Here’s a confession that I’m not at all ashamed about (for a change): I am a Halloween freak.
I love spooky stuff. I spend a small fortune on pumpkins. I obsessively collect magazine clippings and pin posts on Pinterest about cute, clever Halloween-inspired food. I decorate my apartment with ghosts that shriek when you walk by, and I stretch fake cobwebs over pretty much everything. I really enjoy dressing up. And I love things that scare the living daylights out of me.
Even if you’re not a Halloween nut like I am, you’re probably ridiculously excited about your baby’s first Halloween. There’s just something delicious about an infant in costume, isn’t there? Plus, it’s good, clean, old-fashioned fun.
Things stop being fun, however, when baby freaks out on the big day for any number of reasons. If you haven’t planned strategically, Halloween can become the bad kind of scary in the blink of an eye. The good news is that you can control a lot more of it than you realize.
Here are 13 practical tips to ensure that baby’s first Halloween doesn’t give you nightmares.
Make sure baby’s costume is warm enough.
There’s a good chance that you bought what you thought was the most adorable costume on the planet a while ago, when cold weather was a distant thought. But in a good portion of the country, it will be chilly on the 31st, and nothing ruins a cute picture faster than a bulky winter coat—or a miserable child whose lips are turning blue. So have some unobtrusive layers handy: long-sleeved onesies, fleecy pants, tights, and/or a coordinating coat and hat. If you haven’t bought the costume yet, make sure it’s roomy enough for those layers if you need them, or just pick something warm. I did both of those things with my little guy for his first Halloween. (Warning: Beware of cuteness below!)
Choose a user-friendly costume.
Translation: Something you can get it off in 10 seconds or less if you need to. Exploding diapers happen at the most inconvenient times—usually when we want everything to be perfect.
Pack a pair of Halloween-themed pajamas, just in case.
In case of what? See above.
Do Halloween homework with baby.
Yes, your baby is getting homework, and so are you: Prep baby for the big day with themed books. They’ll give your little one a glimpse of what to expect, even if she doesn’t really understand it all. My son was 10 months old for his first Halloween and my daughter was 3 months old for hers, and this worked brilliantly with both of them. Some of our favorites were (and still are) the lift-the-flap book Where Is Baby’s Pumpkin?, Biscuit’s Pet & Play Halloween, The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin and Trick or Treat with Elmo. The Elmo book is meant for older kids, but both of mine loved its doorbell (a big orange button that you push) and other assorted Halloween sounds.
Practice trick-or-treating at home.
You probably won’t actually be trick-or-treating with an infant unless you also have an older child, but trick-or-treaters might be ringing your bell. Role-playing at home can eliminate some of the anxiety and confusion about why strange-looking, pint-sized people keep coming to the door. Plus, it’s something fun to do with baby during your regular playtime, and who couldn’t use a few new ideas for that?
Yes, you read that right. The simple and sweet game that you play every day can prepare your baby for Halloween by getting her to delight in the unexpected and making potential scares fun.
Put on a spooky soundtrack.
Just search for “spooky Halloween music” on YouTube and have at it. Listen to classical pieces like “Night on Bald Mountain” or Berlioz’s “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath” from Symphonie Fantastique, or sing along to Phantom of the Opera. Don’t worry: The music is only creepy to us because we know its context. For babies, it’s just background music—like really good, really cultured elevator music. There’s also music geared toward kids, like “Five Little Pumpkins/Zombies/Skeletons Jumping on the Bed.” Pick the ghoul you like best.
We met at my place so we could all go out together, but once everyone got there, the kids were happily playing and we were happily drinking wine. So we stayed put, kept the wine flowing, and let the trick-or-treaters come to us instead.
Control your surroundings as much as possible.
Crowds can be overwhelming for infants, so it’s a good idea to visit popular locales at off times or choose a less busy spot altogether. For my son’s first Halloween, my new mom friends and I had planned to stroll the kids around a street in our neighborhood that goes completely berserk with decorating every year. We met at my place so we could all go out together, but once everyone got there, the kids were happily playing and we were happily drinking wine. So we stayed put, kept the wine flowing, and let the trick-or-treaters come to us instead.
If you’re dressing up, don’t go too crazy.
Baby might not take kindly to seeing Mama wearing deathly white foundation and a scary set of fangs. Or, depending on her age and personality, she might like it a little too much and get touchy-feely with said face and fangs. Then you’ll have an outright mess on your hands—and hers.
Be realistic about schedules.
We’re talking about infants, so they may party all night—but only on their terms. Big, new experiences like this can be exhausting, so make sure to work around feedings, nap times and bedtime. Even if things are going beautifully, trust me when I say not to push your luck.
Take the world’s cutest picture of your little lion or beautiful butterfly before you go anywhere.
Do not leave the house without a picture. I repeat: Do not leave the house without a picture—or 300. And don’t wait for friends or family to get there for your mini photo shoot. Have the photo area completely set up before you add in baby, and snap those pictures quickly. Sure, you’ll want to take more pictures later if you’re going out, but there’s no guarantee that baby will still be cooperating at that point. Also, if you have an elaborate set-up in mind, consider taking the pictures on another, low-pressure day. We all know how difficult it can be to get awesome pictures of your kid, so check out these tips on how to do just that.
Bring a stroller and a carrier.
You’ll want the stroller because you might be walking a lot and baby may fall asleep, but you should also bring a carrier in case she’s feeling clingy or uneasy. By snuggling into you, baby will feel safer and might enjoy the festivities for longer.
Above all, follow baby’s lead.
You never know how a kid—especially a kid who’s under 1—is going to react to a street full of weirdos in costumes. If she’s not feeling it for whatever reason, it’s likely time to call it a night and continue your Halloween shenanigans at a kid-friendly restaurant or at home.
So there you have it: a few simple tricks that can make your life exponentially easier—and your Halloween exponentially more amazing. Good luck, and Happy Halloween!
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