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Inspired by the Museum: When Tweens Take On the Haunted House

Katie Blog 1This post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador Katie White! Follow Katie's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @katieunscripted.

One of the things I love about The Children’s Museum is that my tween daughter Alaina loves it just as much as my toddler. She may not love splashing in water or pouring sand all over the ground in Playscape like her baby brother, but she does especially love this Halloween season at the museum.

Alaina’s kind of a Halloween-crazed kid. She has always started planning her Halloween costume promptly on November 1st each year. And for as long as I can remember, she has always spent her summer reading points from the public library on a ticket to The Children’s Museum Haunted House before anything else—even as a 12-year-old, seventh grader!

Last year I took her and two of her friends to the Defender Direct’s Frightening Hours (recommended for kids who dare to be scared) for the first time. They had so much fun (I did too!) that they decided to go back together this year, and every year after as a tradition. But because of a scheduling conflict, the only time they could go was during the Williams Comfort Air's XTREME SCREAM (recommended for teens and adults).

Xtreme Scream

Can I tell you how much fun it was just to watch these three psych themselves up (or out!) to go to a “real” haunted house?! And as a parent who is a bit cautious about “adult” haunted houses in Central Indiana, I was thankful that I could confidently send my tween daughter to a haunted house at the same museum my toddler runs around till he drops.

The result? They had a blast! They were scared to death and have talked about it daily since their visit. But they felt safe since they were in a place they’ve grown up playing in. I think that’s one of the reasons they had so much fun. 

I love that a children’s museum in my city can offer seasonal events that will capture the hearts of every one of my four children—from ages 1 to 12. From the Black Hat Bash, where our entire family dressed up in costumes, ate great food, and played all over the museum, to the Creepy Carnival Haunted House, where my littles can walk through with lights on and smiling greeters in each room offering treats, or at XTREME SCREAM, where my big can be scared until she “maybe peed my pants just a little bit.” 

Still wondering what level of fright is right for your family? Learn about all of the Haunted House scare levels in this blog post and infographic.

Katie Blog Tag

Family Health Tip: Halloween Safety for Your Ghouls and Goblins

Family Health TipThis blog post first appeared on Kids HealthLine, courtesy of Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent.

Make this Halloween one to remember for fun and creativity—not a trip to the emergency department. Simple precautions can make for a fun and safe Halloween. Halloween presents a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to have fun together—and more than any other holiday, it requires extra attention to safety concerns.

  1. Pumpkin-carving: Younger children can draw faces that an adult cuts out. The safest candle option is a votive — or up your jack-o-lantern’s safety quotient by using a glow stick or battery-powered light.
  2. Costume Tips:
    • When choosing which superhero or cartoon character for your child to be, consider visibility and ease of movement for each costume.
    • Costumes that are bright or reflective help keep kids safer in fading light. Parents can add reflective tape to trick-or-treat bags or costumes to ensure motorists can see children crossing roadways or driveways. Glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets are also great options to help visibility.
    • Hats and shoes should fit properly to minimize the risk of tripping or obscured vision.
    • Makeup approved for use on faces can be a good alternative to masks that limit trick-or-treaters’ ability to see.
    • Swords, wands, and other costume props should be flexible, short,and soft to prevent injuries.
  3. Trick-or-Treating Tips:
    • Always accompany small children while trick-or-treating.
    • Parents should establish a safe trick-or-treating route and time to return home with older children–who should still go out in a group.
    • Teach your child to walk on sidewalks or at the edge of roadways facing traffic.
    • Flashlights and glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets can help your children find their way and be seen by drivers.
    • Children should know never to enter a home for a treat. They should also avoid cutting across lawns or alleys and stick to sidewalks and designated places to cross the street.
  4. Candy: Wait until you get home to examine and eat candy. A responsible adult should weed out choking hazards, items in open packages, homemade items or anything suspicious.
  5. Handing out candy: Parents who plan to hand out candy should prepare yards and front porches by removing garden hoses, lawn ornaments and tools children might trip over in the dark. All outdoor lights should have working bulbs, and sidewalks should be swept of wet leaves or other slipping hazards. This way, no one gets hurt – and everybody has fun!

Creepy Carnival-Inspired Halloween Treats

Even though the Indiana State Fair has come and gone, you can still enjoy all of your favorite carnival foods this fall! As a part of the Creepy Carnival Haunted House, The Children’s Museum Guild Witches have shared ways to transform that typical carnival food into a creepy at-home creation.

Mummy Hot DogsMummy or severed finger hot dogs
Have a crowd of hungry goblins to feed?  Kids will love
these fun but simple ways to turn a classic hot dog into something creepy—like mummies! All you need to do is wrap Pillsbury crescent rolls around hot dogs, apply mustard to make eyes, bake accordingly to packaging instructions, and voila—your hot dogs are now mummies! If you’re looking for a way to really scare the kids, you can also transform a hot dog into a severed finger. To do this, you'll need a knife and a teardrop or oval cutter to make the fingernail [recipe]. For vegetarians, you can create something similar! Instead of using hotdogs, create mummies or severed fingers by replacing them with pretzel sticks and melted chocolate [recipe]. Hopefully you’ll still want to bite into these scary snacks when they’re complete! 

Creepy pumpkin carmel applesCreepy pumpkin caramel apples
Ever notice that apples are a similar shape to pumpkins? You can turn a simple fall treat into a frightening pumpkin by adding some decoration. After the caramel has cooled on the apples, melt any chocolate you prefer to use for the eyes and face.  Stick on gummy worms or other candy for an extra creepy pumpkin look [recipe]. This recipe can be a fun activity for kids to do in anticipation for Halloween and our haunted house.


Witches Popcorn Witches Popcorn
These days, we witches are always snacking on popcorn while keeping busy planning the Creepy Carnival. Yes, witches love popcorn too! To make this favorite snack scary, we like to use green food coloring, lots of butter and sometimes candy corn. However, there are many different ways to make this treat your own [recipe]. If you want to hand out Witches Corn at a Halloween party, you can also fill up a plastic glove with the popcorn and use candy corn as fingernails. Hopefully our favorite snack won’t turn you into a witch! Hehehe. 

Spider web cotton candySpider web cotton candy
Love that light and fluffy sweet taste known as cotton candy? If you have a cotton candy maker, then it’s easy! If you don’t, no worries! You can find a recipe to make this favorite carnival treat without a machine here. The cotton candy should already look naturally webby, but you can also add food coloring or plastic spiders to give it a spookier feel. This simple treat allows a lot of room for creativity and fun. 



Bloody Ears

Bloody Ears
Elephant ears are mouthwatering, sugary and everything to enjoy in life. A bloody ear might not look so appetizing, but it’s just as delicious! The only difference is these ears are stuffed with jelly using puff pastry to give it that bloody look. This recipe can be found on the Rachael Ray Show here. We witches like to eat these bloody ears for breakfast. It’s one of our favorites! 




To check out some of our other Creepy Carnival recipe ideas, visit our Pinterest page. After you’re done in the kitchen, don’t forget to get your tickets to the Creepy Carnival Haunted House!


Photo Attribution: 

  1. Mummy hot dog picture from 
  2. Creepy pumpkin caramel apples picture from 
  3. Witches Popcorn picture from
  4. Spider web cotton candy picture from
  5. Bloody Ears picture from 

Inspired by the Museum: Creepy Carnival Pumpkin Painting

BashThis post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador, Samantha Cotten. 
Follow Samantha's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @samanthacotten

Halloween is quickly becoming the Cotten family's favorite holiday. Last year at this time, we were anxiously awaiting our daughter's arrival (she missed being a pumpkin baby by just a few hours!) This year, we're honoring her first birthday with a month full of fa-BOO-lously spooky activities. Because what one-year-old doesn't love The Children's Museum Guild's Haunted House, Creepy Carnival?

Last weekend we dressed in our best "classic monster" garb, and headed to the Black Hat Bash to kick off our celebration. The museum did not disappoint in their festiveness—even the dinosaurs outside were in costume! Our little ghost loved checking out the other kids' get-ups, and even had a chance to haunt the Playscape in between bites of Blondie's Cookies. Our favorite part of the evening was getting a sneak preview of the Haunted House, which was delightfully creepy even with the lights on! It was the perfect amount of scary and friendly for our toddler (and for this easily-frightened mom and dad!)

Creepy Carnival was enough to inspire us to dress our own home up for the holiday. Every family headed by Frankenstein needs a little Halloween decor, right? We headed to our local pumpkin stand, picked out our favorites and got a little messy to create our own Creepy Carnival mascot—Barker Bones! Now we're the most festive house on the cul-de-sac. ;)

Dot pumpking painting

  1. Use painter's tape to cover your pumpkin (where you want your design to show).
  2. Draw your design directly on the painter's tape. I free-handed this Barker Bones, but you can use the museum's awesome Haunted House-Inspired templates!
  3. Use a razor blade to trace around your design, and remove the excess tape.
  4. Pour out the non-toxic finger paints, and let your little Picasso get to work!
  5. Once your little one has sufficiently covered themselves (and maybe the pumpkin) in paint, peel back the tape to reveal your masterpiece.
  6. If you plan to put your pumpkins outside, I recommend spraying the painted side with a clear acrylic sealant - just to make it waterproof!

Dot painted pumpkins



Your Guide to the Friendly Feasts with the Witches

FeastWitches1The Friendly Feasts with the Witches are a Haunted House tradition! Learn what you can expect from these special events from the guy who knows best—Scott Rudicel of Ruditoonz. 
October is almost here, and the Haunted House at the Children’s Museum is ready to rock! I've had the honor the last six years to host the “Friendly Feasts.” These events are a breakfast, lunch or dinner with a gaggle of friendly witches that are hosted by me, Ruditoonz. They are geared toward the younger crowd (ages 0–10 or so), last about 90 minutes total, and consist of a feast, singing and dancing, and a special 20-minute Ruditoonz Halloween-themed concert in Lilly Theater. 


For the feasts themselves, I love running around and meeting the kids, telling jokes and making them laugh while they eat. Fazoli’s provides worms with ground werewolf (spaghetti with meat sauce), breadsticks (mummy fingers) and salads (with lettuce grown by the witches themselves).  The breakfast is usually scrambled brains (eggs) and werewolf sausage and bacon with coffee (bat juice). Mmmmmmmmm. Getting hungry yet?
All the while, Halloween music is playing overhead. As I do with Ruditoonz, I choose this music carefully for not only the kids, but the moms and dads, too. We have “Witch Doctor” followed by Alice Cooper “Welcome to my Nightmare”, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and of course, the “Monster Mash.” Frances the friendly witch is usually around to help teach the kids her best witchy dance moves.  We have a lot of fun!
Just ahead of the crowd, I run down to the theater and plug in for the concert. Each year, I mix up the songs I play to keep it fresh for both the returning guests and me. Also, every year I write a new song using the year’s theme as the title. Last year I wrote “Time Warp,” to mark the 50th anniversary of the Guild’s haunted house at the museum! I wrote a great song, kitschy like the Rocky Horror “Time Warp” yet entirely original and rocking, name checking both past haunted house themes and rooms in the current haunted house. Watch below or have a listen now—it rocks!
Following my show, everyone gets to go through the Haunted House with the lights on. They say this is less scary for the youngsters, but as someone who has gone through the houses many times both with lights on and off, I actually prefer lights on! You can see the incredible attention put in to every detail in all the rooms!
Cheers to the Haunted House! I’m honored to be a part of it!
See all of the Friendly Feasts dates and reserve your tickets here!

Capturing History Through Underwater Archaeology

Columbus cannonBy Dave Rust, Children's Museum Photographer and Video Producer

As the Museum's photographer and videographer, I need to capture imagery of everything, which means that I get the opportunity to see up-close a lot of the amazing things folks do around here. I never know what I might do next, or when I'll be handed traveling orders!  Would you believe that this summer I got the chance to visit the Caribbean Sea and the nation of the Dominican Republic—for work?

My trip’s objective: to capture video of Prof. Charles Beeker, our Extraordinary Underwater Archaeologist-in-Residence, as he leads Indiana University researchers on a search for clues to the Spanish galleon, Begoña, a ship that was lost to rocky shores and high winds in 1725.

The History of the Begoña

Prof. Beeker tells us that the Begoña and its captain were faced with a no-win situation 300 years ago. The Begoña’s Spanish passengers were especially enterprising…maybe too much so! They had mined silver in nearby Central America and wanted to bring it back to Spain without paying the King’s tax. So they hid sliver coins, jewelry, and table settings in trunks with false bottoms, and some of the bounty was even sewn inside their clothing. Their ship was so heavy, it sat too deeply in the water! Harbormasters wouldn’t let the Begoña into Santo Domingo waters to pick up supplies before the ship's big hop to Spain. They were afraid it’d get stuck in the shallows and plug the harbor’s entrance.

Out in deep water with no supplies and facing bad weather for days, the captain had to attempt a hard landing several miles east of the capital in order to protect the crew and passengers. Everyone got off alive, but the winds bashed the ship against the rocks until it broke into pieces. Almost all of that illegal baggage was lost under just 10 feet of water! But one trunk was pulled from the waves and everyone began the long walk back to Santo Domingo. When guards encountered the drenched passengers, they wondered why the group was even bothering to carry a bulky trunk all the way back to the capital. Guards took a look inside and the secret was out. The passengers and the ship’s captain faced serious legal penalties…despite the heroic efforts by the captain to save everyone’s lives.

What We're Discovering Today

I used an underwater camera to document SCUBA divers as they used pumps called dredges to remove layers of sand from the bottom of La Caleta inlet. As they dredged, objects long buried were revealed by the day’s bright sunlight. Since they’ve begun these exhibitions, divers have found many pounds of silver, table settings, swords, cannon balls, and musket balls.

During my trip, they uncovered one of the ship’s cannon (called “guns” when on deck). Another team thought they found a smaller deck gun (called a verso), though it was heavily encrusted with coral rock. Researchers will have to remove the coatings to see if it is indeed a ship’s weapon…or just a modern water pipe. Other divers were excited by objects that appear to have come from the local natives, the Taino. Pottery, especially bowls for carrying water and food, seem to be common finds in this bay. Prof. Beeker says this isn’t a surprise, since this beach was a part of a large native village for hundreds of years and has long since been abandoned.

After being pounded by the surf for hundreds of years, clay objects are usually found broken. The team also found a knob-like handle that probably came from a bowl. Experts on the team say this is often the case…with turtle heads being a common theme, but this one looks more like a person’s face to me. In any case, it's likely much older than artifacts from the Begoña.

Indiana University wants to learn everything it can about the Begoña.  When the research team is done, Prof. Beeker hopes to put many of the items on display underwater in the same inlet of La Caleta, creating an underwater museum for other SCUBA divers and snorkelers to explore. Some of the other artifacts—including a conglomerate of 18th century silver coins—are now on display at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Now Hoosiers can see for themselves these clues about how people lived in the Caribbean so long ago.

The silver coins aren't the only new artifacts  on display in the working Archaeology Lab in the Treasures of the Earth gallery. There are also new Columbus-era cannons on view, centuries older than the Begoña. While most families' fall break plans may not include a trip to SCUBA in the Caribbean, you can still experience these extraordinary artifacts right here in Indianapolis!

Conserving Captain Kidd's Cannon

CannonBy Ashley Ramsey Hannum, Archaeology Lab Assistant

Have you been wondering if we would ever finish treatment on Captain Kidd’s cannon? You certainly wouldn’t be alone. Cannon #4 from Kidd’s Quedagh Merchant, which sank off the coast of the Domincan Republic in 1699, has been undergoing conservation treatment in the National Geographic Treasures of the Earth exhibit since 2011. The lengthy treatment, called electrolytic reduction, helps remove all of the salts that the cannon absorbed from 300 years in ocean water. The process also helps remove the thick layer of minerals and concretion that built up over that time. 

After years of conservation, the cannon is finally ready for the last stages of treatment. The first—and most challenging—step is boiling the cannon in highly purified water. The boiling water creates tiny bubbles inside the pores of the iron, helping to remove the final amounts of salt and minerals. 

You may be thinking, how does one boil a 1,500 pound, over 6 foot long piece of iron? Since we certainly don’t have a stove that big, we had to get creative. The Museum’s awesome facilities team had the idea to divert steam from one of the building’s giant boilers, typically used to heat the museum, through the water in the cannon’s tank. Theoretically, the heat from the steam should bring the water to a boil. 

We placed the cannon in an 8 foot long, galvanized steel water trough, designed for holding water for livestock. Steve, our HVAC extraordinaire, created some custom copper pipes, which brought steam from the boiler through the water. The steam took quite a long time to heat the water. Imagine how long it takes to boil about a gallon of water to make spaghetti. Well, we needed to boil 220 gallons of water to cover the cannon. It took almost 7 hours to bring it to a boil! 

After a couple weeks of intermittent boiling, all of the last salts were successfully extracted. The cannon is now soaking in an alcohol bath to dehydrate it without exposure to air. Once all of the water has been removed, it will be ready for its final coating and sealants. The cannon can then be safely stored in air without risk of rapid deterioration. 

New shipwrecked artifacts are now installed in the exhibit, and the process begins all over again!

Treasures of the Earth gallery manager, Josh Estes, visits Captain Kidd's cannon.
Cannon then

Conservator Christy O'Grady shares the cannon with visitors in the Wet Lab.

Christy and Ashley carry out final steps in the cannon's conservation treatment.

Cannon Cannon

Haunted House-Inspired Pumpkin Carving Templates

Skull Sample Pumpkin Template Jack-o-lantern carving

Your family may spend hours picking the perfect pumpkin in the patch—but then what? How do you transform this average-looking vegetable into something spook-tacular? Will it be a ghost, a frightening face, or possibly a favorite cartoon character? There are so many ways to make your pumpkin the scariest on the block, and now we’ve made it easier for you to choose with these Children’s Museum Haunted House-inspired pumpkin carving templates!

The Children’s Museum Guild witches have created four templates that will make your jack-o-lanterns fa-BOO-lous! All you have to do is print our design templates, tape the design to the pumpkin, and cut on the indicated lines. It’s that easy!  Give the witch template a try, because of course, witches are frightfully awesome! Or you can don your pumpkin with our friend, Barker Bones, who is the ringmaster of this year’s haunted house, Creepy Carnival!



Ghoulish Ghost > DOWNLOAD

Smile Template

Spooky Smile > DOWNLOAD

Fa-BOO-lous Witch > DOWNLOAD

Creepy Carnival's Barker Bones > DOWNLOAD

After you carve that perfect pumpkin, don’t forget to visit ringmaster Barker Bones in person at The Children’s Museum Guild’s 51st annual Haunted House! Buy tickets and learn about all of our Creepy Carnival events at


Inspired by the Museum: Ghost Pudding Cups

Ghost Pudding CupsThis post was written by Children's Museum Blog AmbassadorChrystal TurnerFollow Chrystal's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @seaofsavings

It’s that time of year when the leaves are starting to change, the fields are being plowed and for many of us it’s the season of itchy eyes and runny noses. Yes it’s Fall! Fall is actually one of my favorite seasons because of all the beautiful colors, hayrides, pumpkin patches, and Halloween!  

Another great reason that Fall is one of my favorites seasons is because of all the traditions we started when my daughter was much smaller. There are so many fun things going on in Indy this time of year and our traditions include picking apples at the apple orchard, hayrides, and lots of fun at the pumpkin patch. As she has gotten a little older we now do a weekend camping trip, and this year we are SUPER excited to add the Children’s Museum's Haunted House to our list!  I love that she is now at the age where the spooky part of Halloween is fun! She loves carnivals, and the Creepy Carnival is sure to be a hit this year. Her scary excitement has been building the closer we get to visiting the Creepy Carnival. To get us in the mood for frightful fun we've been making up some BOO-tiful desserts and fun foods.
Check out these adorable Ghost Cups we made!  These were so fun to make and my daughter LOVED them! Scary food is the perfect way to get in the spooky mood while having some fun with the kiddos. The best part about these is that they are quick and simple to make. You might just be “Mom or Dad of the Year”….for a few days, at least!

Ingredients  (Recipe yields 8 servings)

  • 35 Oreos (about 2/3 of package), fillings removed
  • 1 8 oz. container Cool Whip
  • 2 packages vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 4 cups of milk (2 per package of pudding)
  • Orange food coloring
  • For eyes, options can include: chocolate chips, black gel icing, or M&M’s


  1. Make pudding according to the directions on package. Add orange food coloring and place in refrigerator to cool.
  2. Place Oreos (with fillings removed) into a plastic bag and crush until all pieces are broken into small chunks.
  3. Divide amount in half, and distribute first half in bottom of cups. Add 1⁄2 cup of pudding to each cup, and top with remaining Oreos.
  4. Fill a large Ziploc bag with Cool Whip and snip off a corner to pipe on the ghost toppers.
  5. Use chocolate chips, black gel icing or M&M’s to add eyes.


The Children’s Museum Guild Witch Tips: Ten Creepy Make-up Techniques

Want to be a scaly monster, creepy clown, zany zombie, or spooky skeleton this Halloween? The Children’s Museum Guild Witches are here to help with some scary make-up tips! Use these 10 fun and simple creepy techniques and be the coolest monster trick-or-treating this Halloween. You’ll be just as frightening as the ghouls in our spooky Haunted House!

  1. Ten Creepy Make-up Techniques Blacken out your eyes using black makeup.  
  2. Off center your mouth using black eyeliner and make up.  Simply draw an exaggerated mouth in any shape you desire with the black eyeliner and fill in with cream Halloween make-up from your local party store.
  3. Create scales. Put fishnet stockings over your head, use a sponge and cream Halloween paint or make-up and dab over your face, carefully take off, it will look like scales on your face.
  4. Create scars. Do you have glue and toilet paper? Put a little glue on your face, arms, neck, hands, etc.  and use toilet paper to make Scars, or zombie skin. Cover with whichever color of paint you prefer.  You can add “blood” in the deeper parts to enhance the look.
  5. Darken sunken areas of your face using black make-up,  including under the cheek bones, eyes and around the nose.
  6. Use fake blood on your neck along with tip number 4 (above) if you want to make it look like your throat has been slit.
  7. Make a bruise using dark blue and red cream make-up from your local party store. Take a sponge and dab in an area till it looks like a bruise then add a little green and yellow around the edges for an authentic look.
  8. Scary clown. Paint big scary mouth larger than yours (using black on lips) and draw in scary black eyebrows, and draw around eyes.
  9. Paint “extra” eyes all over your face or just in the center of your forehead.
  10. Give yourself a zombie look by painting your face white and putting maroon cream make-up around your eyes.

For more spooky fun from our Guild Witches, visit The Children’s Museum’s Creepy Carnival Haunted House this Halloween season, from Wednesdays to Sundays October 11-31. Come if you dare…

The Children’s Museum Guild Witch Tips: Haunt Up Your House

Halloween porchThe Children's Museum Guild Witches—known for designing our spook-tacular Haunted House—are sharing their expert spooky decorating tips!  This Halloween, make your home look just as fa-BOO-lous as a real haunted house! 

  1. Floating Witch hats. In your entryway, hang witch hats with fishing line or invisible thread from the ceiling so they seem to be floating.  Put a witches broom or two in the corner.
  2. Make your own ghost.  Blow up a balloon.  Use a plastic cup or other container to hold the balloon.  Cover the balloon in cheesecloth and cut to desired length.  Spray with starch.  Let dry and pop the balloon.  Glue on googly eyes or use felt to make eyes and mouth to glue on.  Use invisible thread to hang.
  3. Candy Centerpiece.  Use two clear vases.  One must be shorter and able to fit inside the bigger vase, but only allows 1 to 1-1/2 inches between the two.  This space is where you will layer different types of Halloween candy.  You can start with jelly beans on the bottom, then Peeps, candy corn, or any other Halloween sweets you like.  Finish by adding flowers to the center inside vase.
  4. Vampire Fangs Place Card Holder.  Get a pair of vampire fangs.  Cut an appropriate size piece of card stock to fit between the upper and lower teeth.  Use this for place cards at the dinner table or to let guests know what food items are on the buffet.
  5. Decorate mirrors in your entryway, guest bath mirror and kids bath mirror with Halloween window or gel clings. 
  6. Halloween art. Find online and print one of the many free Halloween Subway Art signs.  Get a frame from the dollar store.  Paint it black or orange.  Frame your sign and place it on your table. 
  7. Buy spider webbing.  Place it in the corners of a window and stretch it out to the desired thickness of your web and secure it.  Decorate with spiders and other creepy crawly things.
  8. Make a Halloween Tree.  Get a spooky looking sturdy branch from your yard.  Keep it natural or paint it black.  Secure it in whatever type of container you like so the branch will not move.  You can use rocks, dirt, florist stones, etc.  Hang Halloween ornaments and display on a tabletop.
  9. Glowing Eyes.  Take an empty cardboard toilet paper tube and cut a creepy looking eye shape into it.  Do this with several tubes and cut many different looking eye shapes into them. Insert a glow stick in each one.  Put these outside in the bushes to make them creepy.
  10. Change your outdoor light bulbs to orange or purple to give your home a creepy look.

Make sure to get your tickets and come to see the witches’ spooky décor at The Children’s Museum’s Creepy Carnival Haunted House this Halloween season, Wednesdays to Sundays October 11-31. Come if you dare…

Photo courtesy of Good Housekeeping.

Inspired by the Museum: Origami for 4-Year-Olds

OrigamiThis post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador Katie White! Follow Katie's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @katieunscripted.

I’m not gonna lie – making all four of my kids (ages 17 months to 12 years) happy in one trip to The Children’s Museum is not easy. While the baby is almost always content with just being allowed out of the stroller, the other three often don’t agree on what exhibits to squeeze into our standard 2-hour visit. (We live really close so short visits are best for us since it’s about all the baby can handle at this point.)

The one exhibit they always agree on is Take Me There: China. Being able to take a 2 minute plane ride and wind up in China is pretty amazing. They love learning to write Chinese characters, dressing up in the Opera House, shopping at the market and caring for the pandas. But the best part for me is that they are learning about a culture that is over 7,000 miles away. A culture that I will most likely never be able to take them to visit.

Because our museum trips are often short, we might spend the entire visit in the China exhibit. Since I’m often pulled between chasing the baby and figuring out where the other three are, I miss out on intentionally immersing ourselves in each area of the exhibit and reading all the little details about the culture and history of the Chinese people.

Plane CalligraphyOpera House

So this month I decided to focus on bringing a piece of this culture only to Lucas, who is almost four. The last time he was at the China exhibit, he was completely taken with an instruction in origami. So we walked to the closest library branch last week and checked out seven origami books, from Thanksgiving to dinosaurs to an origami army. 

We started with Folding for Fun: Origami for Ages 4 and Up by Didier Boursin. SUPER smart idea, because holy cow! Origami is hard! But we had a blast, making bunnies whose ears moved and noise makers that Lucas could figure out better than I could.

We’ll slowly fold our way through each of the books, I’m sure. I’ve found that he loves transforming a simple sheet of paper into something even as simple as a bunny. But Lucas has big ideas, so he has already decided that later this week we need to make origami army tents. And we must make origami dinosaurs to smash those tents. 

Of course we do.

Katie Blog Tag

Haunted Houses for Kids & Teens—Friendly, Frightening, or Extreme?

Note: This blog was originally posted in 2012 and is now updated for the 2014 Haunted House season!

It's that time of year again! The Children's Museum Guild, a group of amazing women, have volunteered THOUSANDS of hours to making this year's Haunted House Fa-BOO-lous for you and your family. This is the museum's largest annual fundraiser and goes to help fund initiatives for families and the community throughout the year.

One thing that makes our Haunted House unique is that we offer a variety of scare levels for you and your family, including IPL's Lights On Hours (for kids who scare easily), Defender Direct's Frightening Hours (for kids who dare to be scared), and Williams Comfort Air's XTREME SCREAM Fridays and Saturdays (recommended for super brave visitors).

Every year parents ask us which we recommend for their family. This is a difficult question! Although each child is different and there is no right or wrong answer, we do have some tips for you. Here are some details to help you in your decision. And don't miss this handy infographic that will help you choose your scare level!

Lights-On ($7)

  • Includes fun, upbeat music with all lights turned up.
  • Friendly-faced greeters are in each room of the house passing out treats to visitors similar to trick-or-treating.
  • Children can play seek-and-find with pictures of the annual Haunted House mascot— Witchkins this year—as they move through the rooms of the house to help play up the fun of each room.
  • Each room also features a Halloween-related fun fact to ask your child such as "how many bones are in the human body?" (A: 206!)


Frightening ($7)

  • Includes spooky music and minimal lighting.
  • Haunters hide throughout the house to jump out and scare unsuspecting visitors.
  • Although visual effects are used to maximize the scare experience, the frightening-factor of the Haunted House focuses more on the "startle" rather than gore.
  • Many visitors will scream with surprise or fear as they move throughout the House.



  • Friday and Saturday nights only from 9–11 p.m. and recommended for teens and adults.
  • Takes fright to the next level through an extreme mind/body fright experience.
  • Incorporates all five senses resulting in sensory overload as you go on a harrowing thrill ride through the Carnival where you'll encounter such hideous sights that once seen, cannot be unseen!
  • Unlike the “startle scare” of frightening hours, Xtreme Scream is a choreographed “show” that uses extreme props, costumes and make-up to bring the story to life.
  • A safe sign will be given to visitors in the event they are unable to make it through the experience.


If you're better with visuals, check out this 2012 episode of This Week's WOW to see how the haunters prepare for Frightening Hours. It's a great way to show little ones that the witches are really just playing dress up.

If you are still questioning which version of the Haunted House to bring your child to, consider how they handle scary books, movies and TV shows. If they are often afraid of spooky things outside of Halloween, they might prefer a lights-on experience for at least another year. Buy your tickets now!


What's Waiting Inside the Creepy Carnival Haunted House?

Midway MayhenLooking for some spook-tacular fun for your little ones this Halloween? Look no further! Step right up to the Creepy Carnival, the Children’s Museum Guild’s 51st Annual Haunted House! Lucky for you, the Guild Witches have shared some insider info about the design of this year's Haunted House! So what will be waiting for you behind the gates? Read on... if you dare!


Barker's Ballyhoo: Come one, come all! Our very own Barker Bones invites you to step right up! The enticing façade of Creepy Carnival includes an array of banners, colors, and a background complete with the shadows of a moving Ferris wheel! 

Not-So-Fun House: Metal parts clanging, loud sounds that keep banging; this fun house is not to be missed!  Spiders and mirrors inside, watch your step as you walk under the slide!

Midway Mayhem: Games and contests that can’t be beat, prizes and carnies fill the street. 

Scare-ousel: Up and down you go, and round-and-round. Animals, goblins, even our friend Martimus can be found!

MissFortune: Do you dare test your fate and have your fortune read? Miss Fortune will leave you scratching your head! 

Spine-Chilling Sideshow: We have some of the most unusual sights! Far-fetched, or spooky, these characters are Halloween delights! 

Carnie Controls: Enter only if you dare, Carnie Carl can be quite a bear. Don’t touch the wires or buttons UNLESS you want to get a terrible jolt from his carni-mess!

Lemon Snake Ups

Polar Vortex: Spinning around and around in a wintry blizzard, a passenger on this ride could lose a gizzard!  The passenger next to you could be real or fake—be careful picking which spot you will take!

Eerie Eats: Freaky, fried food is what you will find here. While you are snacking, rodents will appear! Food becomes trash and then trash becomes food—the eats around here might just change your mood!

Big Top

Tent of Terror: The show in this you do not want to miss! There are performers and animals—some roar and some hiss! This is our carnival’s main attraction—come one come all—be part of the action!

Barker’s Back Lot: This is where the “broken stuff” goes…. Old ride parts, old banners, old carnie toes. Be careful while leaving—someone made a mistake. The biggest cage was left open and what lived there ESCAPED!!!

... plus even more surprises!

Get your tickets now and stop by Wednesdays–Sundays from Oct. 11–31 for scary good fun! From creepy carnies and scary spiders to freaky fortunes and midway mayhem, this Haunted House will have you squealing through the night with fright and delight. Prepare to be scared! 


Choose Your Haunted House Experience!

Choose your scare experience in The Children’s Museum Guild’s 51st Annual Haunted House, Creepy Carnival, opening October 11!

  • Learn more about the difference between Lights-On, Frightening, and XTREME SCREAM hours in this blog post.
  • Dates and times for all experiences can be found on the museum's website.
  • Buy your tickets.

HH Experiences

Why are Barns Painted Red?

Why are barns painted red?If you’ve never driven through the Midwest on a sunny fall day, you’re missing out! Fall brings crisp air, harvest-ready corn stalks, and fiery red, orange, yellow and brown leaves, making a perfect backdrop to our farmer’s red barns. Occasionally, you might see a barn in its natural wood color, but most of the barns we see are red. Why? We found out from the Farmer’s Almanac

This tradition dates back hundreds of years ago, long before a farmer could go to a local paint store and choose a favorite color of paint. At the time, farmers were looking to protect and seal the wood. 

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, they used “linseed oil, which is an orange-colored oil derived from the seeds of the flax plant.” 

However, it wasn’t quite enough. To properly protect the wood from fungi and mosses, farmers turned to ferrous oxide, or better known as … rust. Plentiful and effective, rust was mixed into the linseed oil turning its orange color to red. 

As time went on and paint became available, red continued to be a farmer’s barn color of choice. 

Looking for more Never Stop Asking "Why?" questions? Catch up on all of the past "Whys" on the blog!

Saturday Science: Handmade Microscope

Saturday Science: Handmade Microscope In a past Saturday Science, we learned how to use a drop of water as a magnifying glass. Today we’re going to kick that up a few notches and use a drop of water and a laser pointer to make a working laser microscope. You’ll be able to see single-celled organisms moving around inside the laser beam!


  • Pond water 
  • A laser pointer (you can often find inexpensive ones for $3-$5 near the check-out at the store)
  • A paperclip or copper wire
  • A binder clip large enough to fit around the laser pointer
  • Scotch tape
  • A white surface



  1. Straighten out the paperclip, then wrap most of it around the front part of the laser pointer, leaving about an inch sticking out in front of the hole where the beam comes out. If you’re using copper wire, give yourself 3-4 inches so you have plenty to wrap around the laser.
  2. Secure the paperclip/wire to the laser pointer with tape.
  3. Carefully bend that leftover inch of paperclip/wire into a small circle, a little bigger than the laser pointer’s lens hole. Make sure it is centered right in front of the hole so the laser beam passes through it. This will hold your water drop.
  4. Clip the binder clip around the laser pointer closer to the front. Keep the two “arms” on the clip where they need to be to open/close it because they are the stand you will use to make sure your microscope holds steady.
  5. Dip your loop of paperclip/wire into your pond water. Carefully remove it, making sure there is a crop of water suspended inside the loop. If you’re having trouble getting the water droplet to stay inside the loop, make sure the loop is complete all the way around and the paperclip/wire is touching itself, forming a full circle. If there is space between one end of the loop and the other the water will have a hard time forming a stable drop.
  6. Carefully set your laser pointer down, using the binder clip as a stand, and point it at your white surface. Turn off all the lights in the room.
  7. Press the button to shine the laser beam through the water drop. It will show up on your white surface much bigger than normal and you’ll be able to see things moving around inside it. Experiment with distance: move the laser pointer closer to or further from the white surface to see what it takes to get the best focus and the sharpest image.



What are those things moving around in your laser beam?

Well, some of it is just the movement of the water. But the small dots and blobs are microorganisms that live in the pond water, like paramecia and amoeba. These single-celled organisms swim around the water using tiny hair-like structures called cilia or flagella. There may even be some single-celled plant-like lifeforms called diatoms. Your laser microscope isn’t powerful enough to make out fine details in these microorganisms, but how cool is it that you can see them moving around in the beam of a laser?

This works because the water drop is similar in shape to the lens of a real microscope. A lens takes the light waves moving through it and bends them so they start traveling outward as they leave the water drop. The laser beam continues expanding until it hits the white surface. The microorganisms swimming around in the pond water get in the way of the light, which means they cast shadows inside the laser beam. Those shadows are what you see moving around in the light.

Want more Saturday Science? See all of our at-home activities on the blog or on Pinterest.

10 Halloween Costumes You Can Make at Home

BHBcostumeHalloween is a great time of year to put your DIY skills to the test! Get inspiration from the experts—The Children’s Museum Guild Witches—with these 10 tips for costumes you can make at home! Then don your spooky gear for the third annual Black Hat Bash on October 10, where you can show off your DIY skills in the crazy Creepy Carnival costume contest! 

1. Ugly, Black Spider: A simple black hoodie can easily turn into a spider with buttons and yellow felt for eyes and stuff black pantyhose for legs
2.  Smartie Pants: Glue smarties candy to sweat pants.
3. Bag of Trash:  Fill a trash bag with paper, poke legs and arms through the bag, draw a twist tie on poster board, cut it out and staple it around the top of the bag to look like it goes around the neck. Take care to make sure it cannot tighten around the neck for safety reasons. 
4. Crazy Scientist:  Buy a white lab coat (available at your local uniform store) and put spider, or any kind of embellishment, on the cut with glue.  Add a pocket protector with worms coming out and some crazy hair from your local party store.
5. Corn dog: Wrap burlap around your body, cut a hole for your face.  Take the inside tube of a wrapping paper role to use for the stick.  Staple it so that it sticks out over your head.
6. Tub of Popcorn: Take two tri-fold presentation boards and tape them with red duct tape to make a square.  You will also use this duct tape to make the stripes on the outside of the tub. Take two PVC pipes, cut to the lengths of the 2 sides, and tape them along the right and left hand sides of the boards.  Take and old t shirt and glue it to the inside top of the square--this will allow you to "wear the tub".  Create popped popcorn with pieces of cotton batting that have been spray painted yellow and hot glued to top of t shirt.
7. Grease Pink Ladies: Pink cardigan sweater or zip up sweat shirt, black pants/leggings, black t shirt.  You can pair this with a colorful wig and scarf.
8. Gnome: To make the hat, roll a piece of red velvet or felt into a triangular shaped hat.  Spray paint your hair white.  For the outfit, you will need brown pants, a vest and white shirt
9. Puppies in a Box: Turn a box upside down and cut out leg holes.  Return box upright and fill the box half way with waded up newspapers as filler.  Place various puppy stuffed animals are the top.  Can hang the box over the shoulder with suspenders
10. Bumble Bee: All black clothing.  Use yellow duct tape to make the stripes on the back.  Take a dark colored head band and black pipe cleaners to make antennas.
SAFETY FIRST!  Always be mindful of potential choking hazards and that costume elements don’t constrict the range of motion. Please make sure all costumes have a clear field of vision so your trick-or-treater stays safe and incorporate bright colors or glow in the dark paint to make them more visible after the sun goes down.

Inspired by the Museum: Dorothy's First Museum Visit

Blog mash upThis post was written by Children's Museum Blog Ambassador, Samantha Cotten. 
Follow Samantha's posts on the blog or follow her on Twitter @samanthacotten

Like many moms of toddlers, I spend the majority of my day locked in my own living room. The trick to surviving a full day alone with my extremely mobile daughter, I've learned, is to contain her, her toys and everything she could possibly need for the day in one baby-proofed room. In all seriousness, my husband and I should probably buy stock in the baby gate industry because our house could easily be mistaken for the Cotten Correctional Facility.

Dorothy and I were beginning to feel like prisoners of our home until we made our first official visit to The Children's Museum. Ladies and gentlemen, we have busted out of Baby Jail and there is no turning back!

We headed straight for the Playscape; an obvious choice based on the exhibit's focus of sensory play and exploration for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. My daughter tends to be overwhelmed by new situations, specifically loud environments and crowded rooms, so I was a little nervous about how our first visit would go down. Playscape's bright natural light and ample space to play was not only perfect, but welcoming for our little mommy-daughter playdate.

Dot 2

Safely inside Babyscape, we played for hours. Remember that time I said she had the attention span of a gnat? Not here! The baby gates were gone and we were both free to explore and learn (I say "we," because this momma had just as much fun as her baby in the Playscape!). We crawled up and down stairs, ramps and slides in The Treehouse. We pressed every button, flipped every switch and we splashed to our heart's content. No toy was off limits, and everything was within reach; I believe that's the official definition of Toddler Heaven.

Beyond the fun, I love that Playscape has everything we could need for the day.  For example, the gigantic family restrooms and hand dryers proved useful when Dorothy discovered The Creek... and mom discovered she forgot a change of clothes. Pro tip: Locate the baby ponchos before your kid finds the splash zone. ;)


The best part? We only discovered a portion of Playscape! The exhibit features new activities every day, like music and art classes, and will only grow with our family. Since our first visit to the museum, Dorothy has become more of an explorer within our own home. What was unnoticed or unexciting before, like light switches and ceiling fans, have suddenly become a daily discovery. Let me tell you, there's nothing cooler than turning on the lights in the morning when you're 10 months old!

We laughed, we played and we even had an elusive car nap. I'd say our first visit to The Children's Museum was a success!

Dot water  Dot sleeping


Join us for The Black Hat Bash, Creepy Carnival

BHBlogoNote: This blog was originally posted in 2013 and is now updated for the 2014 Haunted House season!
The Black Hat Bash is back, bigger and “creepier” than ever! Come on down with family and friends to a Creepy Carnival event at The Children's Museum Guild's third annual Black Hat Bash
The Black Hat Bash is a special one-night event that celebrates the oldest continually operating haunted house in the nation!  It's not only the biggest and best family Halloween party in town—it's also the public’s first look at this year's Haunted House, Creepy Carnival. So if your family is counting down the days to the Haunted House, this is the party for you and you can experience Creepy Carnival a day early! It's an all-ages affair that promises to be frightfully fun!
This year’s bash is Friday night, October 10th from 6:30-9:30 p.m. and is complete with food stations from local restaurants, spellbinding spirits, and beautifully batty beverages. Peru Circus performers will make an appearance to show off their juggling skills and other carnival-themed acts. You'll experience Halloween hilarity throughout the museum, dancing to spooky tunes spinned by a devilish DJ, taking part in a crazy costume contest, and playing in DreamAuthentics "Dreadful" arcade with ghostly games and activities. And, don't forget that every attendee receives a ticket to the Haunted House, which can be used during the event or during any Haunted House hours, Oct. 11-31. 


Want to hear the best part? Proceeds from the Black Hat Bash are part of the larger Haunted House fundraising effort led by The Children’s Museum Guild each year. The Guild has raised more than $9.5 million since it began in 1964, supporting museum initiatives such as the Foster Family program, Access Pass, and Neighborhood programs.

This is one night at the museum that you don’t want to miss! Get your costumes ready and start counting down the days to this un-BOO-lievable kickoff to the 51st Haunted House. You'll want to purchase tickets in advance as Black Hat Bash is likely to sellout quickly. Advance tickets are $5 off, and you can reserve a VIP table for 8 of your family and friends. See all of the ticket options and reserve yours online or by calling 317-334-4000. Buy your tickets now! We'll see you there!