For many of the estimated 172 million of us who celebrate Halloween, this year will still be a little funky as COVID remains a challenge and group gatherings and celebrations still carry risk. As parents, we only get a certain number of annual tickets in the front row seat to our kiddos’ Halloween joy. So, we all likely want to make Halloween as sweet as possible. How best to do that? Think like kids.
Kids and Halloween
During times like these kids are simply better at adapting than we are because they tend not to focus far less on the loss of what is “ideal.” Our adult brains have a better sense of time, so we carry with us all of the things we’ve lost out in in this pandemic, and kids really just live in the moment.
So, we decided to take our Halloween cues from them. Last year, our Tinkergarten team talked with 30 kids ages 3 to 8 around the country about what they loved most about Halloween. Then, we put our heads together to imagine ways to deliver on the parts of Halloween that truly matter to kids—even in the year of COVID!
‘Tis a Season, Not a Night
Listening to kids, many of the things they love about Halloween are not directly related to trick-or-treating, large-scale events, or October 31st itself. So, why not shift our focus from a single big night to make Halloween more like a festival instead?
For example, my three kids made a Halloweek idea chart that includes things like: decorate; pumpkin fun; fire pit; carve Jack-o-lanterns; make Halloween brew; and costume hike with friends. Just making the list is joyful, and we’ll keep adding to it, building the anticipation, as "Halloweek" approaches.
Your Own Halloweek Calendar
Our team is so inspired that we’ve developed a free, downloadable Halloweek Calendar of activity plans, complete with a different way to play and celebrate Halloween and nature every day!
Costumes and Pretending
The chance to don a costume and pretend to be someone or something else is clearly at the heart of Halloween for kids. And it makes total sense: kids' brains more easily blend reality and fantasy, which is how they develop the foundation for higher order thinking skills.
But again, that joy isn’t limited to Halloween night itself. In our house, so much delight is derived from discussing, planning, procuring and test-driving costumes—all long before Halloween! And in our interviews, one 6 year old remembered being bummed that his mom wouldn’t let him wear his costume all the time last year. “She said I’d break it, but I just want to wear it!”
TIP: Lean hard into the costume. Welcome kids to brainstorm what they’d like to be. If you’re crafty, make a plan for how you can make the costume. Not crafty? No shame! Just buy your costume a little early this year so kids have extra time to enjoy wearing it (and have some duct tape ready if they love it too hard before the big day!).
So much of what makes Halloween special is the magic. Try out the following easy, playful activities to add a dose of magic to your holiday...or week!
Parades and Gatherings
One thing that several older kids mentioned loving were school or community events that offer the chance to wear your costume and see all of the costumes other kids are wearing. We get it.
As an elementary school principal in Sleepy Hollow, New York (my all-time favorite Halloween town), I had the incredible pleasure of presiding over our Halloween costume parade. It was a major highlight of the kids’ year (and mine) and it took only a mere 4 loops through the school parking lot in the middle of the day to feel the magic and snap a great photo for parents.
Remember that, for a little kid, parades can happen in many different ways and on many different scales—they can even just happen in the living room. Meet up with friends in costume and go for a socially distant hike or walk around your local park. Enjoy careful playdates with the small circle of friends you see often. Video conferences in costume are pretty fun, too. Add some spooky music and turn it into a party! Kids can see themselves and each other all dressed up on screen, and far away family and friends will get a boost from being part of the magic.
You can also do some magical "night time" things like dress up and go for a lantern walk or take the moon for a walk in your costumes to bring back some of the excitement kids get being out at night on Halloween. Have a fire pit? Make s'mores and stay cozy (just beware of costumes and kiddos near the fire!).
And, yes, our young interviewees may have mentioned the candy a few times, too.There is something spectacular about just walking up to your neighbor’s house and getting candy in quantities and varieties nearly all of our surveyed kiddos only see on Halloween. It’s hard to beat. But, if your house is like ours, it’s also pretty wild to navigate the highs and lows of early November as small bodies process all of that candy—so maybe we could still have sweets but enjoy a year without all of the gluttony?
TIPS: Weave sweets into your Halloween, even if you can’t go door to door for candy. Build in some excitement by talking with kids or doing a little research about sweet treats you could make or buy that you don’t usually have, or that are just SUPER delicious. Here are a few sites with super fun Halloween baking ideas.
- "Campfire Recipes" Kids Love and Can Help With (Tinkergarten)
- 50+ Festive and Healthy Halloween Ideas + Treats (Super Healthy Kids)
- 20 Fun + Easy Halloween Treats to Make With Kids (It’s Always Autumn)
- 43 Halloween Desserts That Will Thrill (Delish)
Then, make savoring those sweets part of your Halloween this year.
Want to build in a little of the thrill? Hide candy around the yard or neighborhood and welcome your kiddos, and maybe even a few close friends, to go on a hunt!
Or, in some places, if you want to trick or treat in a safe, distant way, you can team up with a smaller circle of families to walk or drive between each other’s homes and “trick-or-treat” just between the few of you, keeping your distance as you go.
However your Halloween or Halloweek shapes up this year, we wish you a most spooky, special and sweet holiday!