EF at Home: Hauntingly Good Halloween Activities

Three children smiling and laughing eating Halloween candy

Boo! Halloween is right around the corner, and activities like trick-or-treating and costume planning offer fun ways to promote executive function at home.


Many students don’t like to organize, which isn’t news to most parents and teachers. We can make organizing more appealing by helping students understand the role that organization plays in adults’ lives.We can also use pictures to visualize how to keep materials organized.

At Halloween time, treats offer a fun (and tasty!) way for kids to practice sorting items into categories—an important part of building organizational skills. What different categories can kids come up with for their treats? See if they can sort treats into groups like chocolates, sour candies, gummies, lollipops, caramels, and more.


The weeks leading up to Halloween are a great time to plan what costume kids will wear. When creating a homemade Halloween costume, kids can think about the materials they will need and break down the steps they will take to create the look.

As Halloween nears, encourage kids to think about their trick-or-treating route. What’s the most efficient way to maximize treats in the shortest amount of time? Are there certain neighborhoods or buildings where they would like to trick or treat? They can draw on their past experiences to inform their plan.


When we think of self-control (a behavior that relies on executive function), we may think of the marshmallow test↗(link opens in new tab/window), a classic experiment that measures a child’s ability to delay gratification. In this test, a young child is put in a room and given a marshmallow and a choice: to eat the marshmallow immediately or to wait until the researcher returns and receive a second marshmallow. The child is left alone so that they can choose whether to give in to temptation or stick it out and double the reward. Children who wait are considered to have stronger self-control than others.

Consider trying your own version of this test when it comes to eating Halloween candy! Encourage children to set a goal: to have two treats rather than one if they wait. They will have to remember the rules (working memory), think flexibly, and use inhibitory control to stop themselves from grabbing the treat right away.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org



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