Nobody wants to be the lame, party-pooper parent that doesn't take their child trick or treating.
But Halloween can be genuinely scary for some children, especially those under six years old.
Dr. Montessori found that from birth to about six years of age, children are CONCRETE thinkers, meaning they’re focused on the physical world - what they can see, feel, hear, and touch.
Before ages ~5-6, they have trouble understanding fantasy and the idea that some things "aren't real". Think about it... your child sees a 10 foot tall skeleton or a motion-activated witch and becomes scared. To reassure them you tell them "it's not real".
But what does that mean to them? It's in front of them. They can see it and touch it. It seems as real as anything else.
The world is often confusing and overwhelming for children under six so adding in fantasy for this age group can just confuse them more.
Not to mention Halloween usually means a change in routine, a late bedtime, and different clothing. It can all easily lead to a meltdown.
How to Make Halloween More Fun (& Less Stressful) For Young Children
Before Halloween night, you can start by gauging your child's interest and fear of all the decorations.
Walk around the neighbourhood to see how they react. Are they scared? Interested? What kind of questions did they have?
This will give you a good idea of how to handle Halloween night.
Follow their lead. If your child seems unaffected by the decor, then just note when they become too tired or overwhelmed by the excitement.
If your child does seem a little scared but you still want to celebrate, here's a couple ways to make it less stressful:
Practice trick or treating at your own home first. You can have them walk up to your door and knock, while one parent opens the door and puts a treat in their bag. Knowing what to expect can be very comforting for a child.
Start with just a few neighbours that your child knows. A handful of houses might be enough excitement for a very young child and they might be ready to head home.
Have your child give out candy instead of trick or treating. This is rich learning opportunity and a great activity for development of social skills.
Dress up together in a family costume. Like anything, seeing you do it first, will get your child interested in joining in.
Let them go without a costume or wear something very simple, like animal ears or a tutu. Costumes can be hot, itchy, and different than your child's normal clothes. I doubt any adult would be upset about seeing a child under six trick or treating without a costume.
Trick or treat from the wagon. You can leave your child in a wagon or push car and just walk them up to the house. This allows them to trick or treat from a secure and comfortable spot.
And just note that this can change every year when a child is little. A one year old might not even notice the scary decorations, and then the next year, they might be terrified. As always, follow your child's lead.
Remember - this won't last forever
If you're thinking about how much fun Halloween was when you were a child and feel sad about your child missing out on that, remember, you're likely thinking about all the fun you had when you were 7 or 8+.
There will be a time when your child will enjoy the late nights and excitement of holidays like this one.
So don't stress if the next few years aren't very exciting :)
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