Making Halloween Fun and Meaningful for Young Children
While Halloween is a favorite holiday of many young children, it is important to keep in mind the needs of the child during this festive time.
Start by showing respect for your child’s wishes and their autonomy. Do they want to participate in Halloween activities such as dressing up and going trick-or-treating? What do they want to wear? You can make the experience more meaningful for them by helping them make their own costume.
Maria Montessori found that children under the age of 6 thrive when provided a strong foundation in reality. They are making sense of their world through their experiences, and if their experiences are centered on fairy tales and fantasy worlds, this can confuse their sense of reality. This is one of the reasons we ask that children’s costumes be limited to the theme of real-life animals that they so enjoy learning about at school. Instead of centering activities around make-believe, you can place the emphasis on reality and tell your children more about Halloween and how it came to be in a developmentally appropriate way. For the historians out there, you can talk to them about the history of Halloween and how it is celebrated in different cultures.
Another way you can help make Halloween a more meaningful experience for your child is by integrating grace and courtesy. Role-playing prior to trick-or-treating is an effective way to demonstrate proper manners. Some topics you might consider covering are:
- Stay close to an adult you know at all times
- Look both ways before crossing the street
- Walk on sidewalks, not on grass or flower beds
- Avoid going to a house with the lights off
- Ring the doorbell once and wait. If there is no answer, move on to the next house
- Respect the privacy of others in their homes
- When someone opens the door, say “Trick or treat!”
- If a person holds out a bowl, take just one piece unless they offer more
- Say “Thank you”
- It’s also nice to say “Happy Halloween!”
After the child has practiced through role-play, it can be fun to switch roles and invite them to be the adult. Your child will probably correct you if you make a “mistake”!
Every year, during the weeks following Halloween, I’ve observed a decrease in concentration during the work period. You can help your child by teaching them to enjoy the treats in moderation. Instead of emphasizing the “treat” aspect, you can also celebrate the following positive aspects of this season:
- The changing seasons and the beauty that it brings
- Our neighbors open their doors for us on Halloween to give us a sweet treat
- The opportunity to transform yourself into anything for one night
- Donate your candy to a good cause. Operation Gratitude collects candy donations and sends care packages to troops overseas and first responders stateside. A collection point is available locally at Hospice Services of St. Joseph in Santa Rosa.
I hope you have a happy and meaningful Halloween.