All of that aside, my kids love Halloween. Which has made me start to like it too. : )
I don’t think it is just the candy (especially since we don’t eat it, but I’ll get to that in a minute), I think it is being up past bedtime, running around with their friends in the dark while pretending to be, this year, Captain Rex (Star Wars, Nick), a Police Officer (Gabriel) and Lightning McQueen (Matthew, and every other 3-4 year old on the planet).
That said, here is what we do to make sure that Halloween is a success for everyone.
Proprioception: You knew that was comin’, huh? LOL Get some heavy work in! Make sure their bodies are not already over-stimulated. Don’t go to 4 parties, do the corn maze, get their photos taken and then expect them to eat dinner and go Trick or Treating. Keep the day simple and focus on at home activities. Do a Halloween movie, and use a weighted vest or heavy blanket, give them orange yogurt through a straw, or black and orange playdoh to squeeze and cut. Do this throughout the day. (Here is my list of other sensory diet ideas for home). My aim is 20 minutes per hour. Crazy, I know. But ya gotta aim at something!
Full Belly Before Trick Or Treating: I think getting my kids to eat BEFORE we head out is of the UTMOST importance. I need full bellies. We accomplish this by having a neighborhood Pot Luck in the front yard before the Trick Or Treating begins. Not everyone can do this, but the premise is still the same. Feed them lots of carbs (rice if you are GFCF) and protein. Limit the sugars, even natural ones like fruit. We need them to have energy so they don’t crash three houses down.
Plan Your Route: Our plan is rarely to stay out as late as possible or to go to as many houses as possible. We focus on our neighborhood (we have about 75 houses) and we have had to work up to that number. When the kids were younger, it was just our cul-de-sac. Make sure your kids are clear on where you plan to go, and if they are old enough, take a trip around your route before the big night when they are calmer and can see first hand what they will be doing.
Plan Your Return Home BEFORE You Go: You need to have a game plan for the “Let Down MELTDOWN” as I so lovingly refer to it these days. When they get home, what is the plan? What time will it be? How long before bed? How much candy can they have? You need a plan; the kids need to know it, and you NEED TO FOLLOW IT. Don’t get caught up in the “I know we said we’d be home by 9, but Suzie-O wants us to do one more street with her, and the boys really want to….” Bad. Bad. Bad. I’m telling you now, STICK with your gut. If you want to scrap the plan on a different Saturday night for no reason for go it, but don’t have a crazy-ramped up-nighttime-candy-induced-moment-of-delirium when you all of a sudden think your kids “can handle it”. You are NOT Suzie-O and her kids are NOT your kids. Your family functions better when there is a plan and you follow it. Go home.
NO COMPETITION Rule: Trick Or Treating is NOT a competition. Not a competition for who runs fastest, gets the most candy or sees the most friends. This is an activity that requires all of us to be at each door before we ring the doorbell (which they take turns on a strict rotating schedule which includes any neighborhood kids that might be in our “pack”). We go over these rules, again, before we leave the house. I hear you saying “but when I was a kid….”, and again I say, “Your kids are NOT you.” Unfortunately, having boundaries to reinforce the fairness of the activity, allows each kid (SPD, NT or ASD—or any combo) to feel like they are included without hitting a trigger (anxious kids trigger easily; triggers are like feeling left out, feeling ignored, feeling like you are too slow, feeling like you’re the loser each time, etc.). We are looking for FUN not just free candy.
Costumes On, NOW WHAT? Put the costumes on the very last thing possible. How will your child know it is time to go? Talk to them about using their "eyes" to tell when it is time to go. Does everyone have their costume on? Check! Does everyone have their treat bag? Check! Does everyone have their flashlight? Check! Does mom have her camera? Check! Are we ready to play as a team? Check! Giving them a way to know when it is time to go without asking will be helpful in those last tense 5 minutes before the start gun. We don't want a meltdown during those last crucial seconds.
On Your Marks Get Set…..GO! OK, you are prepared, your kids are prepared, and now you must leave. Well, what are you waiting for? Don’t you think you’ve prepped enough? LOL