Children Can Enjoy the “Spooky” Side of Halloween


SpookyThe Halloween holiday is a favorite in my house.  One of my first dates with my husband was spent helping him insert straight pins through a skull cap so that he could dress up as a pretty impressive Pinhead.  (And yes, I still married him.)  While not as insane about the holiday as my husband, I too have always loved haunted houses, scary movies and the creative side of getting dressed up as someone or something else.  It is only natural that our children have also been fans of the holiday since the beginning.  Halloween is a close third to Christmas and birthdays, but those two only win out because of the presents involved.

My kid’s like zombies and Dracula.  They love that our house is transformed into a graveyard towards the end of September.  And they are preschoolers.  The 2-5 year old age range can be tough when it comes to this notoriously scary holiday.  As a parent, it can also be tricky to navigate all of the potential for fun that this holiday can have but still stay true to the desire to also not completely terrify your children.  No parent wants to traumatize their children and I am not saying that there aren’t those who are more timid and sensitive to spooky things.  But, I do firmly believe that presentation and approach to all things scary (from Halloween to shots at the pediatrician) can be positively impacted with the right parental attitude and preparation.

Here are some of my thoughts about how to help young children maximize their enjoyment of the spooky holiday.

  1. Expose them to spooky things.  I am not saying that you should grab your 3 year old and march them through the scariest haunted houses you can find.  However, walking them through the Halloween displays at Target might be a great place to start.  Crafts stores like Hobby Lobby, have a very festive way of presenting things that are both mundane (like glitter pumpkins) and spooky (think plastic skulls) right next to each other in a very non-threatening way.  Treat these things the same way.  If you are buying some holiday stamps for an art project, throw the skeleton or bat in with the pumpkin and scarecrow.
  2. Similar to #1, but still worth stating in a different way, is this.  Don’t avoid exposure to spooky things.  Even if your little one is scared, it is best to allow them to experience these things in small doses.  This way they are not given the impression that they are correct to be afraid, thus causing them to dig in their heels and commit even more fully to their fears.
  3. Build on the year before.  If your little one was only able to go to the pumpkin patch last year, then maybe this year they can get excited about the Halloween party at school or even host a Halloween walk in your neighborhood the week before.  Begin with daylight trick or treating and work up to staying out later as they get a little older.
  4. In an effort to show them that Halloween costumes are essentially the same as dressing up as a pirate or princess on a regular day of the week, normalize the experience for them by allowing them to help decorate the house for Halloween, apply make-up to an older sibling or try on the mask.  Don’t force this, but give them the opportunity so they can see it in action and not just the result.
  5. Listen to their own limit setting.  While I do believe we should challenge our children, I also don’t feel like you gain any positive benefit by pushing them too far past their comfort zone.  For example, my oldest loves The Nightmare Before Christmas and Paranorman.  We watch them year round, in addition to some other Halloween themed movies that are arguably age-inappropriate.  So, we tried the movie Coraline.  She does NOT love the movie Coraline.  She was actually okay with most of the movie, but had some issues coming to terms with the Mom in the other world with the button eyes.  For whatever reason, this character makes her uncomfortable.  So, we don’t watch Coraline.  I can respect that.

In the end, the goal is for everyone to have fun, however your family chooses to celebrate the holiday!

I would love to hear your experiences of Halloween with your children.

Do they love it or hate it?  Do you love it or hate it?

If your child has some fears of the holiday, what has been helpful to you as a parent supporting them through that?


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