How to Keep Halloween Sweet (not spooky!) for Toddlers

October 30, 2019
How to Keep Halloween Sweet (not spooky!) for Toddlers

This tip of the week comes from Motherly. With Halloween around the corner, well – meaning parents may be tempted to go to parades and costume parties and take advantage of what seems to be a dream holiday for kids. This article written by Dr. Tova Klein, Director of the Barnard Toddler Center, touches on important points for parents of young children, who may be confused about how much to celebrate and how much to hold back.

1. Follow your toddler’s lead

If they want to wear a costume, let them, but if they do not, that is okay, too. Toddlers live in the moment, so their opinion may change on a minute-to-minute basis. Your little may like to dress up around the house on any given day, but if they do not want to put on a costume Halloween night, do not push it. You can always try again next year, or even next week (just for fun!).

2. Monitor your child

Signs that your child is overwhelmed can include being overly wound up, withdrawing or melting down. Are they clinging more than usual? Sucking their thumb when you do not expect it? Screeching for what appears to be ‘no reason’? These are all signs that your child could be worried or upset by all the Halloween stimulation. Stay close to them and plan to leave the festivities if it gets too much.

3. Avoid Masks

Mask can be confusing and even terrifying to your child. Toddlers cannot grasp that a mask is temporary. If your child becomes frightened by someone wearing a mask, address his or her fears with reassurance. You might say, “That mask looks scary, but it can’t hurt you. It is not real, but I know it scared you”. When you honor your child’s fearful feelings like this, they feel comforted that you will care for them when they are scared.

4. Pre-plan tick-or treating

Most young children, especially the itty-bitty ones, do not do well going to door at all. If you decide to trick-or-treat, pick a few houses to visit and go on the early side. Ask your friends to answer the door mask-free and to greet your child in a friendly manner. In addition, stay close even when your child is having fun. Being close can help head off meltdowns if they get overwhelmed.

5. Plan alternative celebrations

Many cities have a version of Boo at the Zoo, an afternoon of Halloween fun with the animals. Many local communities do parties for little ones or you can plan your own event with a few friends. For years, I got together with friends and their young children. Some children dressed in costume, others did not. The children played together, ate sweets and enjoyed the party. No stress, no pressure, and the adults could enjoy it, too.

6. Limit Candy

For many of us, Halloween is an excuse to indulge. (For me, that means Yorks or Mounds bars!) I suggest a middle ground of making it fun with limits. One way to do this is to try playing the “Pick 3″ game—choose three pieces of candy to eat now and put away the rest. When mine were younger, I did this and then over the course of the next week or so, I let them pick several pieces a day. They loved deciding on which ones to pick. After that, I declared, “Halloween is over,” and we’d say goodbye to the remainder of the candy. Usually they were done with it, too. Some dentist offices will even “buy back” your candy in exchange for toys or other healthier treats.

7. Respect bedtime

The over-excitement of Halloween plus a late bedtime can be a recipe for behavioral disaster. If you start celebrating early, you can try to follow their normal bedtime routine to minimize too much change at bedtime. Also, keep a noise machine or fan in their room to minimize the sound of trick-or-treaters outside.

However, you decide to celebrate on October 31st, keep it as light and low key as you can to maximize the toddler fun and create lasting family memories.

For more on Motherly, please click here.

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