Halfway to Halloween and Counting the Days

    Dear Parent Coach,
    My children have been very excited about Halloween for a couple of weeks already and they’ve changed costume ideas numerous times, including complicated choices requiring me to sew. How do I get a final costume decision out of them that will stick? Also, what are safe Halloween activities for them — ages 3, 5, and 8. And what about the candy? Help!
    Costume Coordinator

    Dear Costume Coordinator,
    Halloween rates as one of the most beloved holidays among children. Some would even choose it over Christmas. So it’s not surprising that your children are enjoying plotting and planning their hallowed eve far in advance.
    The weather certainly is no indication that fall has arrived, but when we start to see orange and black pop up around town, we realize we are into a new season, and children especially take notice.
    Perhaps Halloween’s popularity with the younger set stems from the fact that it includes the child-like elements of pretending to be someone else, playing make-believe by wearing imaginative disguises and venturing out at night, which is borderline scary. And, of course, the thought of an endless supply of candy and treats attracts children (and dads alike).
    In recent years, it seems as though adults have also caught the “Halloween Bug.” Many have seized on the holiday as an opportunity to host large parties for friends, and in addition, on Oct. 31 or the day before, one may be assisted by a witch at the local bank or served a salad by Dorothy of Oz at a favorite restaurant.
    Adults are taking their cue from children, seeing the value in exercising a little make-believe for themselves as well. Life tends to weigh heavy at times, this election year being no exception, and Halloween provides the excuse to just relax and play a little. But in the end, Halloween ultimately belongs to children.
    It has no doubt been fun for your children to imagine themselves as all sorts of alien creatures, animals, athletic or TV personalities, or literary characters out of favorite childhood storybooks. Anyone for Harry Potter this year?
    The act of imagining is a big part of the fun. But at some point for your sake, a final decision needs to be made and the costume pieces procured.
    As the family costume coordinator, you need to call a Halloween Meeting, and gently direct your young goblins to choose something that 1) they’ll love to wear, 2) that is age appropriate, 3) that is affordable, 4) that is safe to walk in, 5) and that you can find at the thrift store, or ready-made at someplace like Target (if you don’t want to burn the midnight oil crafting a ladybug, a gorilla and a wizard costume).
    Activities for young ones your children’s ages should be safe and simple. Trick or treating, of course, is a must, and starting early before dark may be best, with Mom or Dad leading the way. Local businesses often get in the spirit and offer treats to those coming to their store doors along the boulevard.
    Many schools plan carnivals where children can wear costumes, see their friends, and enjoy the festivities all in the magic of evening and in a safe atmosphere, accompanied by parents.
    Enjoy every minute of these holiday celebrations with your family. These years of imaginative play with your children are only too fleeting and you won’t want to miss a minute of them. So don a hat and a mask, and head out with your children in search of those Snickers bars.

    1. Have a costume-planning meeting and invite your children to list their top three costume ideas.
    2. Be clear about what you’re willing to do, suggest compromises if necessary, and don’t let “costume competition” with others throw you off.
    3. Mark a deadline on the calendar for final costume decisions. No changes allowed after this.
    4. Your 3-year-old would do best with simple tights, turtleneck, and an animal nose with face paint.
    5. Spend a fun Saturday with your 5 and 8-year-old gathering all the elements of their costumes. Stick with the plan.
    6. Plan a family Halloween Eve, including early trick or treating with a parent, and perhaps a gathering afterward with family friends to bob for apples, twirl caramel apples and play games. Because Halloween is on Monday this year, consider celebrating on the Saturday or Sunday before.
    7. Allow your children to choose 10 favorite pieces of trick or treat candy. Then leave the rest designated for the “Sugar Fairy” when they go to bed. In the morning, the candy will be gone, replaced by a book or toy (some dads like to play “sugar fairy”). Candy can also be donated to local charities.
    8. Take plenty of photos of your children in costumes — one mom frames these and displays them on her piano year after year.