Eight tips for surviving Halloween with younger kids

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By the time mid-October rolls around, the kids (and if you live in my house, the grownups) are getting excited about Halloween. We love Halloween but OMG the time leading up to the actual holiday is crazy town. Costumes. Parties. Candy. Crafts. If your kids are younger, trying to manage the whole “is this going to be too scary” aspect. Having a semi-sane Halloween with young kids involves a little planning and lots of luck. That's where I come in. 

Here are eight tips for surviving Halloween with kids younger kids (under six or so) and making great memories.

Updated 9/2/2023.

Little child on Halloween.
Image credit: Shutterstock.

1. Pick the costume out early and get it out of the way

I buy my kids’ Halloween costumes as soon as they go on sale right after Valentine’s Day. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but not much. I snag costumes as soon as I see them in the store. I get my pick of sizes and trust me, nothing is worse than telling a four-year-old who wants to be Batman that there are no Batman costumes in his size anywhere within three counties.

I recommend giving kids under six minimal input on costume choices. They're either too young to care about their costumes or are “into” so many cartoon characters that they’ll change their minds on what they want to be for Halloween 486 times before October 30th.

Check out my list of easy (and yes, I really mean easy) DIY costume ideas.

2. Potty planning

Your child will have to pee at some point during the Halloween festivities. Because of course. Have an idea of where and how to make that happen. If potty training is still a new thing and there’s a narrow window between “Mommy I hafta pee” and an accident, you might want to rethink a costume that’s complicated to get out of.

Or, put your child in a pull-up, just in case.

3. Don’t try to do all the things

Trick or treating in your neighborhood? Trunk or treat at your church? And again at your mom’s church and the church down the street that you've never been to? Your local “Zoo boo?” If you play your cards right, your kid can party hard the week leading up to Halloween and snag enough candy to keep 10 children sugared up for days, but is that a good thing?

It’s great that there are so many options for enjoying Halloween, but stop and think before you drag your small human to everything just because you can. If you're into it and your kids are doing well with the Halloween hustle then by all means, carry on, but ease up on the “have to's.”

4. Step away from Pinterest and social media

Anything that sends the message that in order to be a great Halloween mom you must become a whiz at concocting Halloween crafts out of recycled yogurt containers and toilet paper rolls is setting you up for failure. “Easy” projects and treat recipes you should be making with and for your kids can make you feel inferior if you don't have time or don't enjoy making things.  

If you're the crafty type and want to make Halloween crafts or bake fun and spooky treats, go for it, but if the latest viral TikTok craft stresses you out, don't watch. Also, you're doing fine. 

5. Talk to your kids about what to expect

This is really simple, but sometimes we get so caught up in the frenzy that we don’t realize the Halloween festivities are new, unfamiliar, and maybe overwhelming for little goblins. Go over the play-by-play with your kids before trick or treating or any big Halloween events, even if you think they might sort of remember how it went down last. A year is a long time when you're little, so don't assume your kids remember the drill.

Things might change. Your child who wasn't phased by super scary Halloween decorations last year might be fearful this year. Sometimes it helps to set expectations or reassure your child that the people with scary masks are just pretending or letting them know they don't have to approach a house with really spooky decorations. And, be flexible. You can tell your kids “It's not real” but when they see a yard littered with dismembered skeletons, tombstones, and fake entrails, that might be a little too much for them to process.

6. Set limits

This goes along with talking about expectations. I’ve found that trick-or-treating for an hour and then coming home to pass out candy works best. Younger kids might not have the stamina to walk the streets begging for candy for two hours plus. An hour works best for us and everyone knows what’s up ahead of time.

7. Have a candy plan

My candy plan is to sort through all the candy, pick out the quality chocolate for myself – no shame – and let the kids have a free-for-all for one night. After that, everything goes into a bowl and I dole it out, giving a piece for good behavior or throw some in the lunchboxes.

If we have a lot of chocolate, I'll freeze it for cookies or bark later on. 

If the idea of a ton of candy in the house bugs you, try adding the Switch Witch basket to your Halloween lineup. It’s a cute, decorative basket that you enjoy as part of your Halloween décor up until the big night. You use it to display your candy and then after a set number of days “the Switch Witch” comes to take the candy, replacing it with a toy or other fun thing that doesn’t involve sugar. I think the idea of a Switch Witch is kind of BS, mostly because I just can't handle another fictional character. I mean…come on. But, you do you. 

8. Cut them some slack

Your kids probably won’t be on their best behavior on Halloween night. It’s something special and the general vibe of the evening is not the same as every other day, and really, why would it be? Expect hyperactivity, the odd tantrum or two, uncharacteristic shyness, potty accidents, and anything in between.

Teach your kids basic manners, such as saying “Trick or Treat” properly at the doorstep and “Thank you” when someone gives them candy or compliments their costume. Teach them not to say stuff like “Ewww, that looks gross” when some old lady drops Christmas candy from two years ago into their buckets.

And then cut them some slack if they forget their manners or say something embarrassing. Chances are, nothing that happens on Halloween is going to matter in the long run, so keep things in perspective.

Bottom line, trick-or-treating with children under six might require a little more preparation and structure, but it’s worth it. Seeing these little kids’ eyes light up at the magic of Halloween is priceless.

You might also like reading:

Disney Pixar's Coco Coloring Pages

Fun ideas for your fall family bucket list

25 Family Halloween Costumes

Eight tips for surviving Halloween with Younger Kids|Ripped Jeans and Bifocals


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  1. Thanks for the share. I completely love all your tips! Even if we are contributing to the Pinterest brain rots. 😉 I will be using these tips with my 2 and 3 year old!

  2. You make a lot of great points!! I never thought about the potty thing, and we are potty training now!! Glad you brought that to my attention. I always let my little one splurge before he leaves his candy for the switch witch…. I am with you I can handle it for one night, plus there is always the big sugar crash that follows. Enjoy your Snickers and Pinot!

  3. Great post. We have always discussed our expectations with our kids before we head out: Halloween is for having fun. We are *NOT* in a candy race. We will not run or push or shove. We will say “Trick or treat” and “Thank you’ at every house.” And most important of all (to us): You *WILL* trick or treat with your parents. We can steer them away from too-scary things. We can make sure they use their manners and to be courteous. We work on social skills, saying “hello” and complimenting others’ costumes.

  4. I don’t have to deal with little ones any more. But, I am one of those moms who can make a costume. I made my then preteen one last year, it rained & she wore something she threw together. Mostly because it was a queen costume with long cape. Not, that it wasn’t made well. lol This year she already decided she is wearing a dress (she has) & dressing up as Wednesday Adams. I agree get costumes early if you can, on clearance right after Halloween is good too. Great tips for the little ones. As they get older it’s still all about how many houses they can hit & their haul. Insert chaperone and go! Hope you have a great Halloween with the kids.

  5. Oh I’m kind of dreading Halloween when the kids are big enough to want to trick or treat but your tips have reassured me! I’m not particularly crafty either so I really hope they won’t expect me to make any extravagant costumes ha! Great tips 🙂 Thank you so much for linking up to #ParentingPicks Mim x