It seems like these days, Halloween is more of a season than a holiday. Decorations go up on houses and in stores on the first day of fall and everywhere you look you see pumpkins, witches, and candy galore!
Whether you are a new parent experiencing Halloween with your child for the first time or a parent who has been around the jack o’lantern a few times, navigating this holiday with children is not always a walk in the park. That’s why the team at Sawyer spoke with Emily Andrews, our early childhood learning specialist, to get some insight and tips for parents to consider when planning the perfect Halloween.
1. It’s possible that your child may be scared of Halloween
Parents are often surprised by what frightens their child. Each child is different, so it’s difficult to give hard and fast rules about what may be overwhelming for children at different ages. The most important thing a grownup can do is to know an individual child and watch for their reactions to potentially scary images and situations.
Babies, toddlers, and even some young children are still working out object permanence, which is the understanding that objects, or in this case people, continue to exist even when they can not be seen or sensed. Your child may not yet fully grasp that their loved caregiver is still there when they put on a mask or costume.
How can you help?
- To prepare your 2-4 year-old child for the experience of seeing so many people in Halloween costumes you can help them make their own mask at home.
- You can buy ready to go simple masks to decorate or cut your own out of cardboard.
- This does not need to be part of their actual Halloween costume, it is actually best if it's not, but just a simple craft project to allow them to slowly, meaningfully, and intentionally explore what a mask is. This will allow them to have some control over it
- They can make their own mask, try it on if they’d like to, and have a look in the mirror to see that they look different and wonderful.
Other important notes
- If you arrive at a Halloween display and it is too scary for your child you can and should walk away. Then, redirect them to something else. Saying “it’s not real” is not going to be sufficient if they are scared. Also, do not laugh at their fear! You might understand that the display isn’t real, but they do not, so make sure you validate their feelings.
- Draw a hard line at blood, gore, and violence for young children. Halloween has become commercialized as an adult holiday so there is stuff out there that little ones should not see. It is too scary and likely doesn’t represent the values you want your child to be exposed to. You are not a party pooper, you are attuned to your child’s emotional needs.
2. Time your Halloween preparations
Just because the stores have all the candy and décor out and ready to go, doesn’t mean you need to begin decorating on October . A month is a long time for your child to wait for the day of candy. Some, or many, children may struggle with such a long run up. Think about how long of a run up your child can handle and plan accordingly with home decorations and costume prep.
3. Be mindful with costume selection
In helping your child select their costume consider three things:
- Let them choose what they’d like to be. It is their costume after all.
- Do not make someone else’s culture your costume. Cultural appropriation is veiled racism. Be mindful and DO explain to your child why that costume is not appropriate.
- Consider comfort, fabric sensitivities, and potential weather factors.
4. Be inclusive of neurodiverse children and those with allergies this year
Halloween can be a tough holiday for neurodiverse children and children with allergies. When you plan for the holiday, keep these ideas in mind so that you can be inclusive of everyone!
- Many kids cannot trick or treat because of allergies to certain foods. On the candy distribution side of things, it's thoughtful to have a basket of non-candy treats.
- These might include: temporary tattoos, stickers, or other fun little Halloween items.
- You can display that your home has allergy appropriate treats by displaying a teal pumpkin or a sign with a teal pumpkin saying that you have non-candy treats for kids with allergies.
Autism and sensory sensitivity
- If you see a child trick or treating with a blue pumpkin, it may mean that they are on the autism spectrum. It is just as likely that autistic kids will be trick or treating without blue pumpkins as their parents may not want their child stigmatized.
- In either case, when interacting with children at the door, out on the street, or at a school function, do not prompt them to make eye contact or say anything to you when you open your door. You should also understand that they may not be able to tolerate their costume so it may be that they are without one.
- Be kind and simply follow their parents' lead.
5. Plan but keep it flexible and fun
Halloween is a great holiday for family bonding and having fun with friends! Just keep these tips in mind when you are getting ready for the big day to avoid meltdowns and tantrums, keep everyone safe, and stay organized.
- Decide how far on foot you will be trick or treating. Parents should determine if the family will be sticking together for the whole evening, with all siblings, or if at some point one will take a sibling to meet up with friends, head home early with a younger one, etc. Will you keep it local? Explore other neighborhoods? Don’t wait until you are walking out of the door to trick or treat to make these decisions.
- Speak with your child beforehand and come up with a plan so they know what to do in case they are separated while trick or treating.
- Determine who is staying behind to hand out treats.
- Build in bathroom breaks, decide on things like whether or not to bring the stroller, bring a water bottle, check the weather, pack back-up shoes, make sure phones are charged, etc.
- Most of all…let your child have fun!
Halloween is a fun and exciting holiday for children and adults alike. We hope these tips help you and your family make the most out of Halloween by being inclusive, safe, and having fun! Happy Halloween, everyone!