Molly Dresner gives us some tips.
Flip the Script
Halloween is a holiday that comes with a pretty consistent protocol: you get dressed up, you walk door to door, you say a funny phrase, and you get some candy. However, this script doesn’t fit the needs of all of our little ones and that is okay! You, as the parent, can flip the script to meet your child’s needs in an easy and comfortable way.
First come up with a plan and then practice for a few days before the holiday. For example, if your tiny friend is not able to say, “trick or treat” then maybe you provide them with a sign or a sticker that says it for them. Also, you, a friend, or a sibling could say those magical words while your little one performs a different action. When I trick-or-treat with my little ones, I say “trick or treat” and have them produce a relevant sound or gesture (e.g. produce the corresponding animal sound for their costume, twirl in their ballerina tutu, etc.)
Additionally, I love to make small thank you cards ahead of time –that way you feel awesome about your child’s manners and your child feels awesome engaging in the experience. Remember, it can feel like a lot of pressure on some of our children, especially those who do not like to be put on the spot. Make up your own protocol, prepare, and practice and it will be a perfect night for everyone!
Think Outside the Candy
Halloween and candy go hand in hand – but they don’t have to! I like to have a bucket of non-candy treats for little ones who can’t or don’t want to eat candy. Make it easy on yourself and get 2-3 bulk options from the dollar store or Amazon. My favorite goodies are stickers, glow sticks, and mini bubbles. It is best to think of options that are fun, interactive, and/or motivating because let’s face it we are competing with candy.
If you are trick-or-treating with a little one who doesn’t eat candy, then come up with a system to ‘trade out’ when you get home with a big bucket full of sugary sweets. Maybe the candy bucket sleeps in a magical spot overnight and in the morning it will reappear as a bucket full of non-candy fun! Or your little one can trade you 3 pieces of candy per night for a preferred treat. Lastly, use a small treat bag when you go door-to-door so that you fill up quicker, you only receive 1 item from each house, and you make your trade-game much easier!
Be Sensory Prepared
Halloween, just like all of the other holidays, will be a very different sensory experience for your little one. The more you prepare for their sensory needs, the smoother your night will be. The first step here is to make sure the costume works on all levels. Is it itchy? Will the face be covered? Will it be too hot? Children, especially those under 5, have developing sensory systems that require thoughtful preparations. Costumes are usually very different from your child’s everyday clothing and on top of that we are usually adding masks, hats, and gloves. The best way to ensure that the costume works for your little one is to try it on, outside, for at least an hour. This trial run allows you to ensure that your little one will feel safe & comfortable all day/night depending on your plans.
Once you have the costume figured out, think about the rest of the holiday’s elements from your child’s point of view. Will he enjoy going trick-or-treating when it’s light outside or dark? Will she want to go when there are less people at each door or more? Will he be able to walk around for an extended period of time or will you have to carry him? Will she need a break or quiet time before, during, or after? The reality is that you know your child best so take some time to think through your journey before you head out. Most importantly, prepare your little one for what to expect. Kids always perform at their very best when they can anticipate what will happen and are aware of the expectations.
Molly Dresner is a Speech Language Pathologist and Feeding Therapist based in New York City. She believes that the more you know – as a parent or caregiver – the stronger you will be in supporting your little one’s speech and language development. To help you achieve this, her focus is on providing you with fun & functional suggestions.
She recently authored The Speech Teacher’s Handbook, an engaging parent guide that includes practical and easy-to-follow tips & activities to help you help your little one! You can find her on Instagram @thespeechteacher where she posts daily pops of knowledge and connect with her on her site as well as Facebook.