Your toddler's first Halloween is super exciting, but it can also be scary—both for your first-timer, who isn't used to being out in the dark with spooky decorations; and for their parents, who are trying to keep them safe on dim, busy streets.
Dina DiMaggio, of the American Academy of Paediatrics, tells parents to watch out for any fears or anxieties about Halloween. “As a parent, you know your child best,” she says. “The best way to handle fear and get a toddler ready is to discuss what's going to happen. Reading books to your child about trick-or-treating—and Halloween in general—are great ways to help that discussion."
You can also give your kid a practice run in their costume on the day before Halloween. Encourage them to pretend to trick-or-treat. After all, practice makes perfect.
To help ensure you have a fun and safe first Halloween, we've compiled some more ideas to help you ease your little one into some spooky fun.
Do some fun activities in the lead-up to Halloween. For example, allow your baby or toddler to squish their hands around the insides of a pumpkin. This can be a great sensory activity. There are also plenty of no-carve pumpkin decorating options to try. Enjoy some seasonal songs and rhymes like Five Little Pumpkins, along with board books. While you’re on walks in the neighbourhood, point out Hallowe’en decorations.
Infants and young children thrive on routine, and it is easy for Halloween festivities to throw those routines off track. If your schedule permits, try trick-or-treating while it's still light outside so you can stick to your child's regular bedtime. For little ones, three or four houses may be enough excitement, or a small party at a local park or community centre might be a better fit.
The real danger at Halloween comes from cars. While younger children will be accompanied by adults, it's still extra important to emphasize safe road crossing. If this is hard for your excitable toddler, consider bringing your stroller or a carrier if you'll be going far from home. To ensure visibility, a bright costume with reflective patches is always helpful.
Choose a costume that’s not too long or too bulky. Even on their best days and in the best conditions, it is still a struggle for some toddlers to walk without falling. While you won't be able to prevent all the tumbles, the right costume can help. Remember to help your little one climb up and down steps and navigate curbs.
Be sure to check the forecast before you go out and try to include layers if needed, as well as mittens and a hat. You might want to try to make the jacket part of the costume, but even if no one can figure out what your bundled-up babe is, they'll still be cute.
With leaky diapers, spit-up, and toilet training accidents, it’s a good idea to have a backup costume. If potty training is still a new thing and there's a narrow window between "I have to go" and an accident, you might want to rethink a costume that's hard to remove.
Remember that a house or costume that's too scary, a trip or a fall, or just a hard day can send your child into the temper-tantrum zone. Adjusting to all the new things can be stressful for little ones (and parents). So, come armed with your own self-regulation, and maybe a travel mug of something warm to drink, and be ready to comfort and to change plans as needed.
Watch for any treats that can be a choking hazard. Keep an eye on what your child is eating while on the trick-or-treating trail or, better yet, wait until you’re back home to enjoy some treats. Keep in mind that babies and toddlers should not have any hard candies, caramel apples, popcorn, gum, small candies (jellybeans, etc.), gummy candy, pumpkin seeds or anything with whole nuts. Candy wrappers, stickers, small toys and temporary tattoos can also be a choking hazard. Be sure to check all the candy your child receives, and if anything looks amiss, toss it out. And parents whose children have food sensitivities or allergies, or might be at higher risk for them, will of course be particularly cautious.
Although Halloween and sugar often go hand in hand, the AAP recommends limiting the amount of sugar that kids get each day. For little ones, you might be able to offer the treats that are lower in sugar, and as they get older you can help them choose a couple of sweet treats to enjoy on Halloween night, while making a plan for the rest of the loot, and using Halloween as an opportunity to help your toddler develop moderation.
Take pictures, but also remember that the goal is to have fun, in whatever way works for your kid. As Dr. DiMaggio said, toddlers need to know that Halloween is just for fun and the scary stuff is all pretend. If your little one doesn't want to partake in Halloween, then let it go and accept it—and enjoy a little chocolate treat by yourself.