Halloween means a lot of things to a lot of people. Some people celebrate the glory of All Hallow’s Eve – where the spirits of the dead may (or may not) walk among the living. For most of us parents, it could be a day of fun or a day of terror – depending on your toddler’s mood.
Trick-or-treating on Halloween – a tradition said to have originated from a Celtic myth that dressing up would fool any spirit walking the Earth so they wouldn’t take your soul – can be a great, family time, albeit a sugar overload for kids of all ages. If you’re going with a toddler, it’s a bit different than going with an older child. Whether this is their first time or you have forgotten the challenges of last year, here are seven things you should know about trick-or-treating with a toddler.
Pick a Manageable Costume
Steer your child toward a costume they will actually enjoy on Halloween night. Make sure it’s something they like and not just something you like. They will be getting lots of attention from strangers, so you want it to be a positive experience for them, not something traumatic that ruins Halloween forever.
If their costume comes with a mask, you can expect to be taking it off and putting it back on for them throughout the evening. Or, you might be carrying it after the first few houses. Masks are uncomfortable and often hard to see through, especially in the dark.
Also, avoid long dresses that may cause your princess to trip. Pick costumes that can double as a warm coat, and opt for face paint instead of headpieces. Tails, which may not be a permanent part of the costume, generally end up in the street, so consider leaving them off to begin with. Have your child wear shoes they are comfortable walking in as well. They will be doing a lot of that, and you don’t want them tripping or feeling uncomfortable.
Even the most adventurous toddlers can be intimidated by going up to someone’s door, ringing the bell, and saying “trick-or-treat!” Have them practice with you, so they will be less likely to forget what to do when the time comes. Discuss the entire process. You ring the bell, say “trick-or-treat,” and then thank the people who give you candy. Then you’re off to the next house to repeat the process.
Some people will give your children a preselected item, and others will hold a bowl out before them. Instruct your child to take one or two pieces. If they practice this ahead of time, you will be more likely to send socially accepted, polite monsters into your neighborhood. Don’t be too disappointed if they mess up, though. It will happen.
Plan Your Route
If this is your toddler’s first time trick-or-treating, plan a simple, achievable route and discuss it with them as best you can. Make sure they understand that once they get to the top of the hill, or whatever spot you have chosen, it is time to return home.
This way you can — theoretically — avoid your child being upset when trick-or-treating is over. For your first time out, make it as short as you want, as they have nothing to compare it to. You can lengthen the route each year depending on their interest level and ability.
You might also want to bring a wagon or a stroller. Your toddler may get tired of walking after a few houses. Plus, a wagon can hold extra items that may otherwise end up in your hands. Have extra plastic bags on hand to replace ripped bags, to give to other kids, or for used diapers.
Purchase some decorative flashlights to carry along with you. The neighborhood should be lit up and full of kids, but there will be dark spots along the way. Plus, not everyone celebrates Halloween, and they may be driving when your children are going door-to-door. Make sure they can see you.
Eat Before You Leave
Don’t send a hungry toddler out trick-or-treating. As it is, they are going to want to eat every single thing they are given, the moment they receive it. Talk about waiting until the end to have a few pieces, but be ready to compromise.
You want them to have fun — you just don’t want to be wiping up chocolate spit throughout the night or having them choke on candy in the dark.
Avoid Haunted Houses
Some people give it their all on Halloween. They decorate their entire yard with frightening ornaments and figures and might even have a haunted house for your children to walk through. Scary music fills the air, and they are ready to jump out in costume and scare the trick-or-treaters.
This is great for older kids or teenagers, but it may be too much for your toddler or younger children. Don’t ruin Halloween for them by subjecting them to someone’s hyper-creativity. Visit these places when they are older, and they seem ready for it.
Inspect Their Candy
Tell your toddler you want to see what they got. Have them participate by sorting out their candy into piles. Unbeknownst to them, you are looking for any open pieces of candy or any items that don’t look like they belong.
Use your judgment on what your child can and can’t eat. Trade candies that come in small pieces like M&M’s and Skittles with older siblings to avoid choking hazards — or, you know, eat them yourself. No one will find out! You might also find creative ways to make candy “disappear” into a Tupperware bin for later eating or sneaky disposable. Your toddler will want their candy often at first but may lose interest when they don’t see it anymore.
Be in Tune With Your Child
Kids get excited, and they don’t realizeg on you to make good choices for them.
No matter what, Halloween should be fun. So keep it relaxed, and remember, you get to enjoy the candy haul, too.