Halloween can be a fun time of year, but for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, who often can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, scary experiences can ruin the holiday.
Easing young children into Halloween is one of the best ways to have a smooth and safe holiday for young children.
Know that fear is a common experience for young children exploring the world around them, not just on Halloween. This type of social-emotional learning is a large part of early childhood. Helping young children work through their emotions is a skill that will serve them later in life.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents are encouraged to talk to their child about their fears and anxieties with a sympathetic ear.
- Do not belittle or ridicule your child’s fears, especially in front of his peers.
- Do not try to pressure your child into being brave. It takes time to confront and overcome anxiety.
- Instead, a parent can encourage, but not force, them to progressively come face-to-face with the fear.
First Things First, Arizona’s early childhood agency, offers these additional tips for minimizing anxiety and helping young kids enjoy Halloween.
Teach kids the difference between real and imaginary. One way to do this is to connect to something kids already do, like playing dress-up or pretend. Talk with your child leading to Halloween about how people will be dressed up and how costumes, while some can be scary, aren’t real.
Choose costumes and decorations carefully. Something may be cute or funny to us, but uncomfortable, scary or downright dangerous to young kids. Consider how long your child will wear a costume. Avoid masks, which can be scary and restrict vision. Try face-painting instead.
Practice for trick-or-treating. This is more than just what to say to get candy. Talk about holding hands when crossing the street and going only to well-lit homes. Remind kids that some people will be strangers, but that you will be with them the entire time.
On the big night. Go trick-or-treating early in the evening. Stay with your children always. If your child is fearful, don’t tell them to not be afraid. This invalidates their concerns and may prevent them from expressing anxieties later on. Remind them that you are there to protect them.
Make holiday learning fun. Read books about Halloween. Talk about your past Halloweens and ask kids to share what they like about the holiday. By following these simple tips, parents and caregivers can make this time of year fun for the entire family.
About First Things First — As Arizona’s early childhood agency, First Things First funds early learning, family support and children’s preventive health services to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how to invest early childhood funds are informed by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit FirstThingsFirst.org.