Children love to scare themselves silly at Halloween. But what’s even scarier is the amount of sweets they get on the night, says Áilín Quinlan.
IT’S a night of ghosties and ghoulies and all things ghastly — among them the food colourings and preservatives in the avalanche of brightly-coloured sweets which are the hallmark of a successful Halloween.
But what can a parent do about the massive sugar-and-chemical overload, which is such a part of Halloween and can send little sweet-gobblers into a hyper-active spin?
Plenty, says child and adolescent psychologist, Kate Byrne, who advises that the trick is to start early.
About five days before Halloween, says Byrne, start talking about the arrangements for the big night. Discuss what the child will wear, what time he or she will go out, who with, for how long, and crucially, what will happen with the resultant haul of sweets.
“Explain to the child that he or she will get a bag full of sweets and crisps and junk, and that it’s not good for you or your teeth to have a load of sweets in one go,” she suggests.
Then make a bet.
“Say, ‘I bet you can’t make them last a week’!”
Together you decide to divide the haul up into little bags, one of which can be enjoyed on Halloween, and one on each subsequent day after dinner — as long as teeth are brushed afterwards.
“Explain that the child will first take all the fruit and nuts out,” says Byrne.
There may be sweets in the haul that they won’t like, says Byrne – it’s a good idea to suggest that these can be swopped with siblings or put into the bowl for other Halloween callers.
After the Halloween outing, she says, sit down with the child and divvy up the sweets equally into six or seven little plastic bags which are then put into a safe keeping place to be doled out over subsequent days.
Each of the children can also contribute something to the ‘Mummy/ Daddy Bag’— that ensures parents don’t pilfer their children’s hoard of treats and it also encourages sharing.
Treats are only part of the fun. Getting dressed up and scaring the neighbours is just as enjoyable.
Byrne advises that they stay in a group and adequately supervised, either by an older sibling or a parent.
“I would give mine a particular radius beyond which they were not to go,” she says, adding that she also requested them not to call to houses which were not decorated or specially lit for Halloween.
Afterwards, turn Halloween into a family night— tell a ghost story, watch a Halloween-themed film or play one of the many traditional Halloween games, she suggests, adding, that if you want to use fireworks, make sure they are legal while ensuring safety is of paramount importance when handling them.
Popular Halloween games to play include Bobbing for Apples, Swinging for Apples, The Mummy Wrap or The Dead Man’s Last Meal.
For Apple-Bobbing, fill about three-quarters of a large bowl with water, drop in some several apples, and let each child have a go at trying to catch them — with their hands behind their backs.
For Swinging Apples tie a string around an apple stem and hang the fruit from the door — the children can take turns biting into the swinging fruit with their hands behind their backs.
All you need for The Mummy Wrap is a few rolls of toilet paper – teams compete to be the first to wrap on person up as a ‘mummy’ using the toilet paper – the team that finishes first wins the game. Preparation for the Dead Man’s Last Meal can be great fun – simply make up some bowls of different foods – for example, peeled grapes, cold spaghetti, bowls of cold pasta shapes and runny jelly- anything, in fact, that is slimy or unpleasant to the touch. Blindfold the children and get them to pick things out of the bowls and guess what the Dead Man ate for his Last Meal!
Be safe and seen on Halloween night
Simple tips from Community Garda Damian White of Bandon Garda Station, and the Road Safety Authority, to keep your little ones safe and seen on Halloween:
* When planning your child’s costume, be aware that masks, big hats, and other costume accessories can obstruct vision – so stay with them. Try to avoid costumes that are billowing or too long as they increase the chances your child tripping, especially when crossing the road, advises Moyagh Murdock, CEO, Road Safety Authority.
* Always accompany children who are going out Trick or Treating on Halloween, counsels Garda White and keep a close eye on them:
“Children get very excited and may dash across the road or pop out suddenly in front of a motorist from between parked cars,” he warns. The Road Safety Authority recommends that all children under the age of 12 be accompanied by an adult.
* Before leaving the house, take the time to speak about safe road behaviour, advises Garda White. Emphasise the importance of staying on the footpath where at all possible – or, alternatively, keeping in as close as possible to the side of the road, he advises.
Says Murdock: “Children will often be so excited about going trick-or-treating that they may not hear or heed your warnings if you bring up safety tips when you are actually out and about.”
* Ensure children stay in a tight-knit group which can be easily supervised and controlled. Do not allow stragglers as they could stray out into the road behind your back, Garda White warns.
* Remember, the clocks will have changed and it will be darker than usual on Halloween.
It’s a good idea for adults to carry a torch and to encourage children to carry Glow-Sticks, which can be incorporated into their Halloween costumes — these make them visible and alerts traffic to their presence.
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