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Subdue the Scary Stuff this Halloween

October 6, 2015
By Heidi Maness Hartwiger - Natural Parent, Natural Child , OVParent

Little kids are pretty sure goblins lurk somewhere between bags of candy corn and creepy Halloween costumes. Recently I was startled into frantic air swats and stifled shrieks as I dodged a tethered mechanical whistling bat, red eyes flickering. It swooped at me as I entered my local craft store. The amused cashiers said I was not the first nor would I be the last bat dodger.

As I recovered, I thought back a couple of years to a little fellow who had a monster fright. Entering a party supply store to pick up something, I heard an hysterical child somewhere deep in the store. I located him cowering among the wedding cake toppers. He was about 4, and his mom appeared about 9 1/2 months pregnant. She whispered, "I can't get him out of the store. He's afraid of the giant inflatable Frankenstein by the door. He didn't see it when we came in, and now he won't walk past it, and I can't pick him up."

After asking permission to talk with her crying son, I sat on the floor beside him. Eventually, we established that he had a granny, and she had special granny powers. I said I was a granny, and if he wanted, I would use my granny power to help. We made a plan. My job was to stand in front of the scary giant with my arms spread wide. His job was to hold his mama's hand and sing the ABC song as he walked out the door. I reassured him that the big fellow would not get past super granny. Out the door they went as he bravely sang his ABCs. The mom looked over her shoulder and mouthed "Thank you."

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Unlike the laughing, mechanical bat-loving craft store cashiers, the sensitive party store folks quickly relocated Frankenstein to another part of the store as soon as the child was gone.

For imaginative children, Halloween fright remains long after candy canes replace candy corn on the shelves.

When I was 4, my teenage aunt read me James Whitcomb Riley's poetry. Her dramatic version of "Little Orphan Annie" scared the bejeepers out of me. The final line, the unpleasant consequence in every verse was, "Or the goblins will get ya, if ya don't watch out!" Being a wild child, I knew goblins lurked behind doors and under beds ready to grab my ankles.

You can neutralize the scary Halloween stuff, yet your kids can enjoy seasonal treats and costumes. No doubt you'll find kindred spirits and support among other parents.

Plan a themed costume party with games and refreshments minus the fright factor. Celebrate the beauty and bounty of the harvest season with apples and pumpkins and popcorn chain decorations.

Here's an easy four-step party organization formula. Provide crayons, paper, stickers, etc. for early arrivals, move to a more organized craft activity or games, serve refreshments, then read a story or show a "party theme"-related movie. All will be calm when the parents arrive. A rule of thumb in planning how many to invite: Take your child's age plus one. To prevent mayhem and preserve your sanity, limit party time for preschoolers to 60 minutes.

Here are three generic party suggestions to get your party ideas flowing.

Old MacDonald's Farm for 3- to 5-year-olds: Kids come in "farmer" play clothes. Have crayons and blank paper ready for early arrivals. Sing/read farm-related nursery rhymes - "Farmer in the Dell," "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," "Duck, Duck Goose," etc. Refreshments: apple juice, oatmeal cookies, cheese chunks, apple and carrot strips with yogurt honey dip, animal crackers, gummy worms, etc. Take it outside and play Find the Lost Animals: Hide plastic farm animals around the yard. Kids keep what they find. Treat bags: Plastic farm animals, pre-party drawing, pack of candy corn, granola bar.

Elegant Royal Party for 5- 8-year-olds: Children come dressed as princesses, princes or knights. Provide star wand or sword, plain headband and a small gift box. Check a party store for inexpensive items including themed paper products. Upon arrival, guests make their own place cards (real name and royalty-for-a-day name) at craft table. Craft table supplies include rolls of 1/8-inch ribbon, beads and glitter pipe cleaners to decorate wand or sword and head band. Provide glitter glue and stickers to transform small plain square gift boxes into jewelry boxes. Word mine: How many smaller words can you make from "Princess Forever" (an individual or group activity). Refreshments: Cranapple/ginger ale fizz, assorted mini muffins, string cheese and fruit kabobs. Read "Princess and the Pea," "Cinderella" or watch a princess-themed movie. Treat bag: While waiting for pickup, go back to the craft table to decorate gift bag. Princesses pick items from a big grab bag (lip gloss, nail polish, lotion, party store necklaces, etc.)

Pirate Party for 5- 8-year-olds: Dress in play clothes. Provide a colorful neck scarf to be worn now and taken home. Provide eye patches, funny glasses and other pirate gear from party store.

Craft table: Make place cards with pirate name on it. Decorate treasure chests using a small box, glitter glue, stickers, gold braid etc. Play the memory game - "When I fill my treasure chest, I will include (item),": the next child adds to the list, etc. Use a jump rope for High Water-Low Water Object: Without touching rope, step over as it is lifted or bend and go under as rope is lowered. Word mine: How many words can you make from "Treasure Chest"? Refreshments: Island Float (fruit punch, ginger ale, scoop of sherbet); treasure chest cake (ice a loaf pound cake and decorate with colored candies and strawberry licorice strips); assorted triangle-cut sandwiches, grape and cheese kabobs, carrot and celery sticks, gummy fish. Show "Treasure Island" or other ocean-action-themed movie. Treat bag: Pirates fill treasure boxes with temporary tattoos, candy necklaces, packets of fish crackers and candy corn.

Heidi Maness Hartwiger, a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is the author of six books, including her most recent, a novel titled "Fire in Progress." She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.



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