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It’s that time of year again—time to plan for Halloween. For some this is greeted with excitement and for others with dread. There are questions to be answered, such as: do we decorate the outside of our home, put on our scariest mask, buy lots of candy and welcome the neighbourhood kids or shut off all the lights and go out for the evening? At what age does it seem inappropriate for a child (or teen) to go trick-or-treating? And the dreaded question of what’s to be done with all the candy the kids bring home. I thought I would tackle all these questions and more and offer a few suggestions to guide you through this haunting time of year.
Picking a costume. When my children were younger, I resented paying quite a chunk of change for a flimsy piece of material that would likely never be worn again. Nevertheless, I typically did because Halloween only comes once a year and I didn’t want to be a killjoy. Now I’m thinking that it might have been a good idea (especially when the kids were younger and not as picky) to organize a Halloween costume exchange with friends and neighbours. If I was crafty, another great solution would have been to create a costume from scratch with my child and turn the costume-making process into a fun activity.
Consider the weather. It’s not surprising that our kids prefer to display their costumes rather than hide them beneath a heavy jacket. How about purchasing a slightly larger costume than your child would typically wear to make room for a warm sweater or light coat to be worn underneath?
Be Safe. Try to pick bright clothing or place neon strips on the clothing so that your child is more visible. Also, try not to allow masks or any face covering that reduces the child’s field of vision and makes seeing their surroundings difficult. If your child insists, suggest that they wear the mask on top of their head and then lower it only when they reach the door of the house that they’re trick-or-treating at.
Decorate the day of. Dressing up the outside of your house can be fun. I’ve found that doing so only hours before Halloween night was a better option than the day before. Done too much in advance, bad weather or wind simply wreaks havoc on your decorations. Decorating doesn’t have to be expensive unless you want it to be. Cobwebs with plastic spiders are not costly but make for a great effect, especially if you replace your regular outside light with an orange one, for example.
Who is staying at home? Although it’s fun for the whole family to go trick-or-treating together—e specially when the kids are young—I find that having one parent (if you’re part of a two-parent team) stay home to give out candy and the other parent goes around the neighbourhood with the kids is what typically works best. If you have an older teen who has outgrown trick-or-treating, then he or she might like to be the official candy giver-outer. Another option is to just turn off your lights and go together, but somehow that has never seemed fair to me. Imagine if everyone did that, there would be no homes for the kids to go to!
Walk in groups. This is more fun for the adults and safer for the kids. Coordinate with neighbourhood friends or parents of your children’s school friends to spend the evening together. Alternate years so that the adult who is left at home giving out candy doesn’t feel left out.
When to head out. Start time for trick-or-treating is slightly different for each family depending on the age of your child. Parents with younger children tend to head out as soon as it is even a little bit dark—a round 5:30, whereas older kids are often still ringing doorbells at 9pm. Speaking of which: there is no hard and fast rule as to a cut-off age for trick-or-treating, but my personal preference has been to suggest a cut-off for my kids around the age of 13. Beyond that age, I’d prefer to see kids get together at one another’s houses for a party, encourage my child to wear a costume (if that’s part of the Halloween appeal) and give out candy or buy them a bunch of candy if that’s the motivation for going out.
Collecting candy. One of the best ways we found was to utilize a large canvas bag that can be decorated in advance, or in a large pillow case—king sized perhaps, especially if there are a lot of homes in your neighbourhood. For really little kids, small pails that can regularly be emptied into that pillowcase and carried by a parent may be easier on everyone.
Sorting through their stash. When it comes to safety, sorting through candy is one of the most important parts of Halloween. If you have a child who is allergic to nuts or other foods, this is especially vital. We always created a few piles: to keep (their favourites); to give away or share (such as hard candy or bubble gum if the child is very young, or candy they don’t like); and to throw away (such as unwrapped candies or packets of candy that appear tampered with). We all know that it’s not easy or even developmentally expected that children (especially young ones) will share their “keep” pile with anyone, but requesting one or two items at the time helps our children learn to share.
How much they get to eat. Munching from that pile on the actual night versus how much gets put aside for a later time is dependent on his or her age, how close it is to bedtime and your philosophy on eating candy in general. My personal bias in regards to eating candy on Halloween night is to be a little more liberal than usual, especially if it’s not too close to bedtime.
I have also found that leaving the candy out on the table and letting my children reach in the bowl and take it in the days to follow actually worked to my advantage. Rather than feeling that I was withholding something they had worked hard to earn, and therefore feeling more of an urge to fight me on it, my kids actually ignored most of the candy when it was lying around and within a month or so, I was able to throw the stale candy out.
Whatever you decide—before, during and after—I wish you a hauntingly good Halloween!
It’s fall. The sun is shining…for now. And my kids want to get the most out of the season by staying after school and playing on the playground for hours on end.
Okay, “hours” is exaggerating a little, but with the nice autumn weather, I find myself in the school playground a lot. Most of the time, it’s pretty great, but I have learned quite a few tips over the years to make that time hanging out by the monkey bars a lot more fun.
Remember, no matter how long you stay, it probably won’t be long enough for at least one of your kids. And it will probably be too long for another. But that hour (or more) of playing after school is one of the easiest ways to keep kids active and practicing their different movement skills without them even realizing it. And, I’ll be honest, one of the best ways to avoid the before-dinner witching hour that usually happens if we head straight home.
I’m often surprised by how few families actually stick around after school. While there are certainly times I’m envious of everything those other parents must be accomplishing when they get home right away after school, the truth of what my children and I are accomplishing ourselves makes me so very glad we choose to stay and play.
Stephanie Slate has three adventurous children dictating her every move and spends her days immersed in imaginative play and playground visits. But nights are devoted to her other love: writing. She spends her “free time” freelancing as a content writer and editor for several blogs and websites and hopes, one day, to complete–once she starts, that is–her first novel.