Family Life


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5 ways to get into the Halloween spirit

a family smiles as they carve a pumpkin and get into the halloween spirit

For most school-aged kids, Halloween is the Super Bowl of the calendar year. Critics (such as my own mother) would say that it is an unnecessary evening of junk food and gluttony. But as a mom of two kids, I have discovered that there are many other ways to enjoy this holiday with little ones (and I’m not just referring to the Halloween-sized Kit Kat bar that I secretly nibble on during their nap time). Here are some “tricks” (common Halloween complaints) and “treats” (kid-friendly solutions) to help you get pumped for pumpkin season.

Trick #1

“Halloween costumes are so expensive, and they only get worn once.”


Good news – your little one can be transformed into an animal, a princess, or a superhero for little or no cost. My mom, despite her objections to Halloween, always came through with great homemade costumes. The best one was Popeye the Sailor Man, using inflatable water wings as my bulging forearm muscles. The worst one was a women’s outhouse, made from a cardboard box. I had to walk around with a neighbour boy who was the matching men’s version. With quite a few Kit Kats I did eventually recover from the embarrassment. Seek out gently used costumes from older cousins, yard sales, or second-hand stores. Check with neighbours and friends to see if they can swap outgrown outfits with you. After Halloween, kids can continue to use the costumes and accessories for dress-up and creative play.

Trick #2

“Pumpkin carving is messy and unsafe for little kids.”


Let your child help select a pumpkin for the porch. If you live near a pumpkin patch with a variety of sizes at a low cost, see if you can find one to correspond with each member of your family. Cut out paper pumpkins and have your child design some jack o’lantern faces. Choose a favourite and do your best to replicate it on the real thing with a black marker. You can display it as is (no knives or candles required), or carve it when the kids are in bed and reveal it on Halloween night with an LED candle to illuminate the inside. Or try painting a pumpkin!

Trick #3

“Halloween is just a one-day event on October 31st. Why all the fuss?”


Look for creative ways to build the anticipation before the big night (and take some of the focus off candy gathering). In the weeks leading up to Halloween, choose a nice day to visit a local pumpkin farm or corn maze. Bring along your child’s costume and your camera. The fall colours will make a gorgeous backdrop for your costumed critter, and you’ll impress friends and relatives when you send out your pre-Halloween photo message on email or social media. Around home, continue the theme by getting a big cardboard box and decorating it like a spooky house.

Trick #4

“My child is under age three, so taking her out on Halloween night seems pointless.”


In fact, your little one can benefit from this experience – if you keep it simple. Start early and visit only a few houses, such as the ones in closest proximity, or those with kids of a similar age. It is a great opportunity for your child to interact with grown-ups and form a connection with your neighbours. Make sure to also practise saying “thank you” after receiving a treat!

Trick #5

“My child now has a pile of Halloween loot, which has no redeeming value.”


For preschool-aged kids new to Halloween, their collection of candy can provide entertainment and education. “A trick or treat bag is overflowing with learning opportunities,” says Kara Clarke, a kindergarten teacher in Kitchener, Ont. Kids are instinctively drawn to examine and organize the brightly coloured packages, so Kara suggests joining in and playing sorting games. For example: put the treats in alphabetical order; create patterns; or group them by colour, size and shape. Ask questions like, “Which candy was the most popular this year?” or “Are there any treats that start with the same letter as your name?” The kids won’t realize it, but they’re building early reading and math skills. Sweet!

Kristi York is a mom of two boys. She has already pledged that she will never dress either of them as an outdoor bathroom.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2012.

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