Building Halloween traditions with your child

April 2, 2010 7:59:59 AM PDT
Halloween has always been a huge celebration at our house. We stretch it out with activities, home traditions, and of course trick or treating. But, it's not just one night for my 9-year-old son, Jake. It's a month-long event.

We start by decorating several rooms in the house. Now that Jake is older, I let him be the "designer," deciding where to put the many inexpensive Halloween items we've collected over the years. He just loves looking at them and laughing about all the memories conjured up by the stuffed life-sized Halloween cat, plastic pumpkins with spooky candles, the haunted netting we string over a doorway, and the singing ghost... one of those $6.99 versions that plays a tune when you press its ghostly hand. Last year, Jake focused on the hallway, living room, kitchen and his bedroom. We spend an hour on the first weekend of October taping or tacking up the decorations. And of course we can't walk past the singing ghost every day without playing the song a dozen times.

On a different day we decorate our pumpkins for the front stoop. I buy them a month ahead at the Farmer's Market. We usually get 3 pumpkins, of different sizes. Then Jake and I take turns using indelible magic markers drawing scary faces on them. Sometimes we use elaborate patterns that you buy in kits and tack onto the pumpkin. But more often, we design our own ghoulish face. This year he opted to draw the Joker's face from Batman (that was his costume last year and he still loves it!) I usually go for the classic, and simple-to-draw look of a toothy Jack o' Lantern. We leave them uncut but decorated with drawings until the week before Halloween. That's because we learned our lesson the hard way 3 years ago when we carved our pumpkins 3 weeks before Halloween. Dozens of ants and bugs started munching on our pretty pumpkins like a free salad bar. Not only was it gross to see it when we opened the door, but it caved in our precious pumpkins and we had to carve new ones before trick-or-treating. So, now we only do the carvings 6 or 7 days ahead.

As for costumes, Jake has been everything from Woody in Disney's Toy Story, to a pirate, a monster, and Dumbo the elephant. That costume made him cry because the giant ears kept flapping in his face when he was 1 1/2. Now I let him pick out his own costume, which he wears several times: in his school parade on Halloween Day, to parties in the neighborhood, and for trick-or-treating. This year may prove to be a bit trickier. Jake has informed me that at his ripe old age, he doesn't want to trick-or-treat?but he wants to give out the candy. I'm not sure what he'll opt to do about the school parade, but I doubt he will be the only 4th grader NOT in a costume. My bet is, he will have a last-minute change of heart, and beg me at the last minute to get him an outfit. Stay tuned.

Last year, when he was 8-years-old, we also added a new tradition. He wrote a scary original story on the computer and read The Haunted Baseball Diamond, to me. I still have it, and I'm hoping he'll add another chapter to the saga this year, or will start a new story.

On Halloween morning, I always leave a treat on his breakfast plate, a piece of his favorite candy with a homemade note, and I try to add balloons or construction paper letters spelling out his name in orange and black. He loves it!

Hopefully we'll continue our Halloween fun in some form for years to come!