The night of wicked witches, goblins, and wizards has arrived. It's only five o'clock, but your 8-year-old is eager to get first dibs on the neighborhood Halloween candy stash. He's on the porch, commanding you to "Hurry up!" in his deepest monster voice. You turn to your 2-year-old, stick on her fairy wings and dash out the door.
This may be a common scene - and a necessary one when you have more than one child - but how young is too young to trick-or-treat?
"Typically, kids can distinguish (fantasy from reality) by about age five," says Naomi Reiskind, Ph.D., a child psychologist in Pennsylvania, who says that parents need to prepare little ones if they're going to take them out door-to-door. Family therapist Gayle Peterson, Ph.D., echoes Reiskind's opinion. "Children, especially toddlers, can become very frightened by the distorted faces prevalent on Halloween night."
If you're going to head out, here's how to prepare so your tiny trick-or-treater won't get spooked.
- Familiarize your child for the holiday experience by checking out Halloween books or movies from the library.
- Explain to your child what he or she can expect when you go out. Do this every night for a week prior to Halloween.
- Before going out, offer healthy foods to avoid hunger-fueled meltdowns.
- Start your Halloween events before dark. This can help eliminate the chance that the dark or any oncoming skeletons, will spook your child.
- Bring a flashlight to help eliminate fears. If your child sees something scary, use the flashlight to examine it and show your child.