Halloween comes but once a year, and although the spectre of a sugar crash or ghoulish door-knocker might fill young families with dread, there are lots of ways to get into the spirit of things and transform a frightful night into a fun day.
Here are five sweet ways to celebrate Halloween with your toddler or preschooler.
1. Raid the dress-up box
Pretending to be a frolicsome kitty, magical witch or swashbuckling pirate is entertaining, and simple accessories, like cat ears, a homemade witch’s hat or a red bandanna will encourage your child to get creative with dramatic play.
You can also spark the imagination with some simple face paint. A black nose and long whiskers transforms kid into cat, shadowy eyes and dark lips spell ‘witch,’ and your pint-sized pirate will look the part with a painted moustache and eye-patch.
On-theme activities, like physical challenges, potion-making and treasure-hunting can be added to the mix, and if your child prefers to be a puppy, mermaid or mini-monster, follow their lead and tailor the pretend play to their preferences.
2. Serve an inventive meal
Halloween is often associated with bucketloads of sugar, but there are plenty of savoury alternatives for tiny tummies.
A freakishly good feast could include:
- Pumpkin pancakes
- Cheese and pretzel broomsticks
- Frankenstein sandwich wraps (without the toothpicks)
- Spider web pizza (using a ready-made base, tortilla or English muffins), all washed down with a
- Spooky smoothie.
Your child learns key skills when they cook with a care-giver, and there’s also the option of getting crafty with the table décor.
3. Make a small world
When we think of carved pumpkins, we think of Jack O’ Lanterns, but another creative idea is a pumpkin house for fairies, gnomes or animal figurines.
Hollowing out the pumpkin is an adult job, but once that’s done, you and your child can kit out the tiny home with a handmade swing set, ramp, garden and other dreamy DIY additions.
This pumpkin house is perfect for small world play, which brings lots of developmental benefits [link to small world play article pls] for your under five.
4. Play a fun game
Halloween-themed games give your child’s body and brain a work-out, and here are five ideas for October 31:
- Halloween Freeze (aka Musical Statues) is always a winner and it involves dancers stopping dead when the music does
- To play Ghost Toss, you draw a ghost face on a white balloon and see how long your child can keep it in the air, either on their own, or passing it between the two of you
- A Mummy Sack Race is great fun if your child is good on their feet. Players’ legs are loosely wrapped in white crepe streamers, and they have to fast-shuffle to the finish line without tearing their ‘bandages’
- A Spider Race exercises players’ lungs as they blow through straws to move their plastic spider towards the finish line, and
- Halloween Bingo will get your preschooler jumping for joy when they fill every picture on their board!
5. Read a Halloween story
As day fades into night, there are lots of not-too-scary stories to share.
- Room on the Broom and Meg and Mog are two witch-tastic classics
- Four Silly Skeletons and Frankenstein Doesn’t Wear Earmuffs! will get a giggle
- Ten Little Monsters is a toddler-friendly tale with counting, rhyming and eye-catching illustrations
- The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin is a fresh take on The Itsy Bitsy Spider nursery rhyme
- The Spooky Wheels on the Bus puts a Halloween spin on the song we know and love
- Llama Llama Trick or Treat and Pig the Monster bring familiar characters to the page, and
- You can always make up a story of your own! Ghosts are optional, but make sure your tale includes a fun plot and plenty of cuddles for sweet dreams this Halloween!