The ghosts and goblins are starting to appear. Today my daughter noticed a large set up of some spooky witches that’s gone up recently. Had we not already been talking about Halloween and what is pretend versus what is real, I feel those sinister cauldron-stirring sisters would have been more frightening for my not-quite-three-year-old. As an Early Childhood Educator, I’m very much aware of the ways in which our adult minds and bodies operate quite differently than our newer humans. When it comes to Halloween for little kids, there are many characters and concepts that come along with the event that may be frightening. We need to keep in mind that children in the preschool age (2-5) are still developing, and may not realize that the spooky pretending of Halloween is not real.
Helping children to better understand the difference between pretend and real can make all the difference to happily enjoying the Halloween spirit and the fun of dressing up and trick or treating, or to leaving early in a crying fit brought on by fear. While I’m still apprehensive that my little one will encounter something that scares her into tears on Halloween, I feel confident that we’re building up her confidence for experiencing pretend without fearing that it’s real.
Whether or not Halloween and trick or treating is something your family participates in (I was raised in a religious family that did not, so I get that), your little ones are going to come into contact with some spooky things in the month of October. (Unless, of course, you live out in the boonies and can refrain from heading to town where the ghosts and goblins decorate most stores, windows, parking lots, and everywhere else you can stick a jack-o-lantern.)
Halloween For Little Kids: Teaching Real vs. Pretend
Dressing Up & Taking Off
An activity we make sure to share at circle time during the month of October is dressing up in a costume, and taking it off in front of the children. This can help them to see the person they know as a real, true, human being become disguised as something else. When the teacher is all dressed up, we make sure to talk to the children, asking them if, because I’m dressed up as a witch (for example), that makes me a real witch? No, it does not. As I take off each piece of my outfit, they can see that I’m still Teacher Hannah under all of the pretending items. We assure the children that, on Halloween night, they will see lots of different people (and maybe animals) dressed up as different things, but that none of those things are real. They might look real, they might act real, but they are all people playing pretend. This has worked well in my experience of preparing for Halloween for little kids.
Free Play Dress Up
Leaving some items out for the children to dress up in can help reinforce this concept of real vs pretend, as the children learn through their ever-valuable play. (Seriously, it’s just the best way to learn.) When it comes to wigs and hats, you may want to use your discretion or not include them, because of the annoying reality of lice. One year in October we had some confirmed cases of lice in our class, so we chose to provide shower caps for the children to wear before trying on wigs, hats, and other costumes. This worked well for our situation.
Halloween Books For Preschoolers & Early Learners
It may seem a bit early, but for the last three weeks we’ve been reading up on Halloween from picture books we found at the library. As my little one expressed some fears over seeing witches and spooky things on Halloween, I wanted to ensure that her first Halloween experience goes as smooth as possible (we were in Colombia last year, and previously she was too young to go trick or treating).
Books (as I’ve previously mentioned) are one of my favourite and most successful ways of introducing and working through new concepts with children. Experiencing things through a character helps to remove the seriousness from the situation, and offers a teachable lesson all wrapped up in a lovely little piece of literature. Books are something you can go back to time and time again, until you really feel you understand and have a certain ownership of a concept.
For some of the books I’ve found to gently teach about Halloween for little kids, and real vs. pretend, stay tuned! I will update this post with the link to my Halloween book suggestions as soon as the next post is up. Watch for it some time in the next couple days! If you want to be sure you don’t miss it, or any of the other awesome stuff that comes up, sign up here to get a weekly notification of new posts on The Big To-Do List (that’s this blog, in case you didn’t already know).
EDIT: The post with my recommendations for books that can help ease fears over Halloween is now live! You can find it here.
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Happy Halloween, everyone! Here’s hoping everyone enjoys themselves and has an enjoyable, safe time trick or treating, partying, or whatever your family does on that spooky night.