Last year, I shared that I was a Halloween Grinch. I even ended up on radio, chatting to 1233 ABC Newcastle Drive presenter, Paul Bevan, discussing my concerns about Halloween as a parent. It’s a divisive subject and many others agreed with my initial assessment that Halloween is an unnecessary holiday.

Re-reading my post, many of my points are still valid. It is odd to encourage your kids to knock on doors and accept candy from strangers (especially when we spend the rest of the year discouraging this activity!). There are safety issues with so many people wandering about, particularly kids walking about unsupervised.

And for kids with special needs, the whole celebration can be wrought with anxiety due to the stress of increased social interaction, fear of decorations and costumes and overwhelm from all the senses.

However, my grinch-like approach to Halloween was not built on personal experience – rather, it was built on my assumptions of the holiday. I had never taken my kids trick or treating or fully embraced Halloween at all. So, after some gentle persuasion from lifelong Halloween celebrator Jess from Peachy Keen Mumma, I decided to actually give Halloween a go.

This year, much to the delight of my children, we went trick or treating for the first time.

I must confess I am now a Halloween convert.

How Halloween Won Me Over -

5 Reasons We Loved Trick or Treating

The sense of community spirit was strong. The celebration brought a whole neighbourhood together. Families were out walking in the late afternoon sun, other neighbours were soaking up the ambience out of the front of their houses and the suburb was buzzing with a sense of fun, cooperation and enjoyment. Everyone was having fun and everyone was happy to be there. It was uplifting to be a part of it.

The chance to have structured social interaction. The experience allowed us to practice interacting with strangers. The kids practiced their manners, were able to share their enjoyment and felt confident enough to wish others “Happy Halloween.” Gilbert was the surprise packet of the night – he was polite, actually initiated contact with strangers (by wishing them Happy Halloween) and ended up having a great time without any upset.

The opportunity for incidental exercise. I can’t recall any other situation when I’d be able to get the kids to happily walk for a full hour without complaint. I’d hazard a guess that we walked at least 3km, if not more, on the night. These are the kids who refuse to come along with me to Parkrun on a Saturday morning. It’s truly amazing what the power of candy can do!

The excuse to get to know our neighbours and neighbourhood. I was surprised at how welcoming everyone was and how easy it was to strike up conversations with others. It was a great chance for the kids to practice their own social skills but it was also a much needed chance for me to get to know others as well. Plus I found some new hidden spots to include on my regular walks during the week – winning!

It would be remiss of me not to mention the candy! Not surprisingly, the kids collected quite the haul of sweets in their solid hour of trick or treating. However, they have surprised me with their ability to ration out their haul so it lasts. I love the fact that I won’t need to buy any more sweets (or dessert for that matter!) until Christmas. Happy Halloween indeed!

How Halloween Won Me Over -

5 Ways We Prepared Our Kids

We provided clear instructions before setting off. Before we set out, we gave our kids a set of rules. They were only to knock on doors with decoration (signalling they were a part of the celebrations). They were to wait to be offered a piece of candy. They were only to take one piece (unless they were offered more). They were to say thank you and Happy Halloween as they left each house. They were not to run away from me. They were to be polite to others. A visual schedule would be great to use with younger kids to achieve the same result.

We talked about what was going to happen. We explained to the kids how trick or treating worked and how the rules provided above would fit in with our walk. We didn’t use one ourselves, but a social story would be the ideal way to explain this. We talked about the people we would encounter, the decorations we’d see, the costumes people would wear, the candy they may or may not receive and the fact that some people may provide alternatives to candy. In this way, they were not disappointed on the rare occasion they received a non-candy treat.

We researched & mapped our route beforehand. We’re part of a Facebook page for our community and we were able to find out the streets participating in Halloween before heading out. I was then able to make the most of our one hour time limit and target the streets with guaranteed trick or treating opportunities. I can only imagine how disappointed the kids would have been had we’d walked aimlessly for an hour, only to go home empty handed (actually I don’t want to imagine that, it would have been disastrous!)

We set a time limit for trick or treating. This worked really well for us. The one hour time limit was imposed on us as Matilda needed to get ready for Scouts later that evening, but it was just the right amount of time for the kids. By the end of the hour, they had heaps of candy, they were tired from walking and they were beginning to feel overwhelmed by the occasion. One hour was the perfect timeframe for us and ensured we got through the experience free of meltdowns and upset.

We made sure their costumes and shoes were comfortable. There is nothing worse than walking around for ages in a scratchy, uncomfortable costume or wearing non-practical shoes. The girls had already worn their costumes before so they were all set, however Gilbert was in a new costume. Thankfully, the costume did not bother him too much but we made sure he wore a shirt underneath to limit scratching and discomfort. As he’ll need yet another costume for next year (will he ever stop growing?) this is something I’ll put more effort into next time around.

What are your thoughts on Halloween? Did you trick or treat with your kids this year? Any other tips to add to the list?