Why could an exciting event like Halloween be frightening for young children?
Halloween can be a frightening experience for young children through age 8 years, unless skillfully handled. Young children believe completely in what they see. They do not yet think logically. Scary costumes, creepy sounds, seeing people’s appearance change, etc. can be very unnerving for children. They believe, for example, that their teacher may really be a ghost if she looks like one.
What kinds of things could parents watch for or avoid, so that Halloween becomes a fun experience?
Watch for too many activities that over-stimulate children, even if they are fun activities like parties, or scary stories or movies. Consistent routines at bedtime are very helpful during Halloween. Plan a quiet day prior to trick-or-treating, and the day or two after.
Things to help your Young Child avoid:
- Gruesome costumes, especially costumes that emphasize violence – blood dripping, limbs cut off, etc., and TV character costumes.
- Costumes that are very elaborate. It is easy to purchase elaborate costumes that may seem to put children on display. Simple props, like capes, make wonderful costumes for preschoolers.
- Avoid masks of any kind – face painting is much more appropriate for young children.
- Scary movies or TV shows with violent themes (even the commercials that advertise these can frighten children.)
- Haunted Houses
- Lots of sweet snacks or foods
What kind of home activities are appropriate for Young Children at Halloween?
Special activities, like:
- Family jack-o-lantern carving,
- Making Halloween cookies, or snacks, like toasting the pumpkin seeds.
- Stories about Halloween, and stories that discuss feelings of fright. . . .but not at Bedtime!
- Decorating the house together, being sure to include drawings and projects kids have made themselves.
- Trick-or-treat together. Young children only need to visit a few houses, or at most 2-3 blocks. They tire easily just watching so intently, and if they have to walk long distances too, parents can anticipate exhaustion tantrums.
- Let your young child dress up for several weeks prior to Halloween in their costume and pretend to trick-or-treat, or just play imaginatively. Capes make wonderful costumes for kids all year! Consider the values being taught by the costume -do we really want children to glorify killing or gory activities in their costumes?
What kinds of school activities are appropriate for preschoolers at Halloween?
- Low – key activities like pumpkin carving, seed cooking, Halloween stories, and art activities like painting, Halloween songs, and face painting will ease children into Halloween.
- On Halloween, children can bring their costume to change into at school for a costume parade.
- Skilled teachers often will let the children watch as they put on their costume over their regular clothes, so children see the transformation slowly. Teachers should also not wear masks.
- Many schools encourage parents to discuss their beliefs about special days like Halloween with the staff, so that families beliefs can be respected.
- What should parents do if their child does become scared during Halloween?
- Parents can take their child’s point of view and empathize. “I bet it was really scary when that man in the ghost costume said “BOO!” so loudly. I’m sorry he frightened you.”
- Ridiculing children when they are scared will only make them more scared.
- Parents can encourage their child to watch for a while before participating. For example, children can open the door to dispense Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters before going out to trick-or- treat themselves.
What’s the best way for children to eat their Halloween candy?
Many dentists are recommending that children eat as much candy as they want after trick-or-treating, and then donate the rest to shelters. A big jolt of sugar once is easier on teeth, rather than a daily sugar treat for weeks and weeks after Halloween. Eating candy until they get sick to their stomach is a great natural consequence, which makes candy seem less desirable!