A mom and son decorate for Halloween

Maybe your Halloween plans this year include pumpkin decorating, virtual costume contests or other lower-risk ways to celebrate this fun family holiday. Or perhaps you, like me, are just planning a sugar binge until you crash at the crack of 9:30 p.m.

Either way, allow me to suggest a Scouty addition to your spooky season schedule: earn one of the merit badges on the list below during the month of October.

Adding a little something extra to a merit badge by connecting it to a holiday or other major event isn’t mandatory. But neither is finishing off the entire bag of candy corn, and yet here we are.

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Celebrate Halloween without carving a jack-o’-lantern? You must be out of your gourd.

But first, you’ll need that key ingredient. You could get a pumpkin from the store or mask up for a trip to the pumpkin patch, but it’s more fun to grow one yourself. (Note: If you’re reading this in October, the first step in growing a pumpkin in time for Halloween is inventing a time machine that can transport you back to July.)

Scouts who earn the Gardening merit badge know all about things like seed germination and plant maturation. They also know that requirement 2A — “grow six vegetables, three from seeds and three from seedlings, through harvest” — technically can’t be met using a pumpkin.

After all, a pumpkin is not a vegetable but a fruit. It’s even the state fruit of New Hampshire.

OK, so which Gardening requirement can be earned with everyone’s favorite Cucurbita? Try requirement 3C, which asks Scouts to “give the nutritional value … of three fruits,” and then rest easy knowing a pumpkin is low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals.

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Insect Study

As long as we’re clearing up common misconceptions, any Scout who has earned the Insect Study merit badge (requirement 2) can tell you that spiders aren’t insects. They’re arachnids.

But even though Halloween’s most famous creepy crawly isn’t part of the Insect Study merit badge, there are still plenty of flying, biting, skittering insects to give the holiday its requisite scares.

In fact, did you know that there are 200 million insects for each human on the planet, according to the Smithsonian? Sleep well tonight!

Scouts who earn the Insect Study merit badge will get a closer look at 20 of the estimated 900,000 species of insects out there, studying each live insect in its natural habitat. They’ll make a scrapbook containing photos, sketches, illustrations and observations about each one (requirement 5) and share that scrapbook with their counselor.

As a fun Halloween twist, Scouts could also share those insect photos with other members of their family by placing insect images in surprising places. Sweet dreams!

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“The Zoom call … it’s coming from inside the house!”

No matter how you like your scary movies — totally terrifying, somewhat spooky or playing in the other room while you do literally anything else — there’s no denying that Halloween goes great with horror.

But enjoying a scary movie doesn’t always have to mean grabbing the remote. For Scouts working on the Moviemaking merit badge, it means grabbing a camera.

For requirement 2, Scouts get to create a short film, following a trimmed-down version of the process used by Hollywood directors. They start by writing a treatment that tells the story in three or four paragraphs. Then they prepare a storyboard, practice filmmaking techniques and then shoot the actual film.

When they’re done, the Scouts even hold their own movie premiere and show the film to their troop — a requirement that could be easily completed over Zoom, if necessary.

Moviemaking seems like the perfect merit badge to complete while staying safe at home. And a scary movie seems like the perfect excuse to cast Mom as a ravenous zombie whose only weakness is Fun Size M&M’s or Dad as a weird space creature who loves Reese’s Pieces.

Wait, didn’t a famous Eagle Scout already do that last one?

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OK but, like, why was it a dark and stormy night?

Scouts who earn the Weather merit badge gain the skills needed to measure, understand and even predict the weather.

Weather can be downright scary (see: TwisterThe MistSharknado), but some of that fear is of the unknown.

Scouts who earn this merit badge learn to identify dangerous weather-related conditions so they can cut through the fog and make a plan for what to do when encountering severe weather.

Sorry, Dr. Frankenstein, but lightning is a little less scary when you know how it’s formed (requirement 4). And its accompanying dark clouds seem less ominous when you can name each variety (requirement 5).

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Without his costume and makeup, Frankenstein’s monster is just another tall dude who walks funny.

Costumes allow us to transform, however temporarily, into a different character — someone heroic or villainous, silly or scary.

They’re fun to wear but even more fun to create yourself or with your family.

My best Halloween costume to date was the year my mom transformed me into a stop light. I walked around in a kid-size yellow box, shining a flashlight through holes covered in red, yellow and green cellophane. You could say my costume stopped traffic.

Hiding inside the requirements for the Theater merit badge you’ll find this showstopper (requirement 3E): “Show skill in hair and makeup design. Make up yourself or a friend as a historical figure, a clown, an extraterrestrial or a monster.”

Whether they create an extraterrestrial, a monster or something really scary like a clown, Scouts could use their skills in costume and makeup design to make a truly Instagram-worthy Halloween costume.

Do I hear boo-ing?

Disagreements about this list are welcome. If you have a merit badge that screams Halloween more than one above, leave a comment below.

But remember the rule: this is a list of five, not six or seven. If you suggest one to include, you must tell which one you’d remove.

Carve out some more time

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