If you grew up near a sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua), then you know how inventive kids can be with the seedpods. I remember throwing them at my opponent during a friendly neighborhood game of “war.” Another personal favorite was dropping them down my cousin’s shirt when she spent the night. Such sinister-looking “prickle balls” just beg to be collected and put to use – especially at Halloween!

Bat mobile

Don’t hide your sweetgum bats in the belfry – put them on display on the front porch!

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Dangle bat

Who doesn’t love that old “dangle bat on a stick” trick?

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Wreath with web

For this neat Halloween decoration, all you need is one spooky sweetgum spider, a wreath and a little creativity!

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Hoop web

Hang this kid-friendly spider web on your door or window in October. (It looks good from both sides.)

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Here are variations on two of my favorite sweetgum critters: spiders and bats. These are creations from my childhood days, and it turns out, kids still love to make them today!

Spooky Sweetgum Spider

Materials

  • Sweetgum pod
  • Brown pipe cleaner
  • Glue
  • Google eyes (optional)

To make eight legs, cut the pipe cleaner into 2-inch pieces. Put a dab of glue on the end of each piece, then poke them into eight of the pod’s holes. You can also glue on google eyes for a sillier-looking spider.

Once you’re done with your lil’ critter, what can you do with it? Well, there’s always the ol’ hide-it-in-the-cabinet-and-scare-your-mom-to-death trick. But if you’re the mom, and you’re looking for something more refined for your children to do, then help them create one of these cool Halloween decorations:

Spider Web Door Hanging

Materials

  • Spooky sweetgum spider
  • Embroidery hoop
  • White yarn or thread
  • Tape

To make the web, first remove the outer hoop. Tape one end of the thread on the inner hoop to hold it in place while you work. Crisscross the thread over and over the hoop until the web looks the way you like it. Put the outer hoop back on and tighten to secure the thread in place. Tie a small piece of thread to the hoop’s screw to use for hanging. Add the spider by bending the pipe cleaner legs so the spider hangs on the web. The whole thing can be easily disassembled after the holiday, and mom can get her embroidery hoops back.

Spider Web Wreath

Materials

  • Spooky sweetgum spider (Make sure to leave the stem on the pod.)
  • Grapevine wreath
  • White yarn or thread
  • Stretchy spider webbing material (the kind you can buy around Halloween)
  • Ribbons or other decorations (optional)

This wreath can be pretty or messy – either way, it’s perfect for Halloween. The first step is to tie a length of white yarn around the spooky spider’s stem. Tie the other end to the top of the wreath so the spider dangles down in the center of the circle. Next, cover the wreath with the fun webbing material (just make sure you can still see the spider). The final step is to add any ribbons or extra decorations of your choice.

Batty Sweetgum Bat

Materials

  • Sweetgum pod
  • 2 brown or black feathers
  • Glue
  • Google eyes (optional)

Pick pods that have the stem still attached because this will be useful with the crafts below. Dab glue on the bottom end of each feather and poke them into the pod’s holes on opposite sides. That’s all you need to do – unless you want to add google eyes.

Not to plant any ideas here, but, the tickly bat wings are perfect for driving your family members batty! Here’s one way how:

Bat on a Stick

Materials

  • Batty sweetgum bat (see above)
  • Black string
  • Stick
  • Glue

Tie one end of your string to the pod stem, and add a little glue to secure. Tie the other end to a stick (one you found outside, or a chopstick works well, too). Next, sneak up behind a loved one watching television. Dangle the bat near his ear and see what happens when the feather starts to tickle!

Flying Bat Mobile

Materials

  • 3 batty sweetgum bats
  • Twig wreath
  • String

Tie a 6-inch piece of string to each bat’s stem. Tie the other end of the string to the twig wreath, trying to space the three bats equally around the ring so it balances better. To hang the wreath, tie four additional strings around the rim of it. Bring these four together (making sure the entire mobile is in balance), and tie a knot. You’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of this decoration if you hang it outside in the breeze. When the wind blows, the bats dance and dart around erratically – just like real bats.

Spooky sweetgum spiders and batty sweetgum bats make easy – and inexpensive – craft projects for Halloween. They also lend themselves to festive fun and games. It’s just possible that even grownup-you will find yourself a little tempted to pull a few “batty” pranks of your own. After all, it’s a spooktacular time of year! (Boo!)