Having a Fun and Safe Halloween
As fun as exciting as Halloween can be, it is important to remember that for preschoolers it can also be a little overwhelming and a bit scary. You have the ability as parents to choose whether Halloween will be a holiday about monsters, ghouls, and goblins; candy and treats; pumpkins and cider; or a fun walk around the neighborhood. As with all holidays, you are in control of your child’s experience and it can always change as your child grows. We have put together some ideas about how to make it a great experience for the whole family.
When choosing a costume, safety should be the most important consideration. Your child should be able to move comfortably and see clearly. Remember that children don’t need to be completely dressed up in order to be “wearing a costume”. There are many great ideas online about costumes that don’t require much and some are just like wearing regular clothes. If your child’s costume is dark in color, make sure that he or she has on some reflective clothing and attach a glow stick so that they can be seen as it gets dark. Attaching a glow stick to or putting it inside of their trick-or-treat bag is helpful too.
Don’t forget to explain that under all of those costumes and masks are just other children! This can be the scariest part of Halloween even if the masks aren’t spooky. Help your child understand this by putting a mask on yourself and then remove it to show your child that it’s still you underneath. You can also put a mask on your child in front of the mirror so that they can see the transformation in themselves too.
Your child may have loved or really been frightened by Halloween in the past. As they grow, children’s perspectives change be sure to try to understand their current point of view.
Halloween is a great opportunity to teach and reinforce safety ideas and also to practice using manners. You can practice trick-or-treating at your house. Parents or older siblings can model the process: walking up to the door, ringing the doorbell/knocking, saying “trick-or-treat” and using eye contact when thanking the person giving out the candy. Remind your child that it’s OK to get candy that they may not like as well as taking only one piece unless more is offered. Outgoing children should be reminded that it is not safe to entering anyone’s home or go off with strangers. Don’t worry if your child isn’t comfortable approaching people’s homes to trick-or-treat, you’ve probably been telling them to be wary of strangers up to this point!
When walking in your neighborhood, it can be stressful and scary for parents too! This is especially true if your child doesn’t always respond immediately when his or her name is called and/or stop when running. Be sure to take that into consideration, reinforce those rules, and practice before you head out on Halloween night. Kids can be excited and want to run ahead with friends but need to be able to stop in case a car is coming or they get too far ahead. You don’t need to visit every house in the neighborhood, and can trick-or-treat in the early evening. Your family rule is might be to get 10 pieces of candy or only stop by the homes of special neighbors; it’s up to you. Sometimes the most Trick-or-Treating fun is had by simply staying home and helping to pass out candy to others.
Don’t forget to go through the candy before your child eats any to check that it is safe (and of course, steal a few of your favorites!). You may choose to tell your children that they might be visited by the Switch Witch!
The Switch Witch is a friendly little witch who visits the homes of tired trick-or-treaters after they have fallen asleep on Halloween night. She switches out the Halloween candy for a special gift such as a small toy, a book, or a certificate to do something special with the family.
There are lots of ideas online for controlling all that candy and ways to make use of it. Candy can be sorted and stored to be added to cookies, used as ice cream toppings, and saved to decorate gingerbread houses. Organizations like Operation Troop Support will send candy to troops deployed overseas. Some dental offices offer candy trade in programs. You don’t have to eat it all! Please remember that candy should not be brought to school but saved at home as a special treat.