By Elizabeth Euresti
Halloween can be one of the most fun nights of the year for boos and ghouls of all ages. Once our kids are old enough to eat candy (in moderation, and at parental discretion), trick-or-treating can be a fun choice. But what about early on, when candy poses a choking hazard and walking is still a BIG DEAL (or a future aspiration)? Here are some ideas for making Halloween a great experience for our littlest pumpkins:
1. Little Wonders Halloween Party
Celebrate Halloween early with Little Wonders! Our annual Halloween Party is on Saturday October 29th in Kloss Hall and out on the grass on Tilton Ave. The younger children (Baby Play, AM and PM2 classes) will gather at 9:30-11:00 AM, and the older children (PM classes, Evening class and Alumni Class) will take over at 11:30-1:00 PM. Siblings are welcome, and everyone is invited to come in costume. (Please no masks.) Come prepared for LOTS of fun!!!
2. Hand Out Treats as a Family
Just because your little one isn’t ready to trawl the neighborhood for candy doesn’t mean that s/he can’t participate in the trick-or-treat ritual! Let your little pumpkin help you greet neighborhood children at your own front door so that s/he sees what to expect on a future Halloween. Depending on dexterity and interest, your child may be able to help you actually hand out the treats if you explain and demonstrate how to pick them up and put them in the trick-or-treaters’ bags. (Please only try this with treats that will not pose a choking hazard to your child.) Even if your child is not interested in handing out treats, s/he will most likely be intrigued by the continuous stream of strange characters that come to your door. Feel free to use this as an opportunity to describe the colors and characteristics of the Halloween costumes, and to model positive interactions with trick-or-treaters.
If you decide to stay in and hand out goodies, here are a few non-candy treat ideas to have handy for the “under 3” crowd:
● Playdough (ages 2+)
● Miniature pumpkins
● Pumpkin puree or pumpkin baby puffs (in pouches)
● Toddler-friendly cracker pre-packaged snack packs
● Fabric/felt Halloween shapes (bats, pumpkins, ghosts, etc.)
● Sensory balls in Halloween colors
● Shakers in Halloween colors
● Large Halloween stickers
3. Have a Halloween Playdate
You’re certainly not alone in trying to figure out the best way to enjoy Halloween with a little one this year. So why plan to celebrate alone? Call up your other baby friends from Little Wonders, your local Mother’s Club, story time at the library, or wherever, and set up a playdate on Halloween! Costumes or no costumes, it’s your choice. Personally, I’ll take any excuse to dress up my kiddo (and myself), serve pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING, and search Pinterest for age-appropriate Halloween crafts and games (which I will then almost certainly forget to offer to my guests - oh well).
4. Visit a Pumpkin Patch
Want to avoid the trick-or-treat scene entirely? Take your little one to a pumpkin patch! There are something like a bajillion of them between San Mateo and Half Moon Bay (no, really). Be prepared for such fun activities as hayrides, pumpkin picking, and corn mazes! A list of some of the local choices is available here. Call to check that your targeted patch is open on Halloween before making the trek.
5. “Practice” Trick-or-Treat
OK, maybe your baby/toddler isn’t ready for candy just yet...but you love this holiday, and by golly you have earned a couple of chocolate bars and the chance to dress up as Ghostbusters and walk around your neighborhood with pride. Why not strike a compromise? Bust out your favorite baby carrier, stroller, outside toddler shoes, or some combination thereof, and introduce your little pumpkin to the in’s and out’s of trick-or-treating -- gradually.
● Try to scope out your neighborhood in advance so that you avoid any houses with particularly scary decorations.
● Plan to go out early and come home early. Arrange for a babysitter if the adults want to go back out after your little pumpkin’s bedtime.
● Make sure your little pumpkin is safe. If s/he can walk, make sure s/he is both VISIBLE (glow tape or other light source on his or her costume) and SEEN by you or your co-Ghostbuster at all times. There is no substitute for close proximity and vigilance when you are surrounded by a fleet of similarly dressed superheroes, princesses, and vampires.
● Model good trick-or-treat etiquette for your little novice! Pay attention to your neighbors’ treat distribution tactics -- is this a “choose your two pieces” house, or “I am handing you one piece of candy” house? Try to avoid showing disappointment at receiving a treat that you dislike - consider stating who does like that type of treat, and how much you will enjoy sharing it. (Try also to avoid eating any of your haul until you have returned home and checked all of the packaging for safety concerns.) Say “trick-or-treat,” “thank you,” and “happy Halloween!” clearly and often. Your little sponge will be doing the same in no time.