Halloween Tips for Children
Halloween can be a fun but scary time for many children. Some children look forward to the event but some may be quite wary of all the costumes and frightening decorations. Some children have sensory overload from all the excitement, lights, sounds, and decorations. I recommend that parents prepare their children for the big day to help ease the fears and anxiety. Here are some simple ways to do that!
- Review the “hidden rules” for trick-or-treating: Hidden rules are expectations that are not taught specifically but are expected to be followed. For example, let’s look at the rules for the simple act of trick-or-treating:
- When you are trick-or-treating, you are supposed to walk up to a house that has a porch light on and knock on the door. The person who lives in the house will answer the door and then you have to look at the person and say “Trick or Treat!” The person will then give candy to you and may ask “Oh, what are you dressed up as this year?” You need to respond to the question and then you are supposed to make eye contact and say, “thank you” and calmly walk to the next house.
- Wow, that is a lot for our little ones to remember! There are many social rules within that simple trick-or-treat activity. Most children can pick up on the rules once they have done it once or twice. However, many children do not understand the social nuances that are involved in the act! Parents are encouraged to talk about the expectations and practice them before Halloween night. Writing out the steps is an easy way to give a visual cue and reminder.
- Role Play: Role play trick-or-treating with your child. You can do this at home or at a friend or neighbor’s house. For our limited verbal friends, we make a little note to hand to the person handing out candy that says, “Trick or Treat!” (Side note: carrying a BLUE bucket is the unofficial symbol of a child with Autism. It was a grassroots effort started last year by a parent of an older child with Autism. It was a sign to her neighbors that he was her son. It has since been picked up by many social media channels and is being accepted as a symbol of a child with limited verbal abilities.) Be sure to practice before Halloween night so the child can get the hang of it!
- Sing It: Our younger friends love to sing the song “Knock Knock, Trick or Treat” by Super Simple Songs and practice trick-or-treating. Here is the link for that song https://youtu.be/CTD6jBlIEA4
- Smaller Sensory Friendly Events: Try smaller venues for children who may experience sensory overload or who may be frightened by the costumes. Many malls/shopping centers will have trick-or-treat activity that is much more sensory friendly. Local churches have “trunk or treat” in their parking lots. These are great ways to have your child experience the fun of Halloween without too much sensory stimulation.
- Take it easy: Sometimes it’s best just to trick-or-treat at a few houses. You do not need to take on the entire neighborhood in one evening! We recommend that parents draw a map of the neighborhood and mark the houses where you will be going. Doing this will prepare the child, set expectations, and prevent meltdowns.
- Safety First: Be sure to talk to your child about safety! We review safety with all of our children in our social groups. We discuss staying with a group, wearing glow necklaces or carrying a flashlight, looking out for cars, and walking instead of running. These simple rules can be added into your discussion on the “hidden rules” for trick-or-treating.
In summary, the best way to get ready for Halloween night is to prepare your child! We have a free resource for download on our website called “DOs and DON’Ts for Halloween” that parents can use to review the hidden rules for trick-or-treat. Follow this link to get your copy: