1. Make clever invites. The way you announce the "what, when, and where" can make the difference between a full house and one that seems like a ghost town. Pique interest with a clever invitation, and then follow up with an equally crafty take-home bag or trinket. In other words, begin and end on a high note!
2. Plan ahead. Factor in the age of partygoers to make sure your shindig doesn't frighten -- or bore.
3. Know when to end the party. Determine how long your bash should last before the day of the party. For younger kids, a couple of hours are plenty. Older kids might be able to persuade you to stretch it into a sleepover. Either way, make sure the invitation states the time parents can pick up their kids.
4. Decorate. Cast a spell on your home with handmade decorations that will be the life of the party. Set aside a weekend afternoon to craft a few goodies, and have the kids lend a hand. Use easy-to-make decorations as a crafting activity the day of the party.
5. Put it to music. If you lack ghosts in your house to provide spooky background noises, buy a CD of eerie and Halloween-appropriate tunes or compile your own from an online store. With the right background music, your decorations will seem to come to life. Blevins recommends playing "Monster Mash," "Witch Doctor," and "Ghostbusters" to get the party started.
6. Use double-duty decorations. Give out homemade Halloween decor as game prizes or as thank-yous for adult helpers.
7. Make monstrous munchies. It's the season for tricks, so why not play some on your food? With minimal effort, ordinary munchies and sweets become extra-special treats.
8. Add fruits and veggies. Includes some healthy offerings so you don't send little guests home on a sugar high. Just add spook appeal to entice tykes to take a bit. Blevins recommends creating monster mouths by sandwiching candy corn "teeth" between two apple slices spread with peanut butter. Adorn skewer tops of fruit and cubed cheese kabobs with plastic spiders for another healthy Halloween treat.
9. Keep it simple. Paper napkins and disposable plates, cups, and utensils are the kid-friendly and sensible way to serve goodies.
11. Play some games. Even though kids have a magical way of entertaining themselves, plan to fill some of the party time with activities. Try a sit-down crafting project followed by a work-off-some-energy dance contest. A costume contest is always a hit. Ask adult helpers to get into character, too!
A pumpkin toss game is sure to score big with party guests.
12. Do the shutterbug. Preserve the fun by taking lots of pictures. Designate a friend to be the photographer. In addition to candids, take a posed shot of each guest. Set up a festive "photo booth" in a corner of a room. After the party, mail a few photos to guests' parents for their scrapbooks. Or upload digital photos to a Web site (such as Kodakgallery.com), and make an online slide show to relive the fun.