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Halloween with Toddlers
I have to say, Halloween last year was not what I expected. After all the excitement beforehand, my sons were…well…less than lukewarm about it. I had expected a lot of activity, running around, squealing. But they were not doing any of that. In fact, my youngest was just so tired we had to put him in bed and my oldest son just appeared uninterested. All he wanted was a bit of candy and to stare at some Halloween cartoon until he was too tired to keep his head up.
He didn’t want the decorations. He didn’t want any dressing up. Basically, he was very much being a 4-year old
It seems real to them
For very young children, Halloween is different. And not just because suddenly there are fake ghouls and zombies everywhere. To them, Halloween is different than how the holiday appears to us. And that is because children up to the age of 6 or even 7 have trouble distinguishing fact from make-believe. Young children still live in a magical world where the boundaries of reality aren’t clear at all.
After all, they see so many amazing things every day. It happens plenty of times that my son thinks I’m joking (that the sun is a fiery ball, for instance) and it turns out to be perfectly true!
So who knows, everything about Halloween might be real as well!
That reminds me of a midnight talk I had with my oldest son once. He called me over the baby phone to say he was afraid. So, I went over to his room and sat on his bed and asked what was the matter. He told me he was afraid there might be a ghost in his room.
Mommy: “But sweetie, there are no such things as ghosts.”
Little man: ….
Mommy: “Do you know how often mommy is up at night? To check in on you or your little brother? Almost every night! Almost every night mommy walks around, in the dark, and I’ve never seen a ghost!”
Little man: ….
Mommy: “That leaves only two options. Either the ghosts are afraid of mommy. Or there are no ghosts.”
Really, I thought that proved no ghosts existed.
Little man pondered this for a moment, then: “I think they’re afraid of you.”
Though I’m flattered he thinks I can protect him from even ghosts, I was hoping for a different result to this conversation.
Anyway, it’s really difficult to convince kids that nothing they see at Halloween isn’t real. Their brains just aren’t ready for that yet. The only thing we can do is accept that and try to make the best of it. Fortunately, that is perfectly doable
They might be frightened
Like I said earlier, to a toddler all those Halloween decorations might seem very real. This is perfectly normal, so don’t be worried about this. Your child might simply not yet understand that the masks aren’t real and that’s just normal development. Sometimes children already seem so wise that we think they’ll understand these simple things as well. But reality is that they don’t and we shouldn’t expect them to. It’s okay for a young child to be afraid.
To help have a great Halloween with toddlers:
- Act normal, don’t pretend to be frightened yourself (they emulate you) but don’t tell him to man up either.
- Have people take of their masks so your toddler can see there’s a normal person underneath. Let him hold or play with the mask (if allowed by the owner and if your toddler wants to).
- Allow them to (gently) touch the props, so they can see that the thing won’t start moving suddenly and come after them.
- Craft some of their own decorations with them. Toddlers tend to be more interested and less intimidated by things if they’ve had a hand in the creation themselves. This is a good way to show them the decorations are fake.
- Put more emphasis on the season and celebrate fall, then on the scary festivities of Halloween.
They might seem uninterested
Like my son, who pretended there was nothing to worry about, your child might seem uninterested. He might try to block out Halloween entirely.
It’s something some children (and also adults) do when whatever is in front of them is simply too frightening or intimidating. In such a situation the solution to them is a simple on: just pretend it’s not there and it will go away. Though not a very good solution in real life, for young kids during Halloween I don’t think there is any harm. You can try to coax them out, but if they are not ready then they are not ready.
Also remember that all the excitement makes them tired and that the costumes might intimidate them. When it becomes too much, they might just pull back and appear to be uninterested.
If this happens, don’t push it. There won’t be a big hole in his life if he skips Halloween this time. And as you’ll see further down there are other things you can do with your kids to make Halloween stellar all the same.
They might now want to wear their costume
Nothing as changeable as the weather and toddlers! They love something one week and then they hate it the next. Just think of the things they are willing to eat one weak (this is my favorite!) and then claim to not be able to eat the week after.
Of course, for some children there’s also the performance aspect of it. Fitting a costume is all nice and dandy. But at Halloween they have to wear it for real! Which, to them, is an entirely different thing.
Two tips for Halloween with toddlers:
- Never force it, if they don’t want to then they don’t want to. Don’t teach them it’s acceptable to do things against their will when it’s not necessary (like brushing teeth, they may not like that either but you’re doing it for a very good reason. Practicing discipline should be a sensible thing in my view).
- Practice beforehand; let them wear their costume a few times before Halloween, so they can get used to wearing on a bit. Don’t worry about it getting dirty. It’ll get dirty anyway and there is no rule that says it needs to be completely clean during Halloween.
They might not want to trick or treat
Again, this is perfectly normal. Though in most cases the lure of candy works just fine, there are some exceptions and for young children walking up to a strange house demanding candy is on of those things. It’s not as if they’d do this under normal circumstances. In fact, they wouldn’t be allowed to! It’s just that one day in the year (which means they’ll have forgotten ever doing this before, a year is ridiculously long to a toddler) they are supposed to go up to a stranger’s door, ring the bell and ask for candy. As if this is normal. And mommy isn’t doing the talking!
Pretty scary! Not to mention everything looks weird with the scary pumpkins and zombies…
So, again, if they don’t want to trick of treat then this is perfectly normal.
- Encourage them to go by at least a few houses.
- Team up with other parents and kids so that they are not so alone.
- If they’re done after three houses, stop and go home.
- Reward their bravery be telling them they did well. That means more to them than the candy.
- Do other things besides trick or treating.
Our Halloween with Toddlers
I know that trick or treating with my boys isn’t going to last long. I also know that by the time they’ve had dinner and it’s fully dark they will already be quite tired. So, I have other things planned instead.
Next week I will post a whole list of things to do during Halloween with a toddler. Including printable downloads!
For the time being here’s what I plan to do with my kids and what I know will (probably) work for them:
We’ll be reading a Halloween children’s story. Something involving a ghost, but it’ll be a cute one. If you don’t think you can find something that is appropriate for your kids, remember that fairytales fit in with Halloween just as well.
Our Zombie game. Okay, I realize this needs some explaining. My kids love to pretend they’re zombies (of course, they don’t really know what a zombie is or does). They walk funny with they’re hands flexed and their tongues out of their mouths and pretend to be monsters. I then squeal and run away, pretending to be terrible frightened.
We also play Mommy-Monster, where I chase the kids and when I catch them (after letting them get away a few times, of course) I tickle them mercilessly.
Halloween scavenger hunt. I’ll print the scavenger hunt list as well as pictures of the items on the list. Then, while hubby is keeping the kids occupied, I’ll hide these pictures around the house. The kids then have to find all of them. If they gather all of the items, they’ll get a small price.
To me, that sounds like Halloween will still be a lot of fun, even if I don’t get the kids into their costumes or if they don’t like the decorations. We’ll simply do our own toddler-approved version!