Making Halloween less scary for little kids
A cool breeze sweeps down streets as autumn spreads across America. School kids pile onto buses each morning and then shuffle home through yards, thick with colorful leaves. Darkness comes earlier each night. It could only mean one thing … Halloween is near! It’s time to plan a trick-or-treat outing and start cooking with cinnamon and nutmeg. There’s no need to wait until October 31st to enjoy Halloween. Your family can start the monster-ous celebration early with these seasonal books, snacks, and activities. (And her are even more ideas!)
Spiders Aren’t Scary
When did spiders become scary? Not to imply that they won’t harm a fly—because they do. While teaching toddlers to be cautious with insects and animals is important, they shouldn’t fear spiders. These activities will remind you and your child that spiders are just part of nature.
Read: Eric Carle, an award-winning illustrator, wrote The Very Busy Spider. Check it out with your child. Bright illustrations are great for practicing color and shape identification. What color spiders live around your home? Have you seen spiders on television or at the zoo? Why would people think they are scary?
Snack: When pulled apart, a stick of string cheese can become the silken threads of a snack-time spider web. Let your toddler build a spider web with the string cheese, then add black olives or oyster crackers as spiders.
Play: Sing and perform the hand motions to “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” with your child. Then go to the park and do ‘the spider’ on a swing by sitting your child in your lap, facing you, and wriggling your arms and legs. Count them. Spiders have eight legs, and now you do, too.
Families have different ideas regarding Halloween, ghosts, and scary things. The book and activities below are intended to gently introduce the concept of ghosts and Halloween. Young children can be scared by spooky costumes and decorations. Prepare your child for trick-or-treating by using these activities to talk about the make-believe of Halloween.
Read: Lu and the Swamp Ghost, by James Carville, is depression-era story of a girl who befriends a swamp ghost. Great illustrations will lead to discussion about the story and characters. Was the swamp ghost spooky? Explain how your family feels about the idea of ghosts, Halloween, and scary things.
Snack: For a ghost-snack, gather canned pears (whole halves), raisins, and Maraschino cherries. Cut a jagged or wavy line from the base of the pear so that it resembles a ghost shape. Let your toddler add raisin eyes and a Maraschino cherry sliver smile.
Play: Practice making ghost sounds with your child. What animals sound like a ghost might? Owls, howling dogs, doves?
A Boo-tiful Day
Boo is a familiar word, especially at Halloween, and besides, it’s fun to say. Babies love Peek-a-Boo, then they grow to love Hide-and-Seek. Surprise is fun! So surprise your preschooler with a boo-tiful day of Halloween games and activities.
Read: Winnie the Pooh always makes reading fun, so snuggle up with your toddler and read Disney’s Boo to You, Winnie the Pooh! by Bruce Talkington. Can your child name the animals in the story? Can he name the characters? What will he dress up as for Halloween?
Snack: When you get a rumbly in your tumbly, try this boo-licious snack. Cut out B shapes from a slice of toast using a B-shaped cookie cutter. Slice a banana into circles. Spread peanut butter on the toast, then lay the B-shaped toast and two banana circles to spell “Boo.” Rearrange the shapes and let your toddler have a turn.
Play: Make the B sound for your child. Name some items that begin with this sound. Together, explore the house to find items that also begin with this letter. The bathroom is a great place to start. Then try a game of Hide-and-Seek out in the crisp fall air.
Everyone Loves Monsters
Monsters, like spiders and ghosts, are considered scary creatures. Toddlers shouldn’t be afraid of Frankenstein or werewolves because they don’t know what they are. Take the fear away (and chase away possible nightmares) by exploring monster art as creative fun, then boogie down to some spooky tunes.
Read: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, is a classic in children’s literature. Share it with your child, then ask if Max’s monsters were scary. What animals do they look like? By turning over a coffee table, an imaginary ship is created. Read the book again while your child acts out the role of Max, sailing across the sea on your table-ship.
Snack: Monster Mashed Potatoes are a great snack and fun activity. Make a portion of instant or fresh mashed potatoes, then add green food coloring. Warm up canned or frozen mixed veggies. Let your child spread the potatoes on a plate and add veggies as eyes, nose, ears, and the sprinkle grated cheese for hair.
Play: Find a recording of “The Monster Mash,” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. You and your toddler will enjoy dancing the afternoon away and mimicking the silly monster voices.
The best thing about fall is the food. It starts with the pumpkins of October and doesn’t end until after Thanksgiving dinner. Teach your child about harvest and fun fall cooking with a few good books and a trip to the grocery store.
Read: The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons, or Too Many Pumpkins, by Linda White, are great books for fall. Ask your toddler if she knows where pumpkins come from (other than the store).
Snack: There are a number of great pumpkin treats for snack time: pumpkin bread, pie, cake, and bars. You can purchase a pumpkin at a farm or grocery store, find a recipe for a yummy pumpkin dessert, and let your child “help” make it. Toddlers will love removing the ooey-gooey insides of a pumpkin!
Play: If you live near a pumpkin patch, take a day trip with your child to learn about harvest. Another option is visiting a grocery store to examine the fall vegetables: pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, Indian corn, or gourds. Why are there no watermelons in the fall? Be sure to buy an extra pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern. You may prefer the traditional jack-o-lantern with cut out eyes, nose, and mouth, and with a candle tucked inside. However, a toddler will enjoy finger painting a pumpkin. It’s safe, colorful, and fun.
As you watch your child celebrate fall and Halloween, become part of his energy and wonder. Jump into a pile of leaves alongside your child and remember how the first bite of pumpkin pie tastes in the fall. Halloween, the beginning in a string of fall and winter celebrations, is a great time to enjoy learning and creating together. Make Halloween in your home a howling good time.
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