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A How-to for a Happier Halloween

Halloween is a time of fun for both children and adults. However, when children are toddlers and preschoolers, it can be a season with great challenges. For older children, it’s a time when discussions may turn to issues of independence and appropriateness. Here are just a few things for you to consider beyond what costume to choose.


  • Are you aware that you can offer non-food options? The Teal Pumpkin Project  provides ideas for non-food items and also how you can let trick-or-treaters with allergies know your goodies are safe for them.
  • For those of us offering treats we can consider including a non-chocolate or non-nut option for those children with special restrictions.

Fearful Surprises (younger children)

Sights, sounds, masks and costumes can be especially frightening to very young children. Please remember it is not “fun” to be scared. You may have to plan to protect your child from older children and adults who find it entertaining to frighten your little one.
Because very young children are concrete thinkers, they are not able to separate the “monster appearance” from the known person under the mask. Your child may even be frightened of a parent who has covered those beloved features with face paint or a mask.  For their sake you may find it helpful to consider not-so-scary costumes.

Don’t feel you need to force the standard trick-or-treat model. For the very youngest of children just standing with Mom & Dad as others come to visit can be enough entertainment. Or, you may have a small group of special neighborhood friends who would like to have you and your child visit to show off the costume. Remember that it is likely to be dark and sometimes being out “late” can be a challenge, so many children will be happy with 1-3 stops at folks known to them. And you may find neighborhood events or defined programs in well-lit spaces a better fit for your family.

Decisions, Decisions (younger + older children)

  • How much is enough has to be determined by your values and your knowledge of your child. It may be fun to gather sweet treats, but ultimately you will be in charge of how much is appropriate to keep on hand. Remember you have the right to define your own family tradition about how the holiday will be acknowledged. In some neighborhoods, there are new traditions involving a “switch witch” who overnight trades candy for something else. Other families place a limit on the amount of candy a child is allowed with the rest to be shared with others at work or school.
  • At an age probably earlier than you expect, children may request to go with friends unsupervised.As you consider this request, remember: your family values are always an important part of decision-making; negotiation so that everyone is comfortable (i.e., adult within certain distance) is always an option; and your child and the entire group should have a plan ahead of time for what to do if something goes wrong.
  • Halloween may be a time of exploration and fun, but it is not a time of no-limits. As Halloween has become a holiday enjoyed more and more by adults, there can be confusing messages about where exactly the limits are. As a parent, limits are for you to set and it’s not always an easy task—just because it is available in kids sizes in the stores, does not necessarily mean it is appropriate for kids. You may also need to plan for discussions about how to decide if something is fun for the moment but not really okay for others like toilet papering trees.

More thoughts about the evening—Safety first!

  • Be careful of drawstrings, tripping in costumes too long for easy walking, and any masks that make it hard to see.
  • Add reflective tape or glow lights to help protect your child.
  • Watch for any candles in jack-o-lanterns that may burn a child or ignite a costume.
  • Unless they are trained and aware that their primary role is that at caretaker, never substitute older children as guides and support for a toddler or preschooler. These children may be distracted or not recognize the potential risks to young children. Remember ensuring a safe and happy environment is a parent’s job.

Whatever your choices, we hope you have a great time creating a playful evening for you and your family!

P.S. A How-NOT-To for a Happier Halloween:

Halloween How Not to


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