For Jody and Michael Kessler, parents of twin toddlers Ash and Kai, they want to include their sons in the tradition, but they're a little too young to understand that Halloween is make-believe. "The twins are tough little guys," says Jody, "but exposing them to monster and zombie costumes in the dark can be scary at their age."
Her husband adds, "We want them to enjoy Halloween and not fear it." They're confident that the twins will come to love the tradition when older, but until that time they have found ways for their kids to participate.
Dressing kids in costumes instantly makes them part of the event. If you're a busy mom, go for a store-bought costume. For Jody, who works in the wardrobe department for film and television, she has the skills to pull off a homemade costume. She says, "Last year we dressed the boys up as playing cards. They wore their costumes all day." She and Michael complemented them by dressing up as cards, too. "They were aware the day was special," chimes in Michael.
Go To Halloween Parties
Attend a party or host one yourself. Make special Halloween treats, play games like bobbing for apples and give out prizes for the scariest or most creative costume. Jody and Michael took their boys to a Halloween-themed play group that had an inflated bouncy castle. "Playing with other kids in costume was a new experience for the twins," enthuses Jody. "They loved it!"
Hit the Community
Check your local papers or Internet for Halloween-related events. Libraries will put on scary story readings for kids. Age appropriate, of course. No one wants to give the little ones night terrors. Some community centers will host carnivals with games and costume contests. One cafÃ© in San Francisco, California, holds their annual Costumed Animal Parade. Pet owners dress up their dogs and cats and walk through the neighborhood. Prizes are awarded to the best-dressed pet. When it comes to Halloween, there are plenty of lively events to attend with the kids. Seek and you shall find.
Many major cities host Halloween street fairs. The streets are closed off to cars, so pedestrians can walk about freely. If you attend one of these events with your children, go early before the real adult "ghouls" come out. Some of the elaborate, grisly costumes can be traumatizing for small children.
Carve a Pumpkin
Introduce your children to the tradition by involving them in pumpkin carving. Jody lets her boys design the face of the jack-o-lantern. She does the carving while the kids pull out the inner slimy strings and seeds. "They play more with the pumpkin gunk then actually clean it out," she says, laughing. After the pumpkin is carved, she toasts the seeds for healthy snacking later.
Host Scary Movie Night
Watch a few age-appropriate movies with your kids and their friends. Before the show starts, have everyone help make Halloween-themed movie snacks like popcorn balls and brownies cut into coffin shapes. Dim the lights and let the screams begin.
Dressing up, going to parties and participating in community events are a few of the ways to celebrate Halloween without trick-or-treating. Make up your own traditions. Anything goes with Halloween. All that really matters is having a ghost of a time with your kids.