From pumpkin carving to trick-or-treating, traditional Halloween activities bring lots of opportunities for fun. For parents of young children, however, it can be a spooky time, too. So how do you make sure your little ones don’t miss out on the festivities, while also keeping them safe and healthy? Dr. Abby Smolcich, Pediatrician at ThedaCare, shared a few ideas.
1. Swap Carving for Painting
Among the traditional favorites for Halloween activities, pumpkin carving usually rises to the top of the list. It’s an opportunity for everyone to express a little creativity and makes for a great family activity. Using a knife to carve pumpkins, however, is obviously not ideal for young kids.
“Instead of carving pumpkins, try painting them,” said Dr. Smolcich. “You’ll be able to keep your children away from sharp objects and remove the potential for knife injuries.”
Don’t stop there. You can gather all kinds of supplies to make decorating fun and safe, including:
- Felt pieces
- Mummy wrap (medical gauze)
- Melted crayons
- Googly eyes
- Colorful duct tape
- Washi tape
Get creative and let your kids’ artistic side shine, without the worry.
2. Head to the Pumpkin Patch
If there’s one thing little kids love, its playing outside. Luckily, there are a lot of outdoor activities to choose from this time of year, many of which can be enjoyed in one stop.
“Local farms usually have Halloween themed activities geared toward kids during this time of year,” said Dr. Smolcich. “My little ones love picking out pumpkins from the pumpkin patch, and visiting outdoor fall festivals.”
Your fun fall outing doesn’t have to be limited to picking the perfect pumpkin. Many locations in the Fox Valley offer a variety of additional activities to take part in as well, such as:
- Apple picking
- Face painting
- Corn mazes
- Petting zoos
- Arts and crafts
- Enjoying seasonal snacks and baked goods
3. Opt for No-Bake Treats
What would Halloween be without treats? And what better way to engage your children in learning-filled fun than to involve them in the “baking” process. The key here is finding recipes that don’t include a hot oven or sharp kitchen utensils.
“Your kids will love the tasty, messy fun of making something new in the kitchen,” said Dr. Smolcich. “It’s a great option for spending quality, supervised time with them, as well as giving them an opportunity to feel pride in their accomplishments.”
Looking for kid-safe, no-bake treat ideas? Here are a few of our favorites:
- Dirt cups
- Rice krispie treats
- Puppy chow
- Oreo balls
- Chocolate bark
- Chocolate-covered pretzels
- Haunted gingerbread house
4. Make Smart Costume Choices
Most kids know what they want to be for Halloween months in advance, but sometimes its not as simple as finding and purchasing the costume.
“There are a few things to consider when selecting or making a costume for your child,” said Dr. Smolcich. “In addition to dressing them in fire-resistant materials and using hypoallergenic makeup, keep a close eye on the weather. If possible, pick a costume that provides enough flexibility to dress them in layers in case its cold on trick-or-treating day.”
Furthermore, since most costumes either include – or would accommodate – a mask, it’s easy to provide an extra safety barrier for your children against the spread of common cold-weather viruses.
5. Get Crafty
Kids love arts and crafts, and parents love activities that improve their child’s cognitive development and motor skills. With a few simple supplies, you can accomplish both.
“Art-based activities are a safe and easy way to win over your kids and keep them preoccupied,” said Dr. Smolcich. “In many cases, you can even use inexpensive household items as supplies.”
The opportunities are pretty endless when it comes to Halloween crafts, but we especially love:
- Spooky slime
- Pumpkin stress balls
- Paper bat garland
- Cotton ball ghosts
- Pipe cleaner spiders
- Masking tape mummies
- Q-Tip skeletons
Want to get really creative? Design an obstacle course for your kids and their friends to enjoy. It’s a great way to incorporate some additional physical activity into their day.
6. Light the Way
Trick-or-treating is undoubtedly a top contender for favorite Halloween activity among children. That said, it usually takes place in the evening, and this time of year, that typically means after dark. Luckily, there are some simple ways to continue this decades-long tradition while keeping your kids safe.
“In addition to supervising young trick-or-treaters at all times, you and your children should use flashlights, headlamps, high-visibility vests and other bright objects to improve visibility in the dark,” said Dr. Smolcich. “Not only will they help you see where you’re going, they are critical for helping drivers see you and know to slow down.”
Whenever possible, stay out of busy roadways altogether by making use of available sidewalks.
7. Inspect, then Indulge
As eager as your kids may be to dive into their trick-or-treat candy, ask them to wait until they get home. Unfortunately, there have been rare instances of people tampering with candy that can be harmful for your kids.
“Inspect your kids’ Halloween candy after you get home,” advised Dr. Smolcich. “Throw out anything that looks opened, ripped, or has any sort of hole in it, no matter how small.”
Additionally, you’ll want to be sure the candy is suitable for your child’s age level. Jelly beans, many hard candies, and slippery candies like gum, taffy and caramel, can all pose choking hazards to young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children ages 5 and younger should not consume hard candies or gum. Most soft chocolate, cotton candy and fruit snacks are safe for toddlers.
Finally, limit your child’s daily candy consumption.
“Allowing your kids a set amount of candy each day can help prevent tummy aches and other illnesses,” suggested Dr. Smolcich. “It can also help you avoid an unplanned visit to the dentist!”
8. Keep it Simple
Many parents opted to limit Halloween activities last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and may still be hesitant about letting their children participate in events outside the home. While Dr. Smolcich supports this safety-first mentality, she encourages families to consider the many ways they can stay safe, without missing out on the fun.
“Trick-or-treating remains a fairly safe option because it takes place outdoors and allows people to spread out,” she said. “Many area businesses will also host trunk-or-treats in spacious parking lots or at community sites, which are a great option for low-contact, low-traffic, outdoor Halloween fun.”
As a general rule, staying away from crowded, indoor activities is the best way to stay healthy, advised Dr. Smolcich.
“Maintaining six feet of social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and getting vaccinated if eligible remain important precautions for reducing transmission of the virus,” she said. “Halloween tends to be a family-focused holiday, which means there are lots of great opportunities to have fun and stay safe. Be vigilant, get creative and enjoy the chance to make lasting memories with your children.”
For other important safety reminders and COVID-specific guidelines, refer to the ThedaCare News & Events page.