Tag Archives: halloween

Alternatives to Trick or Treating 

By Tracey Dowdy

By most accounts, Halloween is 2020’s latest victim. The CDC has posted their Holiday Celebration guidelines to recommend that you not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters. Some areas have canceled trick or treating because of the pandemic. 

Whether you’ve decided not to trick or treat because you don’t feel comfortable with the possibility of exposing your family or even if that decision has been made for you, there are still safe ways to have fun with your little monsters on Halloween. 

Boo your friends.  

Instead of going to a friend’s or a neighbor’s house to get candy, drop off some treats! Choose mini pumpkins, Halloween decorations, stickers, pencils, packaged candy, or treats. Do a quick ding dong dash and leave the surprise at their door. You can make it an anonymous note and encourage them to pass the fun along to others. *Note, some people are wary of home-baked goods right now, so stick to pre-packaged items if you’re unsure. 

Go on a ghost hunt. 

Ever been on a ghost hunt? Sound too scary? Not if you put a twist on an Easter Egg hunt and instead hide little ghosts around your house. Wrap candy or other Halloween themed treats in tissue paper, gather it around the candy or prize, tie it with a little orange ribbon, and draw a friendly little ghost face on it. Double the fun by turning down the lights and searching with a flashlight or adding glowsticks to the “ghost’s” hiding place. 

Go on a spooky scavenger hunt. 

Instead of going house to house, hide treats and prizes around your home, outside, or at a nearby trail. Give your little goblin clues and help them search for the items. If you’re searching in the dark, inexpensive glow sticks go a long way in making the hunt more fun.

Host a virtual Halloween party. 

Though the thought of anything involving screen time may make you scream, a virtual Halloween party can help fill in some of the socialization and unstructured friend-time your little witch or wizard is missing. Coordinate with family or friends, wear costumes, and have a “best costume” contest, do a Halloween themed craft, decorate cookies, carve pumpkins, or even watch a spooky movie “together.”  Here’s a list of age-appropriate choices.  

Do a trick or treat drive-by – think of it as reverse trick or treating. 

Instead of kids going house to house, talk to your neighbors about setting a specific time for kids to wait in their front yards and have adults drive by and gently toss candy or treat bags to them. 

Tell ghost stories.  

Remember being at camp when you were a kid, sitting around a fire, telling ghost stories? Recreate that feeling around a fire pit or even a flashlight. Tell your favorite – age-appropriate obviously – spooky or silly Halloween stories, and encourage your littles to make one up to share too. Drink some apple cider, eat caramel apples, or dip into your candy stash, and have a good old’ device-free frighteningly good time. 

Halloween will certainly be different for little ones this year, but remember, your children mirror your attitudes. If you complain and mope about Halloween being ruined this year, your kids will pick up on that and have a miserable evening. If however, you decide that different can still be fun, there’s no end to the memories you can make.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Tips for Watching Halloween Movies with Your Kids

By Tracey Dowdy

Parenting our kids during Halloween is about riding that fine line of being just scary enough. And though you know your child better than they know themselves, sometimes it’s hard to predict what will frighten them. This is never more true than when watching Halloween-themed movies.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Turn it off! Turn it off! Turn it off!” from my daughter when she was little. We tried to be mindful of what we let her watch but more than once the scene on TV or at the movies would be too intense for her. And because every child is different, what scares one child leaves another unfazed. My oldest watched Jumanji and has a fear of alligators to this day, while my youngest laughed all the way through it. Yet that same kid was too uncomfortable and anxious to watch Mr. Bean because she just knew he was going to be in so much trouble.

We tend to be careful about what we let our preschoolers watch and what they’re exposed to, but when kids reach school age, those restrictions sometimes relax. We often have less control as they may watch a movie at a friend’s birthday party or on a rainy day school with content they haven’t previously been exposed to. This is when some parents start to see increased fear and anxiety in their kids.

Whether you’re deciding what to let your kids watch or you’re dealing with the aftermath of a too scary movie, these tips can help you – and your kids – find the right balance.

  • Do your homework. Take the time to look up the movie on sites like IMDB or Common Sense Media that break down the movie content. Common Sense Media even provides age-appropriate lists of movies, which can help you find a movie based on your child’s maturity level.
  • Be mindful of age-appropriateness. Kids under seven have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality so when it comes to scary movies, it’s generally best to stick to animation to reinforce the fact that “it’s just make believe.” Keep in mind kids relate to characters their own age, so if the character in danger is a child like them, it may make them more insecure. It’s a simple matter of different things scare different people. “Fear isn’t just triggered by zombies and monsters. Shows that hinge on the death of a child, pet or parent can stir up fear and anxiety in some children,” says Jane Tallim, co-executive director of MediaSmarts, a media literacy organization in Ottawa.
  • Remember, it’s not just the scary music or the monster popping out from under the bed but the language and adult content of the film that makes it inappropriate for kids. Don’t rely on G or PG ratings. The Little Mermaid is a kids movie but Ursula can be downright scary and Finding Nemo has plenty of laughs with a happy ending but don’t forget Nemo’s entire family – his mom and all the eggs – are killed by a very scary barracuda at the beginning of the film.
  • Be prepared for the fall-out. If you push the envelope and let your kids watch something scarier than they’re accustomed to, realize that bedtime may take a little longer than usual and they may even have bad dreams. To help them relax, little ones often like magical cures like a spray bottle of “monster repellant” on their nightstand, while older kids may need you to leave a light on in the hall and play some music to distract them as they fall asleep.
  • Keep your child’s life experience in mind. Kids who’ve recently experience the death of a family member or beloved pet or have been through a parental divorce are more likely to be sensitive and more prone to fear and anxiety. Real life situations impact kids deeply and when they see their experience reflected on the screen, it may bring hidden or previously nonexistent fears to the surface.
  • Choose a happy ending. Try to find movies that mix humor into the story line to lighten the mood and look for movies with a happy ending. There’s a lot to be said for ending the movie watching experience on a high note.
  • Talk about what you saw. If your child is afraid, talk about what elements of the story frightened them. Talk about what’s real and not real and, if necessary, talk about what you and your family would do in a similar situation. Sometimes simply talking through fears can quiet them and make your kids feel more secure.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.