No holiday captures the imagination of a child quite like Halloween. Candy! Costumes! Roaming the streets in the dark! It’s no wonder Halloween is considered the most frightening holiday of the year.
Frankly, before becoming a parent, I would not have classified myself as a “Halloween person.” But with two late October birthdays among my four children, that has changed. Out of necessity, we’ve learned to make Halloween not only special for the whole family, but lots of fun. If thoughts of Halloween scare you, perhaps this list of tips will help get you in the spirit.
1. Your children will want to inhale large quantities of candy.
However, understanding this fact does not mean you must embrace it. Simply put, it’s important to be reasonable. Have a plan. We generally allow candy on Halloween night, including while trick-or-treating if it’s from a close neighbor, but the indulgence is only temporary. After a few days, the candy is put away and doled out only with permission. Some parents use candy as a reward for a healthy meal or as an incentive to encourage teeth brushing. Any of these plans are fine as long as you remain consistent. In addition, it’s my belief that banning candy altogether will only create a stronger desire for it. As the parent, you can set the example. Eating candy is acceptable if it’s done in moderation and as part of a healthy diet.
2. Costume choice is subjective.
By the age of three, children love costumes. In fact, they love them so much they may have picked their Halloween costume by mid-summer. Then, they will change their minds and pick another. Take a deep breath and be patient. Either way, gone will be the days when you can dress them as a tiny pumpkin with green booties or a ladybug with popping antennae. Instead, they will insist on dressing as Sleeping Beauty, or Batman, or Hannah Montana. As they age, they might choose to be a “Groovy Girl” or a ghoul with a bloody mask. Establish boundaries. If you’re opposed to a costume choice, offer an alternative. However, if SpongeBob is their first and only choice, don’t be disappointed. Pick your battles and your child may learn the lesson of compromise.
3. Set a costume price limit if you’re hitting the store.
Store bought costumes can be expensive. If you don’t want to plunk down a lot of money at a costume store, encourage your children to be creative with what’s already in the closet – theirs or yours. With some accessories from the Dollar Store or Goodwill, your child can still be a princess or a pirate or a superhero And for those parents who are talented enough to design and sew their child’s costume, I‘m in awe. However, as with any costume, whether purchased or created, don’t wait until the last minute to pull it together.
4. Establish traditions.
My children love picking out and carving pumpkins. They look forward to decorating the house. Trick-or-treating is always done with cousins and close friends. Many families in our neighborhood meet for pizza or chili before trick-or-treating. Other families set up a table with hot chocolate and cider for tired children and parents. Some neighborhoods host costume parades. By establishing annual traditions and involving friends and neighbors, you will create a holiday your kids will remember.
5. Be prepared.
It goes without saying you should have plenty of flashlights with fresh batteries. There’s safety in numbers but don’t forget to count heads frequently. Don’t approach houses without lights or trick-or-treat in unfamiliar neighborhoods. Be aware of the weather and add extra layers under your child’s costume if necessary. Always check the candy. And finally, bring a wagon for the youngest children. When they tire of walking, you can pull them while the older children continue to trick-or-treat. You won’t regret it.
6. A party can be fun.
If you are opposed to trick-or-treating for safety or other reasons, consider throwing a Halloween party. Festive foods, decorations, and costume contests will satisfy most kids. Just make sure there is plenty of Halloween candy on hand. Piñatas are perfect for this kind of event. For older children, set up a creepy room with eerie music and ghoulish items to touch. You can also use a theme for the event. Your family might dress as characters from Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, or Batman. Get into the spirit
After the big day, you will be left with crumpled costumes and more candy than several families could eat in a month. The costumes are easy. If they are still wearable, store them for a younger sibling or better yet, let the children use them to play dress up all year long. If you’re lucky, you may get impromptu performances of The Wizard of Oz or see Superman fly through your house saving the world. As for the candy, there are several ways to approach the excess. After a few days, I usually separate out the chocolate candy and freeze it. The small sizes make perfect additions to lunches. A more altruistic idea is to donate the candy to local shelters or continuous care centers. A care package filled with goodies is always a welcome treat!
As you can probably tell, our family makes the most of this crazy holiday. I’ve grown into a “Halloween person” and why not? Over the years, I’ve discovered there’s nothing to be afraid of!