Prepare Your Preschooler for A Safe and Fun Halloween

LOS ANGELES—— When the ghouls and goblins come knocking at your door on Halloween, how best to explain the scary masks and people shouting “Boo!” to your preschooler? First 5 LA, a child advocacy organization, advises parents to make sure Halloween festivities are lighthearted and full of good memories for youngsters under five by keeping them simple and safe.

“Integrate the concepts of make-believe and reality by explaining, for example, that a person’s scary mask is make-believe but there’s a real person underneath,” said Evelyn V. Martinez, executive director of First 5 LA. “This will help ease any anxiety and confusion young children may experience when they encounter a wide variety of sometimes scary costumes on Halloween.”

When it comes to children’s safety on Halloween, parents should always make sure their trick-or-treaters are with a responsible adult and that they only handle and consume safe treats that haven’t been tampered with. But younger children may need additional help from their parents and care givers to make their Halloweens not only safe but fun. First 5 LA offers the following tips to prepare young children for this year’s Halloween:

  • Engage children in playful exercises. These will help desensitize them to what they might see on Halloween. Start with face painting a mask and/or other decorations and then paint your face. The painting process allows your child to get used to looking at him or herself in a mirror and at you with a painted face. Practice making “scary” faces as well as happy faces with each other. And consider wearing costumes around the house during the week before the big day.
  • Anticipate a child’s fears. Clearly explain or demonstrate the pretend nature of scary objects that you believe may frighten a child. For example, if you construct a realistic looking witch, goblin or monster for Halloween, tell him or her you are doing so. Let your youngster feel the texture of the material and remind him or her that these are just dolls.
  • Visit stores that display Halloween costumes and decorations. Browsing will help desensitize your child to what may appear at your door on Halloween. In fact, your child may be relieved to know where these “monsters” really come from. Discuss with your child what his or her friends are going to be for Halloween.
  • Create a quiet place for your child to escape festivities. This allows him or her to withdraw from too much stimulation, if necessary. Anticipate that he or she may need some downtime during Halloween activities. And, if your young child does any trick-or-treating, make the trip short enough to prevent him or her from being overwhelmed by too much activity.
  • Involve your child in giving out treats. Ask what kind of costume he or she would like to wear to help you with this year’s Halloween ritual. Having your child play a role in the festivities is likely replace fear or anxiety with increased confidence.

Martinez also urged parents to always include safety and nutritional awareness in their Halloween preparation. “Let your child know that he or she must check with you before eating anything given to him,” said First 5 LA’s Executive Director. “And don’t forget to bring along a flashlight to help light your way.”

About First 5 LA
First 5 LA, a child advocacy organization, was created by California voters to invest Prop 10 tobacco tax revenues, supports programs for improving the lives of children from prenatal through age 5 in Los Angeles County. For more information on First 5 LA’s programs for parents and children call 1-888-347-7855 or visit www.first5la.org.
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