Want to Make Halloween Safe & Sweet? Think like a Kid

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Photo: Tinkergarten

For many of the estimated 172 million of us who celebrate Halloween, this year will still be a little funky as COVID remains a challenge and group gatherings can still carry risk. As parents, we only get a few front row seat to our kiddos’ Halloween joy. So, we all likely want to make Halloween as sweet as possible. How best to do that? Think like kids.

Take Your Cue from Kids about Halloween

During times like these kids are simply better at adapting than we are because they tend not to focus on the loss of what is “ideal.”

So, we decided to take our Halloween cues from them. Last year, our Tinkergarten team talked with 30 kids ages 3-8 around the country about what they loved most about Halloween. Then, we put our heads together to imagine ways to deliver on the parts of Halloween that truly matter to kids—even in the year of COVID!

‘Tis a Season, Not a Night

Many of the things kids love about Halloween are not directly related to trick-or-treating, events, or Oct. 31st itself. So, why not shift our focus from a single big night to make Halloween more like a festival instead?

Why not celebrate Halloweek—7 days full of things that make the Halloween season magical?!

For example, my three kids made a Halloweek idea chart that includes things like: decorate; fire pit; carve Jack-o-lanterns; make Halloween brew; and costume hike with friends.

Our team is so inspired that we’ve developed a free, downloadable Halloweek Calendar of activity plans, complete with a different way to play and celebrate Halloween and nature every day!

It’s Really about Costumes & Pretending

The chance to don a costume and pretend to be someone or something else is clearly at the heart of Halloween for kids. And it makes total sense: kids’ brains more easily blend reality and fantasy, which is how they develop the foundation for higher order thinking skills.

In our house, so much delight is derived from discussing, planning, procuring and test-driving costumes—long before Halloween! And in our interviews, one 6 year old remembered being bummed that his mom wouldn’t let him wear his costume all the time last year.

TIP: Lean into the costume. Welcome kids to brainstorm what they’d like to be. Just buy or make your costume a little early this year so kids have extra time to enjoy wearing it (and have some duct tape ready if they love it too hard before the big day!).

Make it Magical

So much of what makes Halloween special is the magic. Try out the following easy, playful activities to add a dose of magic to your holiday.

DIY Activities around Halloween

Explore pumpkin seeds: Pumpkins are full of magic, whether or not you turn them into a jack-o-lanterns. They also offer marvelous ways to balance your child’s sensory system and teach early math and science lessons!

Make pumpkin boats: Explore floating and even pretend to help tiny friends set sail in your very own pumpkin boats!

Stir up Halloween Brew: Grab a pot (or your carved out pumpkin), some water and make your very own “Halloween Brew.” Add fall scents like cloves or cinnamon sticks or “secret ingredients” (aka baking soda and vinegar) to tickle the senses and add discovery.

Want to kick off with a story? Read Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

Consider Parades & Gatherings

One thing that several older kids mentioned loving were school or community events that offer the chance to wear your costume and see all of the costumes other kids are wearing.

As an elementary school principal in Sleepy Hollow, New York (my all-time favorite Halloween town), I had the  pleasure of presiding over our Halloween costume parade. It was a major highlight of the kids’ year (and mine) and it took only a mere 4 loops through the school parking lot in the middle of the day to feel the magic and snap a great photo for parents.

Tips for a Successfull Halloween

Remember that, for a little kid, parades can happen in many different ways and on many different scales—they can even just happen in the living room. Meet up with friends in costume and go for a socially distant walk around your local park. Enjoy playdates with the small circle of friends you see often. Video conferences in costume are pretty fun, too. Add some spooky music and turn it into a party!

You can also do some magical “night time” things like dress up and go for a lantern walk or take the moon for a walk in your costumes to bring back some of the excitement kids get being out at night on Halloween. Have a fire pit? Make s’mores and stay cozy.

Don’t Forget the Sweets!

And, yes, our young interviewees may have mentioned the candy a few times, too. There is something spectacular about just walking up to your neighbor’s house and getting candy in quantities nearly all of our surveyed kiddos only see on Halloween. But, if your house is like ours, it’s also pretty wild to navigate the highs and lows of early November as small bodies process all of that candy—so maybe we could still have sweets but enjoy a year without all of the gluttony?

Pro Tip: Weave sweets into your Halloween, even if you can’t go door to door for candy. Build in some excitement by talking with kids or doing a little research about sweet treats you could make or buy that you don’t usually have, or that are just SUPER delicious. Here are a few sites with super fun Halloween baking ideas.

Want to build in a little of the thrill? Hide candy around the yard or neighborhood and welcome your kiddos, and maybe even a few close friends, to go on a hunt!

Or, in some places, if you want to trick or treat in a safe, distant way, you can team up with a smaller circle of families to walk or drive between each other’s homes and “trick-or-treat” just between the few of you, keeping your distance as you go.

However your Halloween or Halloweek shapes up this year, we wish you a most spooky, special and sweet holiday!

This post originally appeared on Tinkergarten.

After 18 years as an educator, curriculum developer and school leader, Meghan has her dream gig—an entrepreneur/educator/mom who helps families everywhere, including hers, learn outside. Today, Meghan serves as co-founder and Chief Learning Officer of Tinkergarten, the national leader in outdoor play-based learning.