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Will the kids be allowed to go out trick-or-treating this year? It’s been a topic of intense discussion at our home this year. Both my kids bought costumes to wear to school, and are earnestly hoping that they get to go out on Sunday night. My son sensibly opted for a ninja outfit, so he should be warm and COVID-safe. My daughter, meanwhile, has decided to go as a vampire. Fortunately, enterprising businesses are also offering masks with vampire fangs printed on them.

If, however, you choose to stay home – for many good reasons – you can always indulge in some Halloween-themed shows. Here are some options – both spooky and sweet.

The Wonder Gang: The Bat Question

Can The Wonder Gang find out how bats fly in the dark before party time?Courtesy of CBC Gem

  • Age range: 2 to 6
  • Where to watch: CBC Gems
  • Elevator pitch for parents: Learn more about these nocturnal creatures.
  • Elevator pitch for kids: Learn more about these nocturnal creatures – they’re pretty cool!

Bats are a popular staple of Halloween decor and festivities. Whether it’s your kid (or, frankly, a superhero-loving parent) dressed as Batman/Batgirl for the jaunt around the neighbourhood, or bat cut-outs hanging in school hallways or off branches near front porches, you can’t really escape the winged mammals come October. Though personally, I’d be happy never to encounter a bat in real life.

Nothing against the creature, but I’m not one to seek out dank caves and other bat habitats, unless it’s the one in the Royal Ontario Museum. But – bats are fascinating, and this short episode is a great place to start learning about their remarkable biological abilities.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

The Peanuts gang celebrates Halloween while Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin.Courtesy of Corus Entertainment Inc.

  • Age range: 7-9 upwards
  • Where to watch: Apple TV+
  • Elevator pitch for parents: Revisit your childhood with this classic show.
  • Elevator pitch for kids: It’s fun hanging out with the Peanuts gang (mostly).

Since first airing on Oct 27, 1966, this Peanuts TV special has become something of a Halloween tradition. And like many classic shows, it does have some thematic elements that might be considered a little too spooky for younger children today. So use your discretion in how much of the special you watch with your kids, depending on their age and tolerance for scary stuff.

As the title suggests, the show is about Linus trying to convince Charlie Brown and their other pals of the existence of a Great Pumpkin, who will give them gifts if they spend a night in the pumpkin patch. The other kids don’t believe Linus, and go trick-or-treating instead. There’s the usual bickering between earnest Linus and his crabby sister Lucy, a segment with Snoopy in his Flying Ace outfit, and a not-altogether happy ending. Nevertheless, there’s an obvious charm to the Peanuts gang and their adventures that still delights viewers of all ages.

Hotel Transylvania series

In Hotel Transylvania, Count Dracula runs a hotel for fellow ghouls and monsters, who appreciate their human-free experience.Sony Pictures

  • Age range: 10 upwards
  • Where to watch: Netflix
  • Elevator pitch for parents: Features the voices of funny guys Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg .
  • Elevator pitch for kids: Selena Gomez stars as a teen vampire.

No matter how many times I roll my eyes at yet another Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg tag-team impersonation, my kids still giggle at Count Dracula’s “Blah, blah, blah.” And even though they have now watched the film series more than a dozen times (at least) they are still entertained by the shenanigans of the ensemble cast, which also features the voices of Kevin James, Fran Drescher and Molly Shannon, among others.

The premise of the original 2012 Hotel Transylvania film was entertaining: Count Dracula, or “Drac” (Sandler) runs a hotel for fellow ghouls and monsters, who appreciate their human-free experience. But when Jonathan (Samberg), a bumbling traveller, accidentally crashes at his hotel, Drac must do everything to keep him away from his daughter Mavis (Gomez).

Goosebumps

  • Age range: 13 and up
  • Where to watch: Netflix, YouTube
  • Elevator pitch for parents: Another childhood classic to scare your children with.
  • Elevator pitch for kids: This show will definitely give you the creeps!

I arrived in Canada in 1998, so I missed the heyday of this series, which aired from 1995 to 1998. But I did hear about it from friends who used to watch it religiously on YTV. Based on the book series by American horror author R. L. Stine, the TV adaptation was quite popular for the way it brought Stine’s particular brand of spookiness mixed with dry humour to life.

While Goosebumps came on the heels of a similar show, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, the way it both entertained and scared kids was appealing to its audience. To this day, people will point to episodes such as Say Cheese and Die (featuring a young Ryan Gosling!), Night of the Living Dummy II and Stay Out of the Basement as memorably creepy.

The Addams Family (1991)

Morticia’s zingers and Gomez’s buffoonery really come alive in the 1991 live-action Addams Family movie, not to mention the hilarious school play starring Wednesday and Pugsley, directed by Uncle Fester.Paramount Pictures

  • Age range: 14A
  • Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
  • Elevator pitch for parents: Watch Christina Ricci in her prime.
  • Elevator pitch for kids: Check out this earlier film featuring the frightful family from the recent animated movies.

Admittedly, my kids didn’t mind the recently released animated feature The Addams Family 2, featuring the voices of stars like Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron and Chloë Grace Moretz. But the new film’s dependence on mopey young Wednesday’s narrative arc reminded me of Christina Ricci’s delightfully macabre turn as the pigtailed, solemn-faced girl dressed in black.

The latest animated version of the film does retain some of the original fun of the Addams family and their off-kilter kookiness. However, Morticia’s zingers or Gomez’s buffoonery really come alive in the 1991 live- action movie, not to mention the hilarious school play starring Wednesday and Pugsley, directed by Uncle Fester.

If you have more suggestions for quality children’s programming that the whole family will enjoy, send them along to parentpicks@globeandmail.com.