Big Questions: What About Halloween ?
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How do I take the scary out of Halloween for my three-year old?
Halloween can be a scary and overwhelming experience for a young child but it doesn't have to be. As stores and neighborhoods get into the spirit earlier and earlier each year, there is plenty of time to help your child get used to this celebration by having a discussion about the decorations that start popping up by the end of September.
Introducing the words holiday and costume is a good place to start. Explaining that Halloween is a special day when people dress up and pretend, activities that come naturally to young children, will be embraced by most but not all kids.
In anticipation of the big day at our nursery school, the teachers would demonstrate at Circle Time how to pretend to be a witch or clown by using simple props like a broom and hat, or red nose and large bow tie. Children could actually see the transformation and thus had a better idea of what this dressing up was all about.
When planning your child’s costume it is important that their face is not covered and that they have complete freedom of movement. Besides the need to be comfortable, it supports their safety as well. Also, if you are taking your young child "Trick or Treating" skip a costume with props. Hands must be free to hold that container for collecting treats and most importantly to hold your hand, at all times, on busy streets.
I have seen fantastic costumes fashioned by incredibly creative parents that resulted in unhappy children unable to walk across the room. A child who was a “bag of grapes” - picture a kid encased in balloons - who couldn’t walk or sit comes to mind. Choosing a costume that has some meaning for your child is also a good idea. Vampire and mummy costumes will have little relevance for the very young.
As with most activities with young children, giving them information about what to expect goes a a long way. I loved recently observing a classroom where the teachers and children acted out “trick or treating” by knocking on a door and having the teacher answer the door and give out pretend candy when the children said “trick or treat”. It was the simplest of activities, but the children were spellbound, happily waiting to take their turn at this rehearsal for the big holiday.
Like for all of us, there is real pleasure in knowing what’s next.