Tips for trick or treating with a toddler
- Choose the costume wisely
For my daughter's second Halloween, I brought home two costumes for her to choose from. I thought I was ahead of the game by narrowing down the overwhelming number of choices, and letting her make the decision in the comfort of our home. I avoided scary costumes, anything with weapons, masks or makeup.
They were both fuzzy, warm costumes that would keep her nice and cozy on a chilly autumn night (avoiding the "you are so wearing your winter coat under your costume" battles from my childhood). I thought we were golden.
Clearly I was delusional.
She was scared of both of the costumes. I don't even remember what they were now -- something along the lines of Sesame Street or another character that she would normally be thrilled to see. But every time I brought the costumes out she would scream.
In the end we found a ladybug costume that was more like a dress, and she was happy to put that on. Less happy about the seven sweaters that I made her wear underneath it.
- Hit the mall
Check with your local mall to see if they have a trick-or-treating night, when many of the stores hand out candy.
Often they have one a couple of nights before Halloween, so it is a great opportunity for your toddler to practice trick-or-treating.
For the more timid toddlers (like mine), this is a less scary introduction to Halloween. They can run around the well-lit and familiar stores, with the added bonus of easy access to bathrooms, food and drinks.
- Timing is everything
With little ones, you want to trick-or-treat early -- before it gets dark and scary and before those exhaustion-provoked meltdowns occur.
Don't plan to cover the whole neighbourhood, filling a king-sized pillow case with loot, either. Little, easily distracted feet take approximately forever to walk anywhere. So expect a pace of about three driveways an hour.
- Make those social calls
A great introduction to trick-or-treating is to drive around to visit a few friends and family. This lets your child feel safe and less anxious because they are approaching people that they know, at houses that they have been to before.
It can even be done during the day or the weekend before Halloween if you arrange it with your friends.
"Trick-or-treat" is a great game to play during the week leading up to the big day. Your toddler can wear a costume, a silly hat, or whatever he is comfortable in and practice knocking on doors around your house.
This is a great game to enlist an older sibling to help with. Big sister can wait behind the door, ready to hand out surprises, or small toys from the toy box. And your toddler can practice saying "trick or treat" while holding out the pumpkin, bag or bucket that you plan to use on the big day.
Don't forget to practice saying thank you at the end. My usually polite children still have trouble with that one on Halloween. I think they launch into some kind of candy-trance the minute the goodies hit their bucket.
- Choose the right container
It's a good idea to put some thought into what will work best for your child. I find that the plastic pumpkin style is the easiest for my kids to carry.
We used bags last year, and they had trouble holding them out wide enough for people to put the candy in. This is especially true if it is cold outside, and they are wearing mittens. The wide opening of the pumpkin makes it easy.
Of course, the wide opening also makes it easy for the candy to fly everywhere when my child trips on the sidewalk, making for a very angry little princess.
- Check that candy (and don't forget your commission)
While I have never found anything scary in our candy, my kids know that they can't eat a single thing until I have checked it over. Anything unwrapped or damaged goes in the garbage. Anything that is my favourite goes in my "suspicious" pile. And gum and hard candies get put aside for older kids.
- Have a party
Halloween is the perfect time to have a play date with your child's pint-sized friends to make decorations, eat some Halloween-themed food and see their friends in costumes.
You can even incorporate a trick-or-treating game into the party for more practice.
- Call grandma
Grandparents are invaluable resources all year long, and Halloween is no exception.
When our kids were smaller, my husband and I were both eager to take the kids around the neighbourhood, and neither of us wanted to miss out on the fun. And once we had three little goblins running circles around us, a team approach became downright necessary.
Not wanting to leave our own house dark, and still wanting to hand out candy, we enlisted Grandma to hand out our goodies.
It solves a problem for us, and she loves to see all the children dressed up in their costumes. Win-win.
- Give them an important job
When your trick-or-treater is done collecting candy, but isn't quite ready to declare the fun to be over, let her help you hand out candy at the door.
It's a nice transition from the excitement of running through the neighbourhood, to calming down for bedtime. And she will feel proud to greet people at the door.
Now that you are all prepared with a Halloween game plan for your toddler, it is time to choose your own costume. I can't help you there, other than to tell you not to dress up as a garbage can. I learned that one the hard way.