Want to Make Halloween Safe & Sweet? Think Like A Kid.

By Meghan Fitzgerald

For many of the estimated 172 million of us who celebrate Halloween, this year will still be a little funky as COVID-19 remains a challenge and group gatherings and celebrations still carry risk. As parents, we only get a certain number of annual tickets in the front row seat to our kiddos’ Halloween joy. So, we all want to make this holiday as sweet as possible. How best to do that? Think like your kids.

Kids and Halloween

During times like these, kids are simply better at adapting than we are because they tend to focus far less on the loss of what is “ideal.” Our adult brains have a better sense of time, so we carry with us all of the things we’ve lost out on during this pandemic. So, let’s take our Halloween cues from them.

Last year, our Tinkergarten team talked with 30 kids aged three to eight across the country to learn 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.

‘Tis a Season, Not a Night

By listening to kids, we discovered that many of the things they love about Halloween are not directly related to trick-or-treating, large-scale events or October 31 itself. (Shocking, right?!) So, why not shift your focus from a single big night to make Halloween more like a festival instead? Why not celebrate Halloweek—seven days full of things that make the Halloween season magical!

For example, my three kids made a Halloweek idea chart that includes things like decorating our home; carving Jack-o-lanterns; having fun with pumpkin seeds; enjoying family time out by our fire pit; making “Halloween brew“; and hiking in costumes with friends. Just making the list was a joyful project.

In fact, our team was so inspired that we developed a free, downloadable Halloweek Calendar of activity plans, complete with a different way to play and celebrate Halloween and nature every day! Feel free to keep adding to it with your own kids, building the anticipation as “Halloweek” approaches.

Costumes and 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.

TIP: Lean hard into the costume thing. Invite your kids to brainstorm what they’d like to be. If you’re crafty, make a plan for how you can make the costume together. Not crafty? No shame! Just buy your costume a little early this year so kids have extra time to enjoy wearing it (and have some duct tape ready just in case they love it a little too hard before the big day!).

Sweets and Treats

Of course, along with everything else, our young interviewees may have mentioned the candy a few times, too. And you have to admit, there is something spectacular about just walking up to your neighbor’s house and getting candy in quantities and varieties nearly all of our surveyed kiddos only see on Halloween. It’s hard to beat.

But, if your house is like ours, it’s also pretty wild to navigate the highs and lows of early November as our kids’ small bodies process all of that candy. So this year, consider taking the opportunity to still have Halloween sweets but enjoy a year without all of the negative side effects of candy gluttony.

TIP: Weave sweets into your Halloween, even if you can’t go door to door for candy. Build in some excitement by talking with your 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. Then, make savoring those sweets part of your Halloween this year. Here are a few sites with super fun Halloween baking ideas:

Creative Ways to Spend Time with Friends

Not into baking or do your kids love going door to door for Halloween candy more than anything? You can think creatively to make their dreams come true. For a little of the thrill, you can hide candy around the yard or neighborhood and welcome your kiddos, and maybe even a few close friends, to go on a Halloween scavenger hunt!  

Or, in some places, if you want to trick or treat in a safe 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 very spooky, special and sweet holiday!

Meghan Fitzgerald is the founder and chief learning officer at Tinkergarten. After 20+ 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.

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