“Mommy, why is everyone dressed up so funny?” “Daddy, what does ‘trick or treat’ mean?” “Grandma, why are people giving away free candy?” “Grandpa, how come those pumpkins have such funny faces?”
Halloween-related questions like these — and more, to be sure — pop up frequently when kids are young. In fact, the whole concept of this holiday can seem a bit scary, confusing, and overwhelming to the littlest ones at first. Explaining to kids why we celebrate Halloween can sometimes be, excuse the pun, “tricky.
Depending on your child’s age, you may want to first begin by talking about the history of Halloweenusing age-appropriate words. Then ease any rising fears they may be feeling by describing all the wonderful Halloween customs and traditions you enjoyed as a child. They might include:
- Picking out a costume. Whether hand sewn or store bought, costumes are the funnest part of Halloween, in my humble opinion. Tell your child what you used to dress up as. (I loved dressing up as a gypsy.) Then let your child help decide what he or she would like to be this year, and use your imagination to make it possible. Ideas are all around you! (My son’s all-time favorite costume was a mummy. I just used toilet paper to wrap him up. But the funniest part of the night was when it suddenly started to rain. I had one soggy but happy little boy to carefully unwrap at the end of that night!)
- Decorating pumpkins. Simple or elaborate, carved jack-o’-lanterns with lit internal candles are a source of great excitement and wonderment for kids of all ages. If you prefer, buy a carving kit to simplify the task. Easier yet, just have your child draw a face on the pumpkin with colorful markers. (Bonus: Toast the pumpkin seeds you pull out of the center for a healthy, tasty snack!)
- Buying/making treats. Have your child help with the special treats you will pass out on Halloween night. Whether it’s assorted candy bars, fresh apples, Rice Krispie Treats, or popcorn balls, it’s always more fun when your child has a chance to participate. (My kids loved to put a few treats in small gift bags to pass out.)
- Having a party. Whether you’re hosting one or attending one, it’s always a great time. Have your kids join in on the fun as you make creative Halloween-themed foods, bob for apples, tell ghost stories, or watch such scary family movies as Monsters, Inc.; Monster House; It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; or Ghostbusters.
- Going trick-or-treating. Enjoy accompanying your costumed child house-to-house in your neighborhood. Remind first-timers to say, “Trick or treat!” And for safety’s sake, be sure to avoid long clothing that may cause tripping, avoid masks that obstruct vision, bring a flashlight to illuminate unlit walkways and stairs, never enter homes of unknown people, carry a cell phone for emergencies, and inspect all candy first. For the very young, it’s easiest to pull them in a wagon like any of these from Step2.