Read Part 1 here.
::If you are crafty, consider making your young child a trick-or-treat bag that can be embellished each year. Perhaps you can sit down with your children and cut out a shape on felt and sew it to the bag each year (a leaf, a witch’s hat, a pumpkin). Let them draw a new design on a blank section each year with a fabric pen. Add an embellishment or two that they have collected during the past year (a button, a ribbon, a pin). Let the bags become a canvas for the changes your child experiences as s/he grows from one October to the next.
::Plant bulbs with your children – even toddlers can help with this one (or at least play in the dirt next to you!). Tell them how the earth is about to rest over the winter and how everything will stop growing. Explain what the bulbs are and that you are putting them in their beds and when spring comes, they will wake up and make your yard beautiful and will help support our precious bees by providing them with nectar.
::I’ve talked about creating community for your kids’ trick-or-treating escapades, but if they have their hearts set on the traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, find teachable moments in the activity. Have them take two bags, for instance – one for their candy, and one to contain candy wrapper litter left behind by other trick-or-treaters. Perhaps the child who gathers the most wrapper litter can win an ice cream cone. Use this activity to talk to your kids about littering and most importantly, about trash. Where do all those wrappers go? Can they think of ideas for reducing the trash they make? Open up a dialogue.
If you can, sign up for TerraCycle’s Candy Wrapper Brigade and REALLY get your kids motivated. Every candy wrapper they turn will be worth $0.02 toward the charity of their choice – or their own school! This is a great way to instill a sense of community responsibility in your children and to help them feel the satisfaction of activism.
::Try some DIY decorating, instead of keeping dozens of boxes packed with Halloween knick-knacks. Go out in nature and find vines, branches, fruits, gourds, nuts, dried seed pods… These all make for great decorations. You can even get creative and use these items to make some pretty cool stuff. Check out this branch broom made by Lisa over at My World Edenwild. Just goes to show you can include your toddlers in fun activities like this!
::Take some time to honor your ancestors and loved ones by talking to your kids about those who have passed on. This is the time of year when many cultures take time to remember those who have gone before us – so take advantage of that and dig out the old family photographs, if you have them. Tell your kids as much about their ancestors as you can. Get together with older relatives whenever possible and have them tell the stories of their past. Record them, if you get the chance – you will value these stories so much in years to come! If your children have responded unfavorably to stories about their ancestors in the past, try to make the experience more relatable for them. Think of relatives who shared hobbies with your children, or talk about those ancestors whom your children were named after. Find a thread that connects the past to your children to keep them interested.
::If you really want to honor the ancestors (or a loved one – pets included! – who has passed on) and your kids are older, have a dumb supper every October. A dumb supper is a ritualized dinner, eaten in silence, to honor those who have left this world. No distractions are allowed – no TV, no radio, no iPods, no video games, no cell phones. No talking at all. Set the table for the family, including a place setting for those who have passed at the head of the table, where no one will sit. You can even place photos of those you want to honor and remember here. Be sure to explain to your kids that there is to be no talking during the meal and that it’s a serious matter (hence why doing this with older children is usually a better idea). Serve everyone, including the “ghost plate,” then share a moment of silent prayer for the deceased love one(s). After everyone eats, you can have each person place a letter they’ve written at the empty chair – a letter to a specific lost loved one, or the ancestors, in general. These letters can be saved in a special box, or later burned, letting the smoke carry the words to the heavens. Share one last silent prayer before ending the meal, then take some time to talk about the experience and about those who have passed on. This is an especially nice ritual for those who have recently lost a pet, friend or family member.
There is so much rich history associated with this holiday that we tend to overlook in our society – so much more to Halloween than we realize. See what kinds of beauty you can find in this season with your family that goes beyond costumes and candy.