Halloween can be a thrill for “mummies” and their little goblins, but at this age you want to tip the scale toward Halloween fun and skip the frightening parts. Thanks to their growing imaginations, toddlers and preschoolers have a hard time separating fact from fantasy, and the pretend world of princesses and superheroes (and skeletons and witches) can seem very real to them. And even if your child seems fearless, you’ll still want to put the brakes on the overstimulation…and the sweets.
Before you head out for those treats, here is some Halloween help to make Halloween fun for toddlers, without too many scares or too much sugar.
Prep him for scary surprises. Trick or treating is filled with sights and sounds that can easily spoil Halloween fun for toddlers by spooking them. So let your tot know what he might expect before you leave the house. Topping the toddler terror list: Sudden or loud noises and anything that jumps out unexpectedly. So tell your child that there may be decorations or people that pop out to say “Boo” or doorbells that may play scary music. Funny faces and masks can also be frightening, so if he has a fear of clowns or other characters, warn him that he might see some Bozos, one-eyed creatures, or witches with strangely shaped noses. Be matter-of-fact about your descriptions so you don’t run the risk of scaring him so much that he won’t want to join the Halloween fun. Don’t tease him about his trick-or-treat trepidation or insist he face his fears (like that ghost at the door). And remember that some kids have a lower fear threshold than others. You can skip the houses that are really spooky, but if you notice your toddler is becoming upset or afraid anyway, head home.
Dress him right… You’ve helped your tot pick the perfect costume (he’ll no doubt be the cutest pooch on the block!). Now check if there’s enough room to add a sweatshirt or long underwear underneath in case it gets cold. Or if you live in a warmer climate or you’re sticking to your apartment building for this year’s trick-or-treating, be sure that the costume material isn’t so heavy that your tot will get too toasty (and uncomfortable).
…Or curtail the costume. Even when they’re thrilled with the idea of dressing up, some toddlers find their costume too itchy or confining. If your tot balks when you slip on his Superman togs, let him trick-or-treat without it (dab on some face paint and a hat if he’ll let you and call that a costume). Or just stay home and hand out the treats to those who come knocking — that’s just as much Halloween fun for toddlers.
Trick-or-treat on toddler time. It may be a bit different from your usual errand run, but treat trick-or-treating like any other outing. Give your little one a healthy meal before you head out so he won’t get cranky (or repeatedly reach into the candy bag for a snack). To keep your tot from getting too tired or overwhelmed by all the Halloween fun, try to go out during daylight hours and plot your route so you can keep the trip short. Most toddlers won’t last more than a few blocks, and many are just as happy to visit with familiar neighbors or take a trip to Grandma’s before calling it a night.
Limit the candy supply. Once you’re home, do a candy check, and throw out anything that is unwrapped, homemade by anyone you don’t know well, as well as anything that looks even vaguely suspicious (like loose candy in a plastic bag), or sweets that can turn into choking hazards (sticky, chewy, or hard candies, anything with caramel, popcorn, nuts, gum). Then let your toddler select a piece or two of what remains as his Halloween treat and toss the rest after he goes to bed (that way you won’t be tempted to dip into the stash yourself). At this age, your child most likely won’t know what he’s missing if you choose to get rid of most of his leftover loot, but you can also offer to swap the rest of his candy for a small toy (which, researchers say, little kids are just as likely to choose as Halloween candy). Or scare up healthy snacks — like a pumpkin cupcake — and offer to trade. Wondering what you should offer up at your house for trick-or-treaters? Choose toddler-safe treats only (in case your tot gets into the stash), but also think outside the candy box (cereal bars, Halloween stickers).