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Halloween – A Trick or a Treat?

Carol Duffy


Tuesday 30 October 2018

Coming so soon after the settling in period, for many children Halloween is often a mixed bag of tricks and treats. On the one hand it can be a treat, a time of great excitement negotiating the emotions of scary and funny, the concepts of real and pretend, and the delights of being out in the dark. All of this wrapped up in the fun of dress up, and parties with fun food and games. On the other hand, it can often be a tricky time for early years settings. We all know some children (and indeed adults) who revel in this excitement and those who recoil with fright any time a mask or spider appears. Getting the balance right among the mixed ages and the mixed emotions of the children in your care takes thought and care. You may also have families who don’t celebrate Halloween at all, while others embrace it fully with dress up, fireworks, bonfires etc.

Over the years I have seen many examples of Halloween celebrations, from the simple understated Halloween party to the all-embracing decorated dress up of people and place. I am reminded of a setting a few years ago who held a night session of tales and stories. The thrill of going to playgroup in the dark of night offered an exciting experience. The fairy lights and decorations that adorned the building gave a magical air of mystery to the setting and was fondly remembered by the children and families long after the event.

Other settings have decided that their outside space offers the perfect place for a community bonfire where the families of those attending can experience a magical Halloween experience. Even the youngest of children can feel safe and secure to experience the magic of flame lit shadows and bursts of firework light while their older siblings sing their Halloween songs and share their Halloween treats.

However, many of the Halloween parties held in early years centres happen prior to Halloween night as many children are on mid-term break for Halloween itself. Do you allow time on their return to chat about Halloween and their experience of it? Do you collect their words, drawings, images?

As the children tell you what they saw, and what they did, a rich tapestry of stories and images will unfold. The diversity of experiences will create a true picture of what Halloween means for them. It can be different for every family. Collecting these stories, images, and drawings in your group journal or on a poster page can provide a real example of identity and belonging as each child’s experience, and emotions are acknowledged and validated.

The mixed bag of seasonal tricks and treats can continue as Autumn falls at our feet and offers us a harvest of vivid colours, crunching sounds, changing flora, fauna, changing weather and hibernating animals. The trick for us educators is in making such events relevant to the children and seeing it from their perspective and experience. The treat is in the funds of knowledge they will share with us. For when children are connected to nature’s bounty they see things in their own unique way. They help us to see the world through their eyes renewing us with their sense of wonder and awe.


Carol Duffy (MA in Early Years Education) is an Early Childhood Specialist with Early Childhood Ireland. She has worked in the sector for over thirty five years, as an early year’s educator, lecturer, and mentor. She is passionate about young children’s access to nature and outdoor play. She is also an advocate for meaningful observation and documentation that motivates educators and showcases children’s lives, loves, and learning. 

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