My son loves Halloween. I mean, LOVES it. To be honest, I’m not really sure how that love started. He didn’t trick-or-treat until his fourth Halloween, so it wasn’t about the candy … at first. He just decided he likes spooky things. The candy was a bonus.
Personally, I don’t love Halloween. But I do love fall, and I love my son. So these days, I’m all in for Halloween. The thing with Halloween, though, is that — as with Valentine’s Day and Easter — for kids, the candy takes center stage.
And while my son is really looking forward to trick-or-treating, what’s interesting to me is that he doesn’t actually eat much of the candy. It’s more about the experience for him. Because of his dairy allergy, we have to take a way a lot of his candy. Then, I remove some more because of the choking hazard and a few others because they appear to be more chemical than anything else.
Last year, he trick-or-treated at his preschool during the day and around the neighborhood in the evening. That meant that even after I removed a large percentage of this candy, he still had more than he should ever eat. Most of it, he never touched.
The candy is quickly forgotten. The dressing up and going door-to-door are what he celebrates. Plus, I have also made it a point to expand our Halloween experience beyond the candy and trick-or-treating. I just think it’s important that holiday memories be about more than collecting candy from our neighbors.
Here are a few ways that we have been celebrating Halloween this season.
My son loves to decorate. At our house, we decorate for the Fourth of July. And Easter and Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, too. There is seldom a time when we don’t have some decor out. but the fall holidays are especially big for us. At the end of September, we took a Friday evening and put out pumpkins and ghosts galore. It was the highlight of his week.
We’ve also spent some time at our local paint-on-pottery place and made decorations. These I’ll treasure forever because they show a progression in my son’s age and will always remind me of the weekend evenings we spent painting and chatting.
My best friend told me about this adorable haunted house kit from Trader Joe’s. So I’ll be heading there asap. Meanwhile, my mom did some pumpkin crafts with my son this weekend. These are fun activities that anyone can do.
Last year, we made Halloween cutout sugar cookies for the first time. It happened to be the day we were being photographed for Taste of Home magazine. And he remembered because a few weeks ago, he asked when we were going to make our Halloween cookies — as if this is a thing we do every year. We recently made those sugar cookies (using Halloween sprinkles, of course!). We will also do these delicious (modified for allergies) pumpkin cookies.
4. Ghost hunts
When my son was little, I’d put him in the stroller and do walks at night. He loved getting out of the house. He still does. Of course, now he can ride his bike or walk himself. Our evening ghost hunts are an opportunity to get a little exercise, look at our neighbors’ decorations, count the ghosts, chat and enjoy the cool evening air.
5. The pumpkin patch
We are very fortunate that there are multiple farms near us, where we can not only pick up a pumpkin and a pie but take part in various outdoor activities. We have a family favorite, and I love that my son remembers it and looks forward to going.
6. Chili night
I love the idea of Halloween being a chili dinner night every year. What a great meal to have in the slow cooker all day. That way we can eat quickly and head out for trick-or-treating. (Here’s one of my favorite chili recipes.)
7. Skull-shaped mini cakes
I saw these adorable Nordic Ware Skull Cakelet Pans in a Sur La Table catalog and fell in love. (When my local store was sold out, I turned to Amazon, of course.) I showed my son the accompanying video, and he got SO excited. He has even made me promise that we won’t tell Daddy we ordered it. He likes thinking that Daddy gets spooked easily, so he thinks it’s HILARIOUS to surprise him with spooky cakelets. We also plan to make skull-shaped ice cubes to go into a simple punch for Halloween night.
For me, fall is about cooler weather and going outside and doing fall things (like going to the pumpkin patch) and eating fall things (like pumpkin cookies and chili and braised spare ribs). It’s never been about All Hallows Eve. But my son’s love of Halloween has converted me.
Still, I believe it’s important that we build traditions and make memories that go beyond candy. That means that when he outgrows trick-or-treating, there will be plenty of other activities we can carry forward. And even in years when he may feel excluded because of his food allergies, there’s lots to look forward to and wonderful memories to make. And it means we’re emphasizing the importance of family and togetherness.
Because while I’m super excited to give Daddy a scare with our skull cakelets and take my son trick-or-treating, there’s so much more to this season that I want him to savor and appreciate.