How to Make Halloween a Treat for Young Children

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More than 36 million Americans will help their children dress in costume and go door-to-door for candy on Halloween night. But this exciting holiday presents many sights and sounds that may scare young children who have difficulty determining the difference between what’s real and what’s pretend – especially when they encounter monsters and beasts roaming their neighborhood in the dark. By explaining Halloween traditions in advance, you can make the experience more of a treat for your young child.

What’s behind that Mask? Place a mask on one of your child’s favorite stuffed animals. Put it on and take it off multiple times, discussing how “silly” the animal looks. You may want to help the animal take on a different character by changing his “voice” when he wears the mask. Then remove the mask and say something like, “Oh, silly dog is pretending to be a cat!” You can also make it into a game, by hiding some stuffed animals behind you, and then trying a mask on one of them to see if your child can guess which one it is. Take turns trying the mask on you and your child and pretending to become different characters.

Scared of the Dark? Spend time outside in the dark. Look at the stars and the moon and discuss the difference between night and day. Identify sounds from vehicles, animals, and other noise-makers that may be out of sight. Experiment with flashlights and light sticks.

The Element of Surprise! Learn to laugh when met with the unexpected. Take turns hiding behind something and jumping out to yell “Boo!” Play with an old-fashioned jack-in-the-box. Play hide and seek. Dangling Demons? Decorate your house together with age-appropriate pumpkins, spiders, and friendly ghosts. Take a walk around the neighborhood and play “I spy” as you spot other decorations.

Practice Trick-or-Treating. Let your child answer the door as you ring the doorbell and say “trick-or-treat!” Take turns with your little one, allowing the host to place a treat in the trick-or-treater’s bag, and teaching your child to say, “Thank you!”

Whether you celebrate the fantasy of Halloween with traditional trick-or-treating or choose to attend a school or church carnival instead, these tips will help prepare your little one for a not-so-frightful night.

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