Halloween Tips from Karyn O’Brien, School-based Occupational Therapist at Sensational Kids

As we approach Halloween, it’s the perfect time to dive into the enchanting and enigmatic spirit of this spooky season. Even if you don’t partake in the Irish tradition of Samhain (pronounced “s-ow-in”), where the boundary between the living and the departed blurs, you can’t escape the eerie decorations and mischievous vibes in the air. The shelves are stocked with some truly terrifying masks, even for us grown-ups! With fake body parts, skeletons, ghosts, and witches lurking around, it’s easy for the little ones to get overwhelmed during this time of year. So, let’s explore some strategies to help reduce stress as Halloween approaches.

Halloween parades can be a lot of fun, but they can also be sensory overload for children, especially younger ones and those with sensory processing difficulties. You might notice an uptick in meltdowns, anxiety-driven behaviours like overprotectiveness or clinginess, withdrawal, heightened emotions, or just overall fatigue. With this in mind, let’s consider some weatherproof activities that can bring a sense of calm and reassurance to your kids during the mid-term break. These activities can be adjusted to match your child’s abilities. It’s crucial to undertake them when there’s no rush, everyone is well-fed and hydrated, and in a happy mood. Collaborate with your older children in planning the activities to make them feel involved. For the little ones, offer choices based on what you can do with them. For example, “Should we bake cookies or scones? Do you want to dress up for Halloween or not? Would you like to try a mask or some face paint?”

Here are some tips if you’re considering face painting for the first time:

Before Painting:

  • Begin by using a dry make-up sponge and a dry brush on their hands and forearms.
  • Gradually work your way up to the face using the dry sponge and brush.
  • Then, repeat the process with a damp sponge and damp brush, if your child is comfortable with it.

During Painting:

  1. Repeat the process with a small amount of face paint, ensuring it’s not dripping to avoid it running into the eyes. You can test it on your hand first and then apply it to their face.
  2. Show them how easily the paint comes off by wiping it from their hands.
  3. If they are happy with it, go ahead! You can find plenty of ideas and tutorials for face painting on YouTube and Google. However, be mindful of the content, especially when exploring face paint with your child, as there are some very realistic and gory face paintings out there.
  4. Most importantly, enjoy the process, and don’t forget to capture those adorable photos for future reminiscing!

In summary:

  • Let your child decide if they want to try face painting, dress up, or go trick-or-treating, as these activities can be distressing and overwhelming.
  • Halloween can be overwhelming even for kids who aren’t particularly sensitive. The fireworks, unfamiliar sights, and smells, along with the changing seasons, create a lot to process and adapt to, especially for young children. Be gentle and reassuring.
  • Remember that children’s brains are still developing, and logical reasoning skills typically don’t fully develop until around 7-11 years old. Children learn through observation, so be mindful of your cues and behaviour.
  • Have a spooktacular Halloween!