candy Houses...:A Tutorial

As I thought they would be, the Halloween houses were the hit of the children's Halloween party. The gingerbread house's redneck cousin, the Halloween house isn't for a child too under the thumb of the sugar police, but it's really not the sugar orgy you'd expect. Frankly, I like to encourage my children to use food, especially candy, as art supplies--you still get much of the same sensory pleasures as you would eating the candy, but it allows an entirely new way to experience the candy that is creative and aesthetic instead of gluttonous.

But yes, they do eat quite a bit of candy while making these Halloween houses, so you have been warned.

The color scheme of the Halloween house is primarily black and orange--you can do a full-on "haunted" Halloween house with an older kid, but I clearly do not have that kind of kid yet. The beauty of the color scheme, however, is that it leads you straight into the awesomest kind of candy--chocolate.

For the infrastructure of the house, we usually go with chocolate graham crackers, but anything chocolate will do. Think about any kind of chocolate cookies, chocolate Little Debbies or other snack cakes, chocolate ice cream cones (they make super turrets), chocolate candy bars, chocolate doughnuts.

You could use icing for these, like you do with gingerbread houses, and some colors of icing would look really cool here, but I like to use peanut butter instead. It's super sticky, super easy to apply, and it's one less super-sweet thing for the kids to shove in their mouths while they work:
When I set this activity up for a party, I spoon peanut butter out into little bowls for each kid, and give them a popsicle stick for application. It works perfectly. I also give each kid a paper plate to build the house on, just so that each kid can take her house home. The paper plate leaves enough work area that the kids usually make little candy yards for their houses, as well.

And when I do this for a party, I usually ask each person attending to bring a small bag of something edible for decorating the house, to share with everyone else. This makes for a good variety. Some of my favorites:
  • pretzels
  • raisins
  • candy corn and candy corn pumpkins
  • marshmallows (they make good ghosts)
  • Reese's Pieces
  • gummy anything, especially worms
  • novelty candy items, such as candy bones or spiders or whatever

One kid brought Jelly Bellies to our party this weekend, and they turned out to be a huge hit--each kid really liked picking out specific colors to use in their own art installations. One kid made a swimming pool using only the blue Jelly Bellies, for instance, and one kid made a grassy yard with the green ones, and one kid made "a big puddle of blood for the witch to fall in."


Other awesome people who also make Halloween houses (amazing how you can think that you invented something, and then here comes the internet to disabuse you of such naive notions):

The only other picky things I do are to ask the party kids to wash their hands before they begin, and to clean up and hide all the candy supplies as soon as everyone is done. Because you get kind of sick of candy when you're playing with it and it's right in your face, but run off to do a little pumpkin pounding or dress-up or whatever, and ten minutes later you'll find yourself thinking, "Hmmm, I wonder if there are any more Reese's cups over there?"

Which there totally are, because even though I packed up all the candy for Matt and BEGGED him to take it to work with him, he forgot (HOW could you forget candy?).

I really should probably go eat those last Reese's cups, now that I think of it.

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