This is the first post by Wendy Lias, LSW. Wendy has a clinical background in child and adolescent mental health as well as the treatment of substance use disorders. Wendy lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her husband and her children, ages 5 and 2.
In light of the pandemic, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has advised against traditional trick-or-treating this year. It’s strange to think that during a year when mask-wearing is a topic on everyone’s mind that we’re putting the kibosh on our only mask-wearing holiday. If you read Dr. Masur’s recent post on 2020, then you know that she reminded us that 2020 as year is not cancelled—and that includes Halloween. Let’s talk about how to incorporate some spooky spirit into your Halloween, even if you won’t be making it out to trick-or-treat this year.
HIT THE BOOKS
Whether you head to your local library or pull from your own book collection, there is plenty of fun Halloween-themed reading to be done with kids of all ages. The littlest listeners may enjoy the Halloween tales from popular book series like The Berenstain Bears, Arthur, Little Critter, and Clifford. There are no scares to be had on the pages of those books but they still manage to evoke the spirit of Halloween.
For those kids who would enjoy more of a spine-tingle, Tell Me a Scary Story…But Not Too Scary by the late, great Carl Reiner certainly fits the bill. The book is framed as the narrator telling a scary bedtime story. The narrator frequently interrupts the story to make sure it’s not getting too scary. This literary device provides the benefit of reminding the reader that the scares are only part of a story AND of reminding us the chills and thrills of the season are only fun as long as they’re fun for everyone.
If your young reader is ready for something in the chapter book variety, the Harry Potter series has some of popular culture’s favorite witches and wizards. The eponymous Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage also follows a young boy with extraordinary magical powers. Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories series finds two modern-era children thrust into a world populated with familiar fairy tale characters. If you’re looking for an oldie but a goody, don’t discount Roald Dahl’s The Witches, as a source of spooky fun.
COOK UP SOMETHING SPOOKY
There are plenty of Halloween treats that you can whip up in the kitchen. My five-year-old son, for instance, really enjoys making what he calls “Boo-nana Bread.” Spoiler alert: it’s just banana bread with a slightly spookier name. Since it’s that time of year, anything pumpkin flavored would also fit the bill. As for what I’ll be baking this year with my kids, it’s going to be sugar cookies. It’s my personal belief that you cannot go wrong with a sugar cookie. There are a million recipes—each as good as the next—and there is absolutely no wrong way to decorate them. An afternoon of cookie-ing is suited for the littlest hands (who doesn’t love to watch icing distributed in the manner of Jackson Pollock?!) all the way up through adulthood.
If you’re looking to cuddle up on the couch for some Halloween viewing, again, there is simply no shortage of material. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Room on the Broom both make for short, family-friendly viewing. A slightly older crowd might enjoy Hocus Pocus or Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. To borrow a title from earlier in the post, the movie version of The Witches is just as good as the book. Although not specifically for Halloween, Disney’s Coco is certainly of the season. If somebody in your house is looking for some true blood-curdling thrills, the options are myriad; but not the fare that I’ll be listing on a Thoughtful Parenting blog. 😉
BORROW FROM ANOTHER HOLIDAY
Finally, in the absence of our usual Halloween traditions, borrow some customs from other holidays. The gingerbread house is traditionally associated with the winter holidays, but who says you can’t build and decorate a spooky Halloween house? And—credit where credit is due—my mother came up with the brilliant idea of hiding little treats in glow-in-the-dark eggs and letting kids do an egg hunt on Halloween night. I also happened to see some places are selling pre-filled plastic mini-pumpkins that you can send your little ones out to hunt for.
If you try any of these suggestions, we’d love to see and hear about it. Did you know that Thoughtful Parenting is on Facebook and Instagram? Feel free to hop on our social media and share either your thoughts on these suggestions or suggestions of your own.
Stay safe and happy haunting!