Halloween can be a little (or a lot) too scary and gory for preschoolers and kids of all ages — and even some adults! Find fun Halloween activities and party games that reduce the fear factor and make this creepy holiday more kid-friendly.
Have Fun with Pumpkins
Go on a (Non-Haunted) Hayride
Enjoy the crisp fall days surrounding Halloween by going on a family hayride. Many apple orchards and fall festivals offer little-kid-friendly hayrides that aren't "haunted" with scary creatures and decorations — but it doesn't hurt to ask if there will be any spooky surprises!
Settle in for Halloween Story Time
Kids are exposed to creepy Halloween decorations in stores and neighborhoods for weeks leading up to the holiday. Reading happy Halloween books can introduce kids to friendly ghosts, funny witches, and other cute characters that help put a lighthearted spin on Halloween folklore and sources of fear. Discussing the history of Halloween with older kids who are still freaked-out by the holiday can help them understand that many of the traditions date back centuries and are rooted in old legends.
Watch Non-Scary Halloween Movies
Make Halloween Treats
Involve your little goblins in whipping up some fun Halloween recipes. Steer clear of refreshments meant to resemble blood and brains, and opt for adorable (and healthy!) treats like these fruity "pumpkins" (oranges with celery segments as the stems) and "ghosts" (bananas with chocolate chips as the eyes and mouth).
Create Halloween Crafts
Choose from tons of un-scary Halloween crafts, from decorated trick-or-treat tote bags to hand-painted pumpkin flower pots. Decorating with crafts that kids helped make can help young children feel less frightened of your Halloween decor. Also, creating homemade paper masks can warm kids up to seeing other youngsters in masks.
Play Fun Party Games
Having a Halloween party with your child's peers is a great alternative to trick-or-treating with shy or easily frightened little ones. Bobbing for apples and donut-eating races are just a couple of sweet Halloween party games for all ages. Consider sticking with a pure fall fun theme (think: pumpkins, apples, and leaves) for a preschooler party, rather than a haunted Halloween theme with spooky spiders, skeletons, and witches.
Go Kid-Friendly Trick-or-Treating
If you want to try trick-or-treating with toddlers and preschoolers, go while it's still light outside, and consider bringing them only to friends' and relatives' homes rather than out in your neighborhood, where they might encounter more scary costumes and decorations. Also, look into organized trick-or-treating events at your local mall or downtown shopping area, which tend to attract more families with young children than ghoulishly-costumed teens.
More Tips for Keeping Halloween Fright-Free
Remember these other tips to make Halloween fun instead of frightening!
- Keep your child's age in mind. Toddlers and preschoolers — and even some older kids — are too young to separate make-believe from reality, so anything from scary Halloween commercials to their older siblings' creepy costumes might frighten them. Limit kids' exposure to scary stuff, and stick with age-appropriate Halloween movies, costumes, and activities.
- Beware of the dark! Fall means fewer hours of daylight, so the darker nights alone can be scary for many kids. Add horrifying decorations, like dangling skeletons and fake graveyards, and it can be traumatizing. Avoid trying to "toughen up" little ones in the name of a spooky holiday. They'll outgrow their fears and come to love it — or at least tolerate it — with age!
- Consider kids' emotional state. Children of any age who suffer from serious phobias or have experienced car accidents, violence, or the death of a loved one might be especially wary of Halloween. Be sensitive to your child's situation, and talk with her about any feelings or fears. Volunteer in your child's classroom on the day of the Halloween party or parade to bring some added comfort. Talk with your child's teacher, and skip school Halloween events altogether if they're not in your child's best interest this year.