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How to Make Halloween Less Scary for Little Kids

Two little girls hiding behind paper ghost masks.
Dragon Images/Shutterstock

Plenty of kids love Halloween—the costumes, the candy, even the spookiness. But for many small children, it can be downright overwhelming and scary. We’ve got some tips to help make it more enjoyable for your little ones.

There are plenty of lighthearted aspects to focus on this Halloween season. For example, if you normally avoid sugar, allowing a few treats can really be a highlight of the day. Creating fun, colorful decorations, as well as other crafts and costumes, is a great way to get the whole family involved.

Making sure your smaller children aren’t left out is key—they deserve to enjoy the holiday as much as older kids do.

Talk About Decorations

Some parents avoid everything Halloween. They go out of their way to take different routes home or avoid walking around the neighborhood. Sometimes, though, this causes more anxiety because your child will sense something’s up.

Instead, talk about the decorations you see and how they aren’t real. Go to the Halloween section at the store and let your child touch the fake spider webs, examine a plastic skeleton, or try on a mask. Having you there will reassure her that it’s okay. You still don’t have to take a grand tour of your town’s best decorations, but gently exposing your child to a few you pass along the way will help her become familiar with what goes on this time of year.

Focus on decorating your house in a fun, friendly way. Carve pumpkins, put up bright posters, cut out smiling ghosts, and stick colorful decals to the windows. You can also make some of your own Halloween crafts, and do a new project every day leading up to Halloween.

Get Excited About Costumes

Involve your child in the costume process. Ask him what he’d like to be for Halloween. Some kids are fickle and will change their minds many times. We suggest you scout out several cheap options. Check out thrift stores or local buy/sell/swap groups online. You can also get creative and whip up some costumes using items you already have. If you have several options on hand, you can have your toddler practice dressing up every day that week (or the entire month).

Remember, the sky’s the limit. If your child wants to dress up as a rock, go for it! Focus on the creative process and the playfulness, rather than what would look best on Instagram. Pushing your child to wear the costume you want them to wear is a recipe for disaster.

If you have older kids going for a scarier look, make sure your younger child watches them get ready. If he suddenly sees his older sibling as a zombie, it can be alarming. However, if he watches his older brother put on makeup or slip on a mask, it demystifies the final result.

Look for Scary-Free Activities

A little girl wearing a witch's hat and carrying a pumpkin.
Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock

It’s not a good idea to take really young children to a haunted house with scary creatures lurking in the dark. Even most adults are spooked by that!

Most towns offer friendlier activities, such as pumpkin patches, indoor trick-or-treating events, hayrides, and so on. If you can’t find anything in your area, consider hosting a party at your house that will allow you to focus on the friendlier aspects of Halloween.

If you decide to take your child trick-or-treating, he will likely encounter lots of scary costumes. If he seems frightened, try to talk to the kid behind the costume; this will help your child understand that it’s just a person under there.

Also, trick or treat during daylight hours because everything is scarier after dark.

Watch Fun Movies Together

Not all Halloween-themed movies are scary—some focus on the Halloween spirit but won’t cause nightmares for weeks. You can watch these as a family and save the scarier stuff for after your child has gone to bed.

Whip up some yummy Halloween treats, and then enjoy one these kid-friendly Halloween flicks:

  • Casper
  • Monsters, Inc.
  • Halloween Is a Grinch Night
  • Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest
  • Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Party
  • It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

While you watch these movies with your child, you can explain what Halloween is all about. You can mention that some people think it’s fun to be scared, but she can join in without dressing as a scary creature. It’s okay to be a friendly ghost, a happy monster, a frog, a princess, or anything else she wants.

Halloween doesn’t have to be frightening for your younger kids. If you focus on friendly decorations, pick out exciting costumes, and enjoy a few tasty treats, your child will have a BOO-tiful Halloween.

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »
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