Find Out How To Make Your Tot's First Halloween Special

Bobbing for apples. Scary decorations. Outlandish costumes. Planning a Halloween celebration for older kids is easy. Figuring out how to make the holiday fun for tiny toddlers presents more of a challenge. Here are some age-appropriate Halloween party ideas to make the holiday fun for your little one.
By Mary Fetzer

It’s never too soon to involve a baby in the Halloween festivities. Dressing an infant in an adorable costume is always a hit. Before long, your baby is a toddler and understands that there’s more to Halloween than just looking precious – it’s time for your child’s first Halloween party!

The decorations
It’s tempting to turn your home into a haunted house for Halloween, but fake cobwebs and spooky decorations probably aren’t the best idea for a toddler’s party. Keep the décor bright and cheery. Put smiling faces on your jack-o-lanterns. Hang orange and black streamers. Place festive scarecrows around the party room.

The guest list
Invite your child’s playmates, and encourage at least one parent to stay. Some little ones are terrified of Halloween – the costumes, the decorations, the strangers. Knowing that Mom or Dad is there with them will help them relax and enjoy the fun. You may want to avoid inviting older siblings -- sometimes they just can’t resist scaring the daylights out of their little brothers and sisters.

The costumes
Ask each young guest to arrive in costume. At the beginning of the party, seat the children in a circle and let one child at a time take a place in the center of the circle. When the children guess who their disguised friend is, he or she can sit down and another child takes a turn. Little kids find comfort and relief from exclaiming things like, “That’s not Spiderman, that’s Tyler!” Ask the kids to judge the costumes – scariest, prettiest, or furriest – and award a ribbon or little trinket as a prize. Make sure everyone gets something, even if you have to invent a category such as Most Yellow.

The goodies
There is no need to go overboard with the food. Most of the young guests will be so busy having fun they won’t even think about eating. Serve up some of these easy, kid-friendly Halloween treats:

  • orange gelatin jigglers shaped like pumpkins
  • baked apple slices
  • pumpkin yogurt in Halloween party cups
  • orange sweet potato fries
  • decorated cupcakes or cookies
  • a hollowed-out pumpkin filled with boxes of raisins
  • a pile of loose straw with hidden bags of fruit snacks
  • a black cauldron filled with orange cheese puffs

And don’t forget to put out some grown-up food for the parents that decide to stick around.

The games
Keep game time short – like a toddler’s attention span – and space the games out among other activities:

  • Pin the hat on the witch. Use double-sided tape instead of tacks.
  • Wrap stuffed animals with toilet paper to make mummies. See who’s fastest!
  • Find the ghosts. Hide tissue-covered lollipops throughout the room.

The crafts
Between games and goodies, let the kids unwind with a quiet project or two:

  • Pumpkin decorating. Ask each guest to bring a pumpkin; you supply markers, crayons, foam stickers and paint. It’s a safe, less messy alternative to pumpkin carving. Remind the kids remember to take their pretty pumpkins home when they leave.
  • Finger painting. Squirt orange and black paint onto a paper tablecloth and let the kids create a scary Halloween masterpiece. (You may want them to remove their costumes first!)
  • Edible haunted house. Look online or in craft supply stores to find a kit. Or use a gingerbread house recipe and make substitutions with black licorice, candy corn, Oreos and other ghoulish treats.

The entertainment
Even toddlers love to be entertained. Put on a children’s music CD -- you can find one with Halloween songs at Wal-Mart or Target – and have a mini-monster mash! Let each child partner with a Halloween toy – a stuffed witch or a rubber skeleton, and dance the night away!

The ghost stories
By now, the kids should be just about worn out. Put on a pointed witch’s hat and gather the children around you for an age-appropriate Halloween story. Read a couple not-too-scary seasonal books featuring their favorite characters – Elmo, the Berenstain Bears, Mickey Mouse, and Sponge Bob.

The send off
To end the party, gather each guest’s costume, decorated pumpkin, and awards and put them in a colorful Halloween bag. Add a coloring book and crayons as a takeaway, and send them on their way.

Be sure to take a lot of pictures. It’s only a matter of time before your toddler gives up his one-piece dinosaur costume and moves on to scarier things.

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