All posts by Tracey Dowdy

Make Your Virtual Thanksgiving Fun

By Tracey Dowdy

With the recent surge in COVID cases, many of us are heeding the CDC’s warning regarding holiday gatherings and opting for a virtual Thanksgiving with those we love. Though sharing a meal via a video conference is something few of us could have anticipated this time last year, there are still ways to make your holiday memorable in all the best ways. 

First, choose the platform you’re going to connect through. Zoom has lifted its 40 minute limit on free accounts from midnight ET on Nov. 26 through 6 a.m. ET on Nov. 27 so your dad doesn’t get cut off in the middle of his classic “Thanksgiving of ‘82” story. Other platforms like Skype Meet NowGoogle MeetJitsiFacebook, and WhatsApp all offer free video conferencing, with differing levels of service and features. Take some time over the next day or two and determine which features are most important for your crew. 

Platforms like BrightfulBoard Game Arena, and Tabletopia allow you to play hundreds of new and old games online. Plus, many of your favorite board games are available as apps for your iOS or Android device, and several have online multiplayer modes so you can play while voice or video chatting with your family and friends. ZoomJam created sociable face-to-face games to play with family and friends through video chat, with a dozen games to choose from. And, if all seems to be going well and you’re looking to ruin everything, Hasbro allows users to play their most popular games, including Monopoly, through their site. A few years back, they set up a hotline for players to call and settle those savage Monopoly disputes – here’s hoping it makes a comeback this year. 

As with all video conference calls, be mindful of what’s in the background. There’s been countless horrifying or hilarious – depending on who you ask – stories of video conferencing fails since we all started working from home back in March. Remind everyone when the camera is live and when your mic is on. If you want to keep your mother in law from judging your housekeeping even from out of state, consider downloading or selecting a custom background for your video chat. Of course, Zoom offers its own selection, and Apple’s FaceTime will allow you to chat as your memoji avatar. 

Apps like Teleparty (formerly Netflix party), Amazon Prime Watch Party, and Hulu Watch Party allow you to watch a movie together, all from the safety and comfort of your own home. Most require a subscription, so keep that in mind as you choose a platform. Make Use Of has a more comprehensive list of options. Watch2Gether not only offers video options, but it also allows you to listen to music, do karaoke, or even “go shopping” so you can still hit those Black Friday sales together. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Prep for Black Friday Shopping 2020

How to Prep for Black Friday 2020

Black Friday is just around the corner – November 27, 2020. While many of us will eschew the crowds and instead do our shopping online, whatever you choose, it’s wise to go in with a plan. 

First and foremost, create a budget and stick to it. It’s easy to get carried away with the “steals and deals” promoted online and in-store, but remember, businesses are interested in making a profit, not a friend, so your budget is not their bottom line. Make a list of the must-haves on your list, and compare that to what you can afford to spend. If there’s still room in the budget, start planning additional shopping around that amount. Since many of us won’t be traveling this year due to travel restrictions, make sure you budget for shipping if you’re not having gifts sent directly to the recipient. 

Second, do your homework. This is especially important for those – must-have gifts. Use price tracker sites like CamelCamelCamel for Amazon, or Honey, a free browser extension that automatically finds, tests, and applies the best coupon codes at checkout for over 30,000 popular sites. You can see the price over the past several weeks and compare it to the current deal offered. For example, knowing that the Amazon Echo 3rd-gen smart speaker is going for $30 instead of its regular price of $60 means you’re getting a good deal. Go through online circulars – you can get a sneak peek here – and make a note of the cost of items that catch your eye, then compare with other sites. Better yet, let price comparison apps like ShopSavvy or BuyVia do the work for you. 

Third, opt for curbside pickup or delivery if possible. If you’re shopping big box stores like Walmart, Target, or Macy’s, shop online and pick up items curbside or have them delivered to avoid the crowds and the higher risk of COVID exposure. 

Beware of doorbusters and final sale items. Doorbusters are designed to get you in the store but be aware that these deals are often only available for a limited time, sometimes less than an hour, and there are generally a small number of the item available. Products with a “final sale” tag typically can’t be returned, and if they can be, there’s usually a restocking fee of at least 15%, so that expensive electronic item may not be that great a deal after all. 

As an alternative to Black Friday madness, consider supporting local small businesses by shopping on Small Business Saturday.  Amazon will likely close out the year with record profits, but COVID restrictions have hit small retailers and mom and pop shops particularly hard. This holiday season will be make or break for some of them.

Finally, be kind. 2020 has been a challenge for everyone, and retail workers are among those hit especially hard. Remember, that cashier has no control over inventory or pricing, and the security guard is there for everyone’s safety, not to referee a wrestling match over the last Instant Pot on the shelf. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Holiday Gift Ideas for Those Working from Home

 By Tracey Dowdy

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that working from home isn’t the dream some thought it would be. Unreliable internet, frequent interruptions from our family or housemates, and the countless other distractions that come with working at the kitchen table mean our productivity and job satisfaction have been all over the place. 

With the number of COVID cases skyrocketing around the country, many employers will maintain their “work-from-home” policies well into the new year. That means we need tech that adapts to our new environment, helps us stay focused, and lets us hold on to what’s left of our sanity. 

Tech Radar just published a list of the best noise-canceling headphones of 2020, whatever your budget. Top of the list is Sony’s WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones, but at nearly $300, they may be outside your price range. A less expensive but still reliable choice is their WF-1000XM3/S for $168.

If you still need to hear what your kids are up to, a white noise machine may be a better option. The Lectrofan Noise Machine gets consistently high marks from sites like PC Magazine and Wirecutter. It offers brown and pink noise options, is aesthetically pleasing, and at just $30, the price is hard to beat. 

Though most offices do their best to be paperless, desk organizers are still essential. An organized workspace is an efficient workspace, so choosing the right design is important. Get inspired with this list of The Best Desktop Organizers from Wirecutter, or check out this list of The Best Desk Organizers, According to Professional Organizers from New York Magazine. 

Speaking of going paperless, a smart notebook is a great way to eliminate waste while making note-taking more intuitive and interactive. Smart notebooks allow you to write with pen and paper while offering the ability to turn notes into digital files users can edit and manipulate digitally later on. Business Insider has a list of the best smart notebooks ranging in price from $25 to $200. 

According to a study by the University of Exeter, a houseplant transforms your workspace and has the potential to boost productivity by 15%. Who knew? And, who doesn’t need a little boost these days? The Sill offers a huge selection of plants, with entire categories dedicated to pet-friendly and beginner-friendly plants. Of course, if even hardy succulents aren’t a good option, sites like IkeaTargetWest Elm, and Wayfair offer plenty of artificial alternatives. 

If your commute included walking or time for the gym, working from home may have interfered with your fitness routine. You can change that up with an under-desk elliptical like the Stamina Inmotion Elliptical, the Cubii Pro Under-Desk Elliptical, or replace a  traditional desk with the Flexispot Bike Desk

Somehow, it seems choosing a healthy snack or lunch is trickier when working from home. It’s easier to grab something quick or to eat whatever you’ve fixed for your kids. To help resist the temptation to make poor choices, Urban Tastebud collated a list of the 20 Best Monthly Healthy Subscription Boxes at various price points. The list includes organic, gluten-free, and vegan options, and even boxes designed with the perfect personalized protein powder blend.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

More Screen-Free Activities for Kids

By Tracey Dowdy 

On a scale of “Guess How Much I Love You” to “Lord of the Flies,” how are things at your house? Learning to parent through a pandemic is something none of us expected to have to do, yet here we are. 

For many parents, understandably, screen time limits have become more like suggestions rather than rules as we try to navigate uncharted and often choppy waters. If you’re flat out of ideas and looking for activities to fill an afternoon or more, here are some fun options. 

Plant a garden. I know it may seem a little late to get started, but there are plants you can start now, indoors, to transplant in the spring. If you’re not sure where or what to plant, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has a guide that drills down to specific towns in the U.S. and Canada from Fairfax, Virginia, to Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. Just type in your zip or postal code to bring up your planting calendar. If an outdoor garden isn’t an option, you kids can plant an indoor herb garden. You can even teach your children how to grow pineapples, avocados, onions, garlic, or a host of other vegetables from the parts you’d typically compost or throw in the trash. 

Organize. With the holidays fast approaching, there’s a good chance that your children will be expecting – and accepting – new clothes, toys, books, and games from Santa and Hannukah Harry. This is a great time to go through closets, toy boxes, and playrooms to purge things the things your children have grown out of. This is a job you could easily do on your own, but it’s an opportunity to teach your children generosity. It has been a challenging year for many families, with many parents out of work due to the pandemic. Donating unused clothes and toys teaches your children to think beyond their own needs to the needs of those around them. It teaches compassion for others and gratitude for what they have. Be aware that some charities are not accepting donations right now, but here’s where you can donate clothes and toys right now. 

Write a book, scrapbook, or create a memory box together. While it’s true that many of us will be happy to see 2020 and this pandemic in the rearview mirror, we’ve lived through a significant event in world history. Why not document your family’s experience for grandchildren and generations beyond? Have your kids write a letter to their future selves about what they loved and hated, their favorite pastime in quarantine, what they thought of virtual schooling, what they missed, and what they learned. Write your own letter, documenting what it was like to parent during this season. You can gather photos and publish your own photobook of “Our Life in Quarantine 2020,” or document the whole year in a “2020 – What a Year for the Mathesons!” Include snapshots of virtual school, what you did in your downtime, relevant news stories, rallies, or protests you participated in, socially distanced playdates and proms, information about the election – whatever resonates with your family. Or, create a scrapbook or memory box of letters and items that remind you of this season. 

Write a book together. Has your family started cooking together? Compile your favorite meals you’ve prepared over the past several months, write out the recipes, include photos of the finished dish, or even better, your children actually preparing and eating it. Voila, you’ve just published a cookbook! Or, have your child write a story, letting their imagination run wild. Along with writing the text, have them draw the illustrations, then print a hardcopy or publish it online to share with family and friends. 

Get in the kitchen. For a few weeks at the beginning of quarantine, my husband and I did a live cooking demonstration for family and friends then gave the meal to a local viewer. It was silly, fun, and a great way to feel less alone while we were all housebound. If a live demo isn’t a good fit, do your version of Iron Chef, the Great British Baking Show, or Top Chef, and see who makes the best brownies, cupcakes, or grilled cheese. Since eating out options are limited, learn how to make restaurant favorites at home, or teach your children how to make family favorites or recipes handed down through the years. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Photo Book Deals In Time for the Holidays 

By Tracey Dowdy

Remember the fun of flipping through family albums reminiscing over holidays and parties, or laughing over bad haircuts and questionable fashion choices? Sure, you can scroll through photos online thanks to cloud-based storage like Google Photos, Livedrive, or Amazon Photos. Still, there’s something transformative about physically holding an album in your hands.

The one good thing to come out of the coronavirus lockdown is when many of us have added back into our schedule, so there’s no time like the present to get those photos organized and into a photo book.  

Probably the best known is Shutterfly, a site that does everything from photobooks to wallpaper. It offers free, unlimited storage and will never delete your photos, so you have plenty of time to sort through all those years of photos. You can choose from templates, or use Simple Path, a tool that automatically lays out your photos but allows you to rearrange, decorate, and add captions to customize your book. Pre-tax, an 8- by 11-inch 20-page hardcover photo book costs about $40 before shipping and tax, but they almost always have a sale or coupon available, so look for deals before you order. 

Suppose you’re looking for more design choices. In that case, Snapfish offers dozens of templates and themes like Moments with Mom, Grad Nostalgia, Family Farmhouse, Summer Snapshots that extends through their catalog of products – think aprons, mugs, calendars, photo tiles – so it’s easy to create a unique and themed gift. You can add photos manually, and if you’re unhappy with your design, it’s easy to swap out the background or theme. The price is similar to Shutterfly, with an 8- by 11-inch hardcover 20-page photo book for $40. And, like Shutterfly, they continuously run deals, so be on the lookout for special offers. 

Walmart may not be the first name to come into your mind when you think of high-quality photo books, but you may be pleasantly surprised. Their site allows you to upload digital photos from your computer, social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Dropbox, or Google Photos, but there are fewer editing options than Snapfish or Shutterfly. They allow you to add stickers, but customization is limited compared to other sites. 

Google Photos is the most stripped-down choice on this list with a minimalist, plain white background with the option to caption your photos. Google will format a book based on your uploaded albums, or you can customize it by choosing an album you already made. If you want a more creative look, Google Photos has editing options within its app that allows you to add filters. A 9×9 photo book costs $20 before shipping, and each additional page costs 65 cents. If you’re looking for something less expensive, a softcover 7×7 book costs $10, and it’s 35 cents for each additional page.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Best Ways to Sell Your Unused iPhones 

The iPhone 12 has been released in all its glory – or not – depending on whether you’re an Apple products fan. Most carriers will give you credit towards a new phone with a trade-in, but you may do better selling it yourself depending on the condition. 

Here are some of your best options. 

One of the fastest and most straightforward options is to sell to a buyback service like BuybackBoss, Decluttr, or GadgetGone. All three have a TrustPilot score of 4.6 out of 5 or higher, with a streamlined process for getting a quote. Keep in mind that if the phone quality isn’t quite what you stated or doesn’t match their criteria, the quote may not match the actual buyout, so be brutally honest when describing your device. Before you start getting quotes from multiple sites, check out Flipsy, which compares US trade-in values at multiple buyback stores. Flipsy will show you payment methods, price-lock duration (the window of time you have before you need to send your phone in), and a price based on the old device’s condition. Another option is SellCell that compares buyback prices from over 35 Buyback Companies to ensure you get the most for your device.

Another option, though not a buyback service, is Swappa. They connect buyers and sellers – like eBay but exclusively for devices. A marketplace is almost always going to net a higher price than a buyback, but it means more work on your end. You’ll need to create a Swappa account and connect your PayPal account. You set the asking price (including a sale fee), but no additional PayPal fees may apply.

You can always trade-in your device at Apple for store credit or trade it in for a store gift card at Best Buy, but note neither puts cash in your pocket. 

A third option is to sell it yourself via Marketplace, Craigslist, or eBay. While it may bring the highest price, there are risks and hassles involved.

If you go old-school Craigslist, be prepared for lots of “Will you take (less than you’re asking)” and buyers that flake and don’t show up. I highly recommend choosing a SafeTrade location like a police station or law enforcement parking lot. Avoid having the individual come to your home, if at all possible. 

Facebook Marketplace allows an added security layer because you can check your buyer’s profile before committing. You can also control where your listing is seen and by whom. 

eBay is another option but be prepared for additional fees and shipping if you’re selling outside your immediate area. eBay charges a sales fee of 10% of the final selling price for products sold through its platform. If you accept payment through PayPal, it charges an additional fee of 2.9% (4% if sold internationally). The upside is that eBay offers buyer protection, so there’s an added layer of credibility Marketplace and Craigslist lack. 

Whichever you choose – Marketplace, eBay, or Craigslist, make yourself very clear before you meet up with your buyer. They should know the exact price, bring cash only, the phone’s condition, and its wireless carrier – especially if the phone isn’t unlocked – in advance.

Whatever you choose, do a little homework before you start. Take your time and weigh your options, and be aware of the value not only of your device but your time. Happy selling! 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Talking to Your Kids About Politics

By Tracey Dowdy 

For better, for worse, in richer and poorer, Election Day 2020 is here. This has been one of the most contentious races in recent history, and no matter who sits in the Oval Office for the next four years, many Americans will be unhappy and feel uneasy. If that sounds familiar and you’ve been stressed about where the country is headed, there’s a good chance your children have noticed and are uneasy too. 

Opening a political conversation with your kids may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Your politics represent your values, and you want to instill them in your children so they’ll make wise decisions as they grow up. Think of it this way; you’re not raising children; you’re raising future voters. 

Instead of talking about political parties, talk about the policies and issues that matter to you most. Health care, immigration, the environment, and Black Lives Matter have played significant roles in this year’s presidential race. As a parent, you can say, “In this family, access to health care is important to us. Here’s what both candidates believe about that issue.”  

You may think your children are uninterested in politics, but a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development says otherwise. Researchers interviewed 187 kids ages 5 to 11 who lived in Kentucky, Kansas, Washington State, and Texas before and after the 2016 election. Twenty-three percent said they cared “somewhat,” and 58% of respondents said that they cared “a lot” about the election. Yet, of those polled, 68% said their parents hadn’t discussed the election with them. Their primary sources were peers and social media. As a result, much of the information they had about candidates was skewed and inaccurate. 

Christia Spears Brown, a developmental psychologist at the University of Kentucky, says, “In the same way that we talk about other complex issues, we need to help kids understand the messages and the sound bites that they’re hearing. They’re interested, but yet there’s gaps in knowledge, and they’re using their own inferences to fill in those gaps.”

Try to avoid demonizing the other side. It’s important to teach our children that civil discourse and disagreement are not equivalent to hate speech. Ashley Berner, a professor at Johns Hopkins who studies how schools teach civics, says, “It’s so important for young people to be engaged in conversations about meaning and purpose and different political viewpoints.” She says, historically, “civic formation is the prime reason why modern democracy started funding education in the first place.”

Though they may not keep up with current events as often as you do, introduce your kids to credible websites targeted at them. Common Sense Media has a great list of news sources for kids categorized by age group. 

Since today is election day, check-in with your kids and see if they’re interested in following election results. Any other year, you could have them go to the polls with you and watch you vote, but that may not be feasible this year. 

If you’re concerned about the impact a particular candidate may have on your demographic, work together to create a Family Safety Plan and emphasize that their safety is of the utmost importance to you. Reassure them that you will always do everything to protect them physically and emotionally and let you know any time they feel threatened or unsafe. 

And, if the candidate you support loses, remind your child that this is one man in one office. Local and state elections impact our country too, and many offices have term limits. There’s always hope for change in the next election. In the meantime, look for ways to engage in the issues that your family values. If the environment is a priority, look for opportunities to engage in projects like community clean-ups or recycling initiatives. If caring for immigrants and the disenfranchised resonates with you, look for local food pantries or shelters you can support. 

Hasan Kwame Jeffries, a history professor at Ohio State University, says, “We’re afraid to talk about politics … As my 5-year-old says, ‘That don’t make no sense!’ You got to let people know where you stand. Provide children evidence. Provide them with stories.”

Why? Because we don’t want to raise voters, we want to raise informed voters. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Alexa Tricks for a Halloween Treat 

By Tracey Dowdy

‘Tis the season – for ghosts, goblins, and sugar highs. And while we love our smart-home devices year-round, Alexa can really shine at Halloween. From spooky sounds to trivia night, these Alexa skills can make your Halloween boo-tiful. 

  • Set the mood by saying, “Alexa, play Halloween music,” or link your Spotify and choose from one of the zillion music or sound effect playlists
  • Use one of Alexa’s many scream skills to scare the daylights out of trick or treaters. Bonus, it’s also great for repelling door to door solicitation and political campaign volunteers. 
  • Ghost Detector uses “highly advanced technology” to detect spirits and specters and allows you to catch one ghost per day. As you earn in-game currency, Ghost Bux, you’ll soon be able to unlock gadgets, missions, and adventures. 
  • If your little one has yet to master the meaning of a calendar, let Alexa handle the question, “How many more sleeps until Halloween?” Just say “Alexa, open Halloween Countdown,” and thank the robot gods for one less question to answer. 
  • Check out the ultimate Halloween trivia quiz. Alexa will test your knowledge of both familiar and obscure facts. 
  • Still haven’t settled on a costume? Use Alexa’s Halloween Costume Ideas skill to narrow down those options. 
  • Alexa’s Haunted House is a choose-your-own-adventure for kids or adults that takes you through a haunted house on – what else? – a dark and stormy Halloween night. Because you control the story based on your choices, you can have multiple adventures. 
  • If you’re up for a challenge, try an Escape Room. Just tell Alexa to “Open the escape room,” and you’ll have your choice of escaping from jail, an office, or a car. Using voice commands, you can search the room, solve puzzles, inspect or pick up items, and see what your options are. The clock is ticking – can you escape in time? 
  • Halloween Feel the Pressure is a family game that asks a spooky question based on a specific letter of the alphabet. Questions get more challenging as you progress through the game, and you’ll need ten correct answers to win. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Halloween Music for Kids

By Tracey Dowdy

 

We all know that Halloween will look different this year, but different doesn’t necessarily mean lame or no fun. Whether you’re hosting a virtual Halloween party, want a playlist for your socially-distanced trick or treating plans, or just want to set the mood while you hang out at home, this playlist of kid-friendly music will hit the right notes. 

Best for preschoolers

Who Took the Candy? by Super Simple Songs is part of a catalog of fun and not-so-spooky songs for littles. 

Bumps in the Night takes kids on a spooky adventure with Mr. Whirly, as he sings about the mysterious sounds kids hear at night and how they don’t need to be afraid. 

Caspar Babypants’ Skeletone, a silly skeleton, uses his bones as a musical instrument.

Halloween Sharks by Pinkfong puts a holiday twist on Baby Shark. I apologize in advance for the earworm your kids will love, and you’ll endure. 

You kids will love shaking their booty and roaring along with Laurie Berkner and the monsters in Monster Boogie

Lucy Kalantari has lots of fun and slightly spooky songs for kids – check out It’s Halloween; Flick of My Wrist; Haunting Days of Halloween.  

Kids may be scared of the monsters that come out when they sleep, but Under My Bed by Recess Monkey takes the spooky away.

There’s never been and never will be a groovier monster than the Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley.

Grammy winners (Family Hip Hop) Secret Agent 23 Skidoo will have your littles up and moving with their funky Halloween hit, Ain’t No Party Like Halloween

Your littles will howl at the moon with laughter, trying to master the “oo-ee-ah-ah-ah’s” sung by the chipmunks in Witch Doctor by David Seville. 

 

For Older Kids and Teens

Jack White (White Stripes) embraces his inner ghoul-like never before in Little Ghost

Introduce your kids to a pre-TikTok dance craze with the Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. Score bonus points by having them watch the video of his live performance and see his wild facial expressions. Eat your heart out, Jim Carrey! 

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince rap a ghost story? Keep talking. I’m listening. Check out A Nightmare on My Street.  

What can I say? The seventies were wild, and apparently, werewolves roamed the streets – at least according to Warren Zevon in Werewolves of London.

Speaking of the seventies, it doesn’t get much better than old school Stevie Wonder. Superstition is the perfect addition to this playlist. 

Is there a better song lyric than Ghostbusters’ “I ain’t afraid of no ghost?” Of course not. Thanks, Ray Parker Jr. 

The Harry Potter franchise is full of possibilities for this playlist, but Hedwig’s Theme and Double Trouble have to top the list. Actually, just go ahead and add the Harry Potter Complete Soundtrack Playlist. 

How do you choose between People Are Strange by Echo and the Bunnymen or The Doors? You don’t – both are great. 

Lana del Rey’s version of Season of the Witch is creepy enough to be included on the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark soundtrack, although it’s hard to beat the original by Donovan

Get that red lipstick on and do the Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s just a jump to the left and then a step to the right. With your hand on your hips, you bring your knees in tight. But it’s the pelvic thrust – They really drive you insane.

The Theme from Halloween starts eerily and builds to a wild crescendo. Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’re guaranteed to be spooked. 

I Put a Spell on You is the greatest Halloween song tucked inside the greatest Halloween movie ever. There’s no room for argument. 

Rockwell’s Somebody’s Watching Me is graced by a slick Thriller-style sample courtesy of Micheal Jackson. Being Motown founder Barry Gordy’s son probably helped with that.  

Suppose you’re looking for a weird song about a creepy-crawly spider being crushed by a book, then Boris the Spider by The Who ticks every box. Good luck getting John Entwistle’s gravely growl out of your head. 

Speaking of voices to narrate your nightmares, James Hetfield is happy to help through Enter Sandman – Metallica at it’s scariest. 

Could any list ever be complete without Thriller by Michael Jackson? The answer is no. 

You just know that a song that starts with sassy snapping fingers is going to be good. Take it away, Addams Family.  

Even though the show has been off the air since the seventies and your kids have no idea who Herman and Lily are, the Theme from The Munsters has the perfect vibe. 

There you go! Have a spooktacular time!

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.