Halloween is approaching, hooray!

Time to pull out the cobwebs, gross looking skeletons and all things bloody, scoop handfuls of off-smelling slime from the cavities of large pumpkins, and spook up the front porch with scary plastic zombies that blare screechy sound effects every time you walk by. It’s time to prepare for the night when we schelp our kids out into the dark wearing scratchy costumes that are either too warm or too cold, and squeeze them into the hoard of people running from door to door of other spooked up homes on a quest to accept candy from strangers dressed like Freddy Kruger, all the while shouting rudeness like:

Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!  

Yes, many children cherish this rite of seasonal passage, but there are also some who have a hard time acclimating to the sensory overload of Halloween. Here are a few ideas I’ve learned over the years to get the family safely and sanely through October’s haunted holiday…

1) Prep early and think small – Go over your trick-or-treat route in advance, allowing your little one to have a say in where it will lead. And don’t bank on making it to that party at your friend’s house six blocks away, because your kiddo might hit the limit way before then. I know a family who trick-or-treats without even leaving their house by setting up a “Monster Egg Hunt” inside instead – a genius idea born from sensory madness.

2) Change scary to fun – If your children love to be out on All Hallows’ Eve but frighten easily, create an arts-and-crafts project or two out of your decorations and/or costumes. Let the kids make their own spiders to hang, show them that Halloween “blood” is really just food dye or face paint. By demystifying what frightens them, you will help ease their anxiety.

3) Choose comfort with costumes – What looks good to your kids might not feel good, so when you visit the costume shop steer clear of scratchy material and loose-hanging accessories that could go missing. I find “live” shopping with my three to be an overwhelming job, so we opt out by ordering our outfits online. That way, I can present them with only sensory-friendly options for their ninja/unicorn/Olaf costumes, and avoid a war of wills.

4) Light them up  It’s a smart idea to incorporate some glowing flare into the evening’s wardrobe to help you keep tabs on everyone after sundown. Have them don glow-the-dark bracelets or place battery-operated candles in the treat bags. And don’t forget yourselves: My husband walks every year with a 4-foot lightsaber that really stands out in the crowd. The Force is on our side – we’ve never lost anyone!

5) Candy, shmandy – Not a fan of the Jeckle & Hyde effect your kid exhibits from all the processed sugar and food dye? Keep a stash of “healthy candy” at home and make a swap at the night’s end. Brands like Yummy Earth offer organic ingredients such as fruit juice and vegetable coloring. Or you could barter to eliminate candy altogether. This year my son is getting a Pokemon card for every piece of candy he trades in to us. (Tip – packs of 100 are available at Amazon.com on the cheap.)

A little outside-of-the-box thinking can start the most sensitive family’s autumn off with a fun season full of joy and (fun) scares.  Good luck, and Happy Halloween… really!

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