Many early childhood educators have questions about how to approach the holidays. Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves offers useful information and tools for teachers as they consider the specific families in their program. Here are some ideas excerpted from the chapter titled “Learning About Holidays & Fairness.”
Many children have fun every year celebrating Halloween in their neighborhoods, schools, and early childhood programs. At the same time, however, its associations with witches, ghosts, and evil make Halloween problematic for some families, including some fundamentalist Christian, Jehovah’s Witness, and immigrant families. Still other families do not like the traditional gorging on sugar that follows trick-or-treating, or they no longer allow their children to go out at all because of their fears about possible harm. Commercialism also has turned Halloween into a time when parents feel pressured to buy expensive candy and ready-made costumes that sometimes are inconsistent with their values or budgets. In addition, children under 4 may find some of the costumes frightening. For one or more of these reasons, some early childhood programs decide not to include Halloween in their curriculum or to modify how they do Halloween activities.
Designing new ways to do Halloween activities
Take into account approaches and concerns of specific families, adapt your activities, or create new ones.
Involve children in making Halloween masks (and perhaps costumes). Display the finished masks in the classroom or let children wear their costumes for a parade at school. Besides helping to reduce the emphasis on commercial costumes and masks, this activity is a way of lessening the fears many preschoolers have of the masked figures that appear on Halloween.
Provide a Halloween substitute. If some families do not want their children engaged in any traditional Halloween activities, consider creating an alternative celebration. For example, substitute dress-up costumes that children put together from the program’s costume and scarf box and have a parade. Here’s what Debbie Ravaçon’s program did:
When I started as director, I wanted to change our traditional Halloween practice of taking the children in costumes around the college to get candy. Children got scared, some families kept their children home that day, and the quantity of candy violated the center’s commitment to healthy eating. The staff struggled with what to do because they enjoyed the activity themselves. Eventually, we agreed on doing a child-made funny hat parade around the college, with no candy. We also let the whole college know why we made these changes.