From carving pumpkins to Halloween crafts, this fun holiday provides a great opportunity to bond with your kids.
Get to know Jack
Grown on every continent but Antarctica, pumpkins are an extraordinary looking fruit (yes, fruit!) that kindly appear every year, just in time for Halloween. According to the University of Illinois Extension, the top pumpkin production states are Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California. The most recognizable symbol of the holiday, your Jack o' Lantern crafting must begin with your selection of the ideal pumpkin.
Create anticipation for the trick-or-treaters in your life by making a date with your whole family to visit a pumpkin patch or harvest festival and track down the orange shape that strikes your fancy. Smiles are the order of the day when you venture into a field or farm packed with orange ovals and lopsided gourds. Allow your child to select the pumpkin that tickles their funnybone or just pleases them without reason – perfectly circular pumpkins are not required. In fact, you can teach a lesson during pumpkin picking when you show your child that every fruit on the vine is worthy of a little love.
Complete your mission
Once you've selected your pumpkin (or more than one pumpkin, if you think you have the energy!), don't just let your new addition sit on the front porch. Welcome him home and get creative together coming up with an expression for his blank canvas. Pull out the drawing paper and the markers and let your children doodle, or encourage them to point out the pumpkin face they like best in one of their favorite Halloween books. One note of caution – don't carve your pumpkin too soon because it won't survive more than four or five days. The last thing you want is a Jack o' Lantern with a mushy face!
Halloween decorations are mandatory when you have a toddler. Stock up on the glue, scissors and construction paper and get to creating the best set of five little pumpkins or haunted house you can imagine. Delight your child with your own imaginative embellishments and be sure to include them in the action. Explain the difference between happy and mad pumpkins and narrate the holiday traditions to them as you work together – even play time is an opportunity to teach.
Put on the apron
Together you and your busy Halloweener can let the flour and sugar fly making holiday themed cut-out cookies. Shapes of ghosts, pumpkins and bats are sugar cookie favorites – and don't forget the tubes of icing. Or get sticky dunking your own candy apples and let your child roll them in sprinkles or caramel. It'll get a little messy, but that's half the fun. Sharing kitchen space with tiny hands and big smiles will forge a bond between the two of you that's hard to beat. Food for thought: the University of Illinois also reports that the largest pumpkin pie ever made was more than five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake!
Go out or stay in
Is your little one a bit too small for trick or treating? After you've hit a few houses (or just shown off that pea in a pod or bumblebee costume to the grandparents), hunker down at your house with the outside light on. Your child will be delighted seeing the kids who stop by your door. A night of dressing up and candy eating? Your toddler will learn to adore Halloween and remind you just how worthy of a holiday this is to celebrate, especially when you have kids. Don't neglect to don your own costume and join in the fun.
If your childhood inclinations and spontaneity have abandoned you, there's no time like the present to revel in the face-painting, mask-wearing, costume-donning extravaganza that is October 31 so you can make this holiday magical for your kids. Whatever you end up doing to celebrate All Hallows' Eve in your family, focus on creating traditions that hold meaning for your crew.