For grownups Halloween is a festive and fun holiday. For a toddler, monsters, blood and skeletons can be really scary. Around the age of 2 children understand that they can get hurt. That’s when they can start showing fears of monsters, of the dark or fear of being away from the parents. Halloween can be a challenge for the little ones, because there is a confusion between reality and fantasy.
Here are some tips to make Halloween less scary and more fun for toddlers:
- Pretend Play
- Demystify masks and decoration
- Picking the Costume
- Fear of Monsters
- Adjust Expectations
- Trick-or-Treat Time
1. Pretend Play
Role play things that your child might face in a new situation. You can dress up a few times before the real trick-or-treat day. Explain to your toddler that people find it fun to dress up like scary things for Halloween.
2. Demystify masks and decorations
While at a store, a clever idea is to let your toddler touch the scary decorations, so she understands how fake they feel. Decorate your house with toddler-friendly ornaments – such as cute pumpkins or funny ghosts. Leave the zombies for a couple of years from now.
3. Picking the costume
Let your toddler pic what he/she wants to dress. It doesn’t have to be a scary one. Pick a comfortable costume. If she/he doesn’t want to dress up, don’t force her – maybe she would like to put some paint on her face, and that could be the costume.
4. Fear of Monsters
This can happen not only for Halloween, but on a regular basis, during bedtime. To help your child you can:
Tell her that she is not alone, let her know that you will be right by her side.
Get a night light:
In case she is afraid of the dark bedroom at night. Play fun games in the dark with your toddler with a flashlight.
Stuffed animals can help:
Let your child pick a lovey to take to bed
Talk about your child’s fears and read stories to help her understand and overcome her fears.
5. Adjust expectations
Your child may not want to wear the costume that she picked herself. Toddlers can be moody. Be prepared in case your little one’s mind changes and he/she doesn’t want to go out for trick-or-treat at all.
Have a backup plan in case you are trick-or-treating with your older children as well. Your toddler might be done with it by house 2, and your preschooler may want to stay longer.
6. Trick-or-treat time
– Explain to your toddler how trick-or-treat goes ahead of time. Having an older child with you might help. The older one can ring the bell while your toddler watches her.
– Skip the super spooky houses.
– Be supportive. Always be there by your child’s side in case he/she needs you.
– Time it right. Give your little one a healthy meal before leaving the house, so he/she won’t get irritated. Remember to pair a protein with any kind of sugary snack. Plan daylight trick-or-treating and make the route short.
– Check the candies: get rid of any choking hazards and unwrapped candy. You can let your little one have a piece or two saying that “it’s your Halloween treat!”. Some parents will get rid of the candies after a day or two. Some parents will allow their children to pick one piece of the treat each day. It’s up to you as a parent to figure out a plan for disposing the candy your child brings home.
Fear is a normal part of development. It will take time for your child to understand what is real and what is fantasy. Maybe this year your toddler won’t want to participate in the Halloween activities, but next year will be a whole new stage of development!
Written by Marilee Hartling and Paula Boscardin