Back in the 80s, Halloween was a bit of a non-event in the UK. There was perhaps talk of trick or treating that never really amounted to much and if you wanted to dress up you had to go to a specialist costume hire shop. Across the pond, Halloween has been a Big Darn Deal for a long time, and in recent years, the American enthusiasm for this spooky festival has seeped across the Atlantic. These days, there is no escaping Halloween, especially if you have kids. Supermarkets have entire aisles filled with costumes for all ages, as well as pumpkins, sweets, and even Halloween themed tinsel, all making the weekly shop with hyperactive and excitable children even more fraught. School PTAs, ever keen to raise money, are hopping on the Halloween bandwagon and organising spooky themed discos. Meanwhile toddler groups, driven by Pinterest fuelled volunteers compete against one another to produce the most elaborate Halloween themed craft activity that is possible within the constraints of a limited budget and the need to avoid the repeat of that time that little Oliver swallowed half a tube of glitter glue.
Some parents have embraced the rise of Halloween. Hosting a Halloween party for your friends and their children is, after all, a great excuse to unleash your inner child and gorge on loads of chocolate and sweets. Plus, now you’re a grown-up you get to add wine into the mix. Drunk with a sugar high is something altogether wonderful. On the other hand, some parents groan at the thought of having to find another costume along with those needed World Book Day, Children In Need, Red Nose Day, Christmas Jumper Day, etc. Not to mention having to deal with the inevitable tantrums that arise when an over-tired, over-excited, and over-indulged child is told that they can’t have a fifth Refresher bar because they’ll probably be sick. If the thought of Halloween fills you with dread, we’ve got some top tips to help you survive the season of terror, so you can turn your attention to worrying about Christmas instead (it’s only 13 weeks away don’t you know).
1. Embrace The Opportunity For Some Family Fun
Instead of seeing Halloween as a night of over indulgence and commercialisation, embrace the opportunity for some family fun. Halloween is a lovely excuse to spend time with your children doing fun activities that don’t have to cost the earth. A pumpkin costs just a couple of pounds and carving out a design will fill a couple of hours. Trick or Treating is often viewed negatively here in the UK, but on the other hand, it can be a lovely way for supervised children to meet people in their local community. It’s also a good opportunity to talk to your child about stranger danger, whilst the influx of sweets can be used as part of a discussion on healthy eating and caring for your teeth.
2. Easy Last Minute Costumes
It’s really easy to find a Halloween Costume these days. Even the local petrol service station has a few stocked. Supermarkets, such as Asda, Sainsburys, and Tesco, as well as budget shops, such as Wilkos and Home Bargains, have a great selection of low cost costumes. However, if you have left it to the last minute, or you have a limited budget, you can quickly create a costume with items around your house. A mummy is one of the easiest. Wrap toilet roll around your child, splodge on some red paint, and off you go. If you have an old black umbrella, you can remove the arm, cut the folding bit in half, and the two extending halves make excellent bat wings. Got a Lego mad child? Get a cardboard box big enough to fit your child’s upper body in and cut holes out for their arms, head, and legs. Get six or eight round plastic pots, all the same size (something like a 200ml Greek yogurt pot would work well). Stick onto the front of the box to make the studs of the brick, paint in your child’s favour colour, and dress your child in joggers or tights and a t-shirt of the same colour. Voila, your child is now a Lego brick. Of course, if all else fails, there’s always that old white sheet in the airing cupboard…
3. Pumpkin Carving
If you can, get a pumpkin carving kit. They only cost a few pounds, such as this one from Amazon, and it means you can create more on your pumpkin than a simple face using geometric shapes. Use an ice cream scoop to get out all the soft insides, leaving only the hard flesh, as it’s the soft stuff that rots first, so your pumpkin will last a lot longer if you remove it all. Draw out your design on the pumpkin first, and remember, you don’t have to cut right through the flesh to let the light through. You can instead etch a design into the outer layer to create a spooky scene. Finally, use an LED light instead of a candle. There’s no chance of burning and the light won’t go out in a gust of wind.
4. Trick Or Treating
If you are going trick or treating, then incorporate some lights as part of your child’s costume to help them to be seen in the dark. For example, your child could carry a spooky lantern, a glow stick, or a light up wand. If you can, arrange a trail in advance with your local friends and family that your child can visit. Alternatively, if you are taking your child around your local neighbourhood to knock on strangers’ doors, then the general rule is to only knock on doors of houses with Halloween decorations.
If you don’t want to be disturbed by trick or treaters, you could either try turning out the lights and ignoring the door, or could fill up a basket or box of sweets to leave by your front door with a note inviting children to help themselves.
5. Have A Plan For The Sweets
After a night of trick or treating you might find that your child has enough chocolate and sweets to stock a small tuck shop. It’s a good idea to plan in advance what you will do with the haul, and talk to your child about it beforehand, so there are no surprises and tantrums at the end of the evening. You have a number of options. You could let your child gorge themselves silly until they are sick. It’s one way of getting rid of the sugar snacks quickly and might teach your child something about pacing themselves. Or, you could negotiate a certain number that they are allowed each day until it runs out. Alternatively, ask your child to pick out their favourites, and consider donating the rest to a food bank. Many food banks will take confectionary to give out in their hampers as an extra treat. It’s a lovely way of teaching your child about sharing with those less fortunate.
6. Stay Away From Pinterest
Oh, Pinterest. Many a parent has been dragged into the rabbit hole of Halloween pins, only to then find themselves crying hysterically whilst sat on a pile of orange felt and black lace, staring at a sewing machine that won’t behave as it should, whilst a batch of deformed spider shaped biscuits sit cooling on the side after being nuked by an unreliable oven. Seriously, keep it simple. You don’t need to make over your house for Halloween with items you have crafted from recycled wood pallets and pumpkin seeds. Just stick to a simple pumpkin.
7. Go On Holiday.
If you are the Halloween version of Scrooge then perhaps the only sensible thing to do is avoid it all together by going on holiday. Get some October sun and hide yourself away from all the sugar induced hype. I hear Cyprus is pretty warm this time of year.