Halloween spooktacular or quiet evening at home?

Whether your toddler loves or loathes Halloween depends on his personality. Here are some toddler-friendly ideas for a happy Halloween.

Learning Stages

By Candace Lindemann

Children's Author & Education Consultant

Candace Lindemann is a published children’s writer and educational consultant. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can also find Candace blogging at http://NaturallyEducational.com. While Candace’s degrees prepared her for a career in education, she’s found that the best preparation for parenting is on-the-job training.

Maybe it’s because I’m an October baby, but there’s nothing quite like a misty, moonlit night with bats on the wing. Halloween is fast approaching and I am a fan. However, October 31 can bring a lot of questions for parents of babies and toddlers.

Is Halloween too scary for my child?

Every child has his or her own level of sensitivity. Many infants do not even realize they’re supposed to be scared of spooky Halloween decorations while some toddlers burst into tears at every turn. One psychologist, Cindy Dell Clark, says that parents underestimate how terrifying Halloween can be for young children.

For parents who worry about the fear-factor, there are less frightening options. Many schools, community centers, and local business districts host a toned-down event. Unlike door-to-door trick-or-treating, you will be able to peer into storefronts first and avoid the more macabre decorations.

Or, you can host a toddler-friendly route along your block or a party at your own home.

Is it OK to dress up my infant?

For some families, baby's first costume is a treat that quickly melts into a tear-filled trick. Some little ones are just born to pose. You can drape them in a hood, a collar, or gloves, and they beam a big smile. These are not my children.

My solution is to use pajama costumes for the more sensitive young children. There are a lot of cute ones available or you could even decorate your own with fabric paint. Bonus: They can even wear them the rest of the fall!

How can I avoid the constant barrage of candy?

Allow me to introduce you to your new best friend: the Pumpkin Fairy. The Pumpkin Fairy lives on sugar and she never gets tummy aches or cavities. She knows that many little children get way more candy on Halloween than they should, or can, eat. So, she offers a trade: leave out all but 10 pieces of your candy for her to collect and she will leave a special gift in return.

Once children outgrow the Pumpkin Fairy, they may be willing to exchange some of all of their candy at your local dentist's office or donate it to the deployed troops or local charities.

Older kids will also enjoy the ideas found at Candy Experiments. I learned about this site via the We Teach Group, founded by Amy (aka "Teach Mama"), who also has some pretty neat ideas of her own about how you can use candy, other than eating it!

Will I celebrate at all?

I know some of my friends do not participate in Halloween festivities but worry that their children will miss out on the seasonal fun. You can leave the witches and demons out of the day and focus instead on the harvest season. In most areas, there is no shortage of local farms, parks, or other organizations and places hosting autumn activities. Instead of carving a jack o' lantern, scoop out a sugar pumpkin and make pie, soup or cookies. Bob for apples, make corn husk dolls, and go on hay rides to make the most of the fall.

What are your Halloween traditions with your young children?