Celebrating Halloween with toddlers brings a certain element of innocence to the mix. With a toddler, it may not be possible to go out and party like you normally would, and trick or treating can get tiresome for your toddler very quickly. Safety is always an issue with toddlers as they are very naïve and can be scared very easily. Here are a few tips to keep your toddler safe and still enjoy the holiday.
Explain the Halloween displays in your neighborhood.
Many people in our neighborhood have elaborate Halloween displays up all month long (including us!) and some can be gruesome and frightening (not us!).
We always did a tour of the decorations in the daylight and explained things in a toddler friendly, and often educational, manner. Skulls were "head bones". "Can you feel the bone in your head? That's what it looks like without the muscles." The vampire popping out of the coffin was playing peek a boo. And of course we sang Itsy Bitsy Spider over and over again. And most importantly constant reminders that everything was just pretend.
Let them have a say in their costume.
I know this might be hard for us Type-A personalities. The giant red M&M was cute. But, the giant Firefighting M&M was even more adorable, especially because he always insisted on wearing the helmet backwards. And it wouldn't have been worth the argument to leave the firefighting helmet home. He had fun and isn't that more important than "perfect pictures"?
Avoid scary costumes and masks
Children, especially toddlers, are prone to night frights. It is also very difficult, if not impossible, for toddlers to separate reality from the “monsters” that they may see walking around. If you plan to dress up, make sure your child knows that it is you behind the costume and keep the costume simple; for example, go easy on the make-up.
Trick or treating may not be the best idea with a toddler.
If you do decide to take your toddler trick or treating, keep the trip short and visit just a few houses on your block. If your friends and family live close by, it is a good idea to visit those houses as your toddler will be more at ease with them than a stranger’s house. Any more than that and your toddler may not only lose interest, the costumes may also cause your toddler to panic. Wagons and strollers can help if you have older children that want to do the entire neighborhood.
Don't push young children into a scary situation
No amount of coaxing was going to get him near the very loud Haunted House when he was three. He wanted to be on the other side of the street from it and that was just fine with us. Toddlers (and children with sensory issues) might be afraid of loud spooky noises and strobe lights. They shouldn't be pushed into uncomfortable situations. Halloween is supposed to be FUN!
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Consider holding a party at your house.
This is a great way to enjoy the holiday and still keep it relatively simple for your toddler. Holding a party at your house as opposed to going to someone else’s party means that you can set the terms for your party and keep it toddler friendly. Invite other people who you know have toddlers to enjoy a mellow (and early!), yet festive Halloween party.
Candy and other treats are a big issue when it comes to protecting your toddlers.
Toddlers are not aware that some candies may be too hard for them to chew and pose a potential choking hazard. Keeping your child away from the candy bowl, however, can prove to be a bit of a challenge. Make sure the candy bowl is out of reach and that older children and adults know not to give your child any candy without approval from you. It is always best to be near your child just in case.
Remember little ghosts and pumpkins can wear out pretty quickly
Besides the walking if you go trick or treating, Halloween is overstimulating even for adults. You can try to fight it and keep them up far past their bedtime, but you might pay a heavy toll with a grumpy goblin the next day.
It is hard to remember when children are very young that the sights and sounds of Halloween can be overwhelming. We want them to enjoy the fun, but it may be too much for them until they are older. By following these tips, you are not only protecting your toddler, but making sure they will have fun memories of Halloween for years to come.