Maybe it’s just us, but we’re not really into the scary side of Halloween. I’ve read that it’s a lot better than it was back in the early 20th century (mayhem and super creepy homemade costumes!), but watching terrifying movies and putting out gruesome decorations that freak the neighborhood kids out just isn’t my idea of fun. I don’t know; maybe I’m just getting boring in my old age. 😉
But, you’d be surprised how many kids are brought up watching these things – and from an early age. I’ve already had a kindergartener tell me that his parents dressed his little sister up as Chuckie last year – and he totally knew who the character was. I’m still hoping he didn’t watch the movie, but ya never know.
So, just in case you’re like me (and if you do like the scary stuff, no offense meant! Everyone celebrates holidays in their own way), I’m sharing some of my family’s favorite not-so-scary Halloween books and movies/shows to watch this time of year.
***For the record, we have a 4-year-old son and an 11-month-old daughter (who’s not supposed to watch TV and doesn’t for the most part, but you know how that goes).***
Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest – When I say that Curious George (namely, the TV show version) is our family’s favorite, it’s an understatement. My husband and I probably prefer Curious George more than our kids, who do, indeed, like the show; we even prefer it to grown-up fare, if you can believe that. The Man in the Yellow Hat is my husband’s spirit animal (I wish I was kidding) and I’ve sat analyzing the show from every angle (The Man character = Ross from Friends, I swear).
So, when they released Boo Fest, we were ecstatic. The whole thing takes place at their country house (which my husband considers his dream home…again, not kidding) and revolves around an old tall tale about a scarecrow called “No Noggin” who kicks off the hats of unsuspecting trick-or-treaters. The music and humor make this juuuuust scary enough for the littles to enjoy while injecting some great autumn fun. The secondary characters are just as timeless as George and the Man, too.
Mickey’s Monster Musical – If your little ones love Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, they’ll love Mickey’s Monster Musical. While it uses typical Halloween monster characters – Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, ghosts – they get a mild Mickey makeover when they’re played by the Disney characters, themselves. As adults, my husband and I give each other the side eye and a smirk – the premise is blatantly based on some old horror films, but we recognize it most closely resembles The Rocky Horror Picture Show; even some of the organization of songs and general tunes seem too close to be random, hee hee – but our little boy loves it, and that’s all that matters to us. Plus, the songs ARE kinda catchy.
If you buy the double DVD (which we ended up doing when we found ourselves fed up with a lack of kid-friendly Halloween fare), there’s another MMC Halloween-themed show, Mickey’s Treat.
Mickey’s House of Villains – Found on Netflix (woohoo!), this winds a storyline of Disney villains taking over the “House of Mouse” (Mickey Mouse’s more grown-up “club” from the 90s TV show) through a handful of old and new Halloween Disney shorts. Honestly, my favorite part is the shorts, but our son seems to enjoy the whole thing, even if he has to convince us that “I won’t be scared, guys.”
The ending with essentially a battle between Mickey and friends vs. the villains could be construed as a teeny bit scary, but it’s a happy ending and you can also always end it after the shorts if you think your little one won’t like it. (I still consider it low on the scare-o-meter, but .)
Bedknobs and Broomsticks – Speaking of the scare-o-meter, this one’s more on the high end, so depending on the age of your little one, take this into consideration. For the most part, the film takes place in the sleepy WWII-era England countryside and revolves around a sweet but no-nonsense witch-in-training (Angela Lansbury) taking in three kids who have been orphaned by the war. While searching for a magic spell, they take mystical journeys (particularly cartoon-based ones) that give it a more Halloween-ish air of Mary Poppins, before things get darker when some Nazis infiltrate the scene.
The ending may be scary for some (I answered plenty of questions about Nazis and the suits of armor that kind of creepily fought them off – genuine questions, not fearful questions, but still), so enter at your own risk. This is by far the scariest suggestion on the list, so skip it for the younger set. It’s one that my husband adored as a child so we’ve added it to our annual “must see” list, but we’re quirky; we’ll be adding Arsenic and Old Lace when the kiddos are older, if that tells you anything.
Room on the Broom – You can either read this story or watch the half-hour-length movie/show (also available on Netflix), totally up to you, but I actually prefer the celebrity voice overs of the Oscar-nominated short movie. Either way, it’s about a kind-hearted, generous witch who makes “room on her broom” for several animals before encountering a problem that’s solved with the help of cooperation and friendship. (From the makers of The Gruffalo, also an awesome not-too-scary monster book.) This has become one of my personal favorites.
Creepy Carrots – A Caldecott Honor book for its awesome illustrations, this book is full of some creep – but no real scares – making it great for the younger set. Jasper is a carrot-lovin’ rabbit who is terrified that he’s being followed by some creepy carrots. This is a fun, excellent read for those who are too young for monster and ghouls. (My students and kids all love it and get the giggles while reading it, so hopefully yours will, too!)
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything – A classic Halloween tale with rhythmic repetition that gets the kiddos hooked, it tells of a little old lady who encounters all sorts of spooky things – a pumpkin head, a wiggly shirt, pants with no body, stomping boots – and walks faster and faster to her home. (Is she REALLY not afraid of anything, I wonder?) When they all catch up to her, she’s brave enough to answer the knock on her door, show them how unafraid she is, and even offer them a way to scare somebody. See if your little ones can guess what the solution is at the end!
Pumpkin Trouble – Adorably silly, this is a cute story about a duck who wants to make his own jack o’lantern but encounters some, um, trouble. (Spoiler alert: He falls in while scooping out seeds.) Even more giggle-inducing trouble ensues when he encounters his friends, who don’t realize it’s their friend, Duck. Little. Ones. Love. This. Book. It may seem super simple, but it’s totally worth buying. Kids of all ages love to reread it (or have it read to them) over and over again.
Apples and Pumpkins – If fall is your family’s favorite, like ours, this book is perfect. It captures the fun of picking apples and pumpkins, making a jack o’lantern, and going trick-or-treating without all the scary stuff. This is one of four books in Anne and Lizzy Rockwell’s series of seasonal books. The illustrations are sweet and classic, as is the story.
These are just a handful of our family’s favorites; hopefully you don’t think they’re too spooky!
We’d love to hear your own favorite family-friendly Halloween books and movies in the comments to share ideas with all! End let me know if you like this type of round-up. As a librarian by trade, I’d love to share more holiday-themed lists if you guys like them.