I am a huge advocate of enjoying the innocence of childhood. In my house make believe, imagination and fun are king.
It’s at this time of year I start to read lots of debates about Halloween, whether you ‘celebrate’ it or not in the modern way of dressing up and trick or treating, or whether that is somehow detrimental to children, especially under the ages of 6 because it is introducing fantasy and they can’t differentiate between that and reality. As some of you may know, my boys go to a montessori school and traditionally, Montessori take the stance that ‘fantasy’ isn’t great for children under the age of 6, however dressing up is part of learning through play so is actively encouraged.
I just can’t help but feel that this underestimates our kids and is so desperately frustrating!
Where is the sense of fun? What is wrong with dressing up as a vampire and enjoying a bit of face paint, don’t you remember doing that as a child and having so very much fun!? I understand that children are easily moulded and so terribly impressionable – god don’t we all lie awake at night and worry about how impressionable our children are? – but if Halloween is dressed up as something fun and ‘make believe’ then I can’t see how children won’t enjoy it and will be given a skewed perception of reality that will terrify them. There perception should be skewed shouldn’t it? Isn’t that the magic of childhood, the innocence that is taken all too soon? We believe in the impossible, we dream up the magnificent. In a child’s world a dragon can be your best friend, a teddy can come to life and the world isn’t such a bad place. Doesn’t everyone want that wonderful imagination to bloom?
For our Halloween this year I fully intend for the boys to dress up and visit a few of our friends and families houses (we are in an area where there are a lot of elderly people who don’t want to be disturbed, so we stick to the rule that if a house has decorations up, or if we know the family and they have kids we will visit, if not we assume our visit might not be welcome). We will carve pumpkins, we will tell ghoulish stories and our tea time that night will be a feast of gory and gross things – witches fingers, eyeballs, bogey mash and more (I know, Daddy is so excited to come home on that night!). Throughout the whole thing I can’t imagine that either of the boys will be afraid or lose perspective of what is real, mainly because they are children and their idea of reality and fantasy is skewed anyway, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The boys understand that the ‘witches’ and ‘ghouls’ are nothing to be afraid of, they won’t come and “get them” or hurt them, but in the same sense that I don’t want to take away their innocence, and I don’t feel the need to deprive them of enjoying their childhood fantasies, I also feel that to have the good without the bad and the scary won’t help them at all with the realities of the world when they come to learn them. There is, and always will be, good and bad… even in make believe.
I also think it’s important for children to celebrate the reality of Halloween. My boys haven’t lost anyone that they are close to yet, however I will be taking the time to explain to them that, although we love the Halloween that encompasses sweets and games, there is a side to it that is about celebrating the people who went before us and remembering them. For that side of Halloween I thought we could make a number of different crafts that we can hang around our house, and talk about things. When the boys are older and have experienced loss we will take the chance to visit the graves of our loved ones and remember them as they were.
So I want to know, what do you do with Halloween? I don’t judge anyone for choosing to do it differently to us, and I think that’s how we should all be. Please share your thoughts, even if they differ from mine 🙂