There’s a sad trend in recent years. Parents and schools are turning their backs on all the glories of Halloween. What used to be a favourite day for kids has now become an occasion for adult hang-wringing, but we all need to just stop sucking the fun out of Halloween!

Bring Back Creativity

Costumes are one of the integral parts of Halloween pleasure. Sure, not all of us have the time, energy, interest or money to make elaborate homemade costumes for our kids, and the costume industry has profited accordingly. Costumes are now a huge business and, in turn, kids are being deprived of the creative stimulation and challenge found in having to think of, design and craft their own Halloween costumes.

I loved raiding my mom’s and grandmother’s old apparel for my Halloween personas. Even if there had been stores or websites available in the 70’s for parents to buy complete costumes-in-a-bag, the old-school sense of value would have prevented them from dropping thirty dollars or more on an outfit only worn once or twice. The closest we got to a store-bought costume were those vinyl jumpsuits that tied at the nape. Remember how they came with razor-edged face masks held in place by a hair-traumatizing elastic around the back of the head and limited vision or air supply? Few kids even wanted those costumes because most of us actually enjoyed the excitement of surprising our friends, family and teachers with the products of our own imaginations. It’s sad that too many of today’s children – my own included – have zero interest in the creative work needed to make a clever costume. So many parents simply dish out at the nearest party supply store because it’s quicker and easier than supporting a child through their own creativity. Where’s the fun in that?

Halloween At School

Schools today are also hiding from Halloween. It’s hard to please everyone, I get that. There are those who don’t participate for religious or other reasons, who can’t afford the climbing costs of Halloween and others who are worried their kids will ingest something they are allergic to, or have a difficult time processing all the stimulation. That’s a load of good reasons to just forget about the day! Yet in my youth, and for many kids still, the highlight of Fall and a return to school is the day of showing off costumes while jamming unhealthy snacks in our mouths and dancing around our desks. Many schools have already eliminated all or most of these festivities with more moving that way. I support accommodation for kids of varied backgrounds and needs, but there are other choices available instead of tossing the baby with the bath water, so to speak.

Schools can help make homemade costumes fun again by challenging all the kids to produce their own outfits. Encourage our kids to use their minds instead of depending on mom and dad’s wallets for entertainment. It’s also not hard to ensure only allergen-free treats are served; that’s already done in every kid’s lunchbox anyway. A school-wide event such as a non-Halloween movie or non-costumed dance party in the gym or library can be facilitated for kids who can’t, or don’t want to, do Halloween with all its trimmings in the individual classrooms. Problem solved – and fun returned for all!

Chill Out About The Candy

Finally, we need to talk about the candy. Seriously, folks. Every year there is more social media discussion about how to encourage kids to donate their candy, the “Switch Fairy” coming to collect it all in exchange for some other non-candy prize, or other ideas that suck the joy out of collecting a bag full of free candy and treats to devour. Is a bit of candy or chips each day for a month or so really harming our kids? Mom of two Natalie Lelacheur-Romero agrees. “I honestly think we have gone too far. The fact that people take the candy away is bothersome to me. People spend money on that candy and then to know that some families just throw it out seems like a waste.” Lelacheur-Romero says it’s a part of her job to teach her kids about moderation and prefers to guide them and let the make good choices.

Kirsten McGoey, mom of three, sees Halloween as a family time. She doesn’t think large sums of money need to be spent to enjoy the occasion. “I advocate for making or buying what you can afford, and enjoying candy, like all things in life, in moderation. Most importantly, though, I think Halloween should be about spending fun time together as a family.”

In our age of parenting without the word “no” and few, if any, boundaries, most parents may simply be taking the path of least resistance rather than deal with the whining that often comes with limits. Parents of previous generations let their kids have a little candy at a time, then consumed copious amounts as kids slept (despite their sugar consumption!), unaware of the disappearing stock. And all of those kids survived. Teeth didn’t fall out and teachers managed to maintain control of classes even when a treat or two was eaten at lunch hour. Even parents of kids with life-threatening food allergies can replace the shelled-out goods with treats that won’t harm their children. There is always a solution that can retain the fun for everyone.

Today, our kids’ healthy self-esteem is paramount, so perhaps parents and schools need to take a second look at how sucking the fun out of Halloween may be a lost opportunity to give our kids more than just a bag of candy.

Jackie Gillard is a freelance writer who lives on the suburban fringe of Toronto. Between writing the thousands of stories she has in her mind, she is busy as the second wife to her second husband (no, she’s not a sister-wife) and mom to a nine-going-on-nineteen-year-old daughter and a teen stepson. Coffee fuels her days and she used to enjoy wine occasionally in the evenings, but now generally falls asleep after saying goodnight to her daughter. You’ll find links to Jackie’s published work on her neglected blog MyPapayaJambalaya or you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram to see what shenanigans she’s up to.