Dressing up in costumes, playing make-believe and downing unhealthy amounts of candy are the hallmarks of a happy Halloween — for older kids and adults that is. For children under 5, the spectacle of October 31 can be overwhelming at best — and terrifying at worst.


You don’t have to be a child-development expert to realize that a big, hairy monster knocking on the front door can be a nightmare come true for a preschooler. Your child may take it all in stride, or he may burst into tears and go through weeks of bedtime fears after such an encounter.

[pullquote align=”right”]Even so, Halloween doesn’t have to be off-limits for little kids. Taking some simple precautions will ensure a fun time for even the youngest Halloween revelers.[/pullquote]

One of the reasons kids this age have trouble with Halloween is that the line between the real world and make-believe is still fuzzy for them. Young kids jumble fantasy and reality into one marvelous mix, and although they can usually tell when something is pretend they’re still affected by it in a very real way. Just as television characters who talk like humans but look like purple dinosaurs or large yellow birds are a hybrid of fantasy and reality for a young child, so too are the costumed characters stalking the streets on Halloween. Add to that the fact that many Halloween images are intended to be frightening, and you get a sense of the potent brew the occasion whips up in a young child’s mind.

Even so, Halloween doesn’t have to be off-limits for little kids. Taking some simple precautions will ensure a fun time for even the youngest Halloween revelers.


Don’t push your child to look at something scary. If he turns away from ghoulish masks in store windows, don’t chide him for being afraid. Instead, say something like, “Those are the Halloween masks that some kids like but other kids don’t like. You don’t have to look at them if you don’t want to, but they can’t hurt you. They’re just pretend.” This way, you accept your child’s feelings but at the same time reassure him that he’s safe.

Happy Halloween

Lower your costume expectations. For many kids this age, donning a costume can be distressing. Some children tolerate being dressed up as long as the costume is comfortable; others refuse to go near even the most innocuous getup.

Avoid masks. Masks are uncomfortable and upsetting to many young children. Face paint or a decorated hood works better at this age. Tread carefully when trick-or-treating. Avoid houses that are done up with scary decorations and spooky soundtracks. And if you have neighbors who go all out as Frankenstein and his frightful bride year after year, give their home a wide berth. Keep your Halloween route short, too. Most young kids are happy with a half-hour of trick-or-treating on their block or at a few nearby friends’ houses. If you have older children who just have to hit the entire neighborhood with their buddies, be prepared to wait at the curb with your little one while the big kids go door to door—or take him home to hand out candy while your mate or another adult sticks with the big kids.

Look before opening the door. If you’re handing out treats at home, think twice about letting your child answer the door. Once a preschooler has been greeted by a fang-gnashing, black-caped ghoul on the front porch, he may not feel safe at home for a long time.

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