Trick-or-treating is the highlight of Halloween for many kids. But for some, the noise, crowds, and excitement can make it a difficult experience. That’s especially true of kids with and challenges.
If your child has trouble with self-control or sensory overload, you might want to skip this tradition entirely. But there are ways to make trick-or-treating more ADHD and sensory-friendly for kids who’d like to participate.
Here are four fun alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating.
1. Make and deliver “boo” bags.
Ringing doorbells on crowded, dark streets can be challenging for kids. Kids with ADHD may have trouble staying with the group or following safety rules. “Boo” bags are a fun way for kids to safely enjoy the thrill of ringing doorbells.
To get started, make Halloween goody bags with your child. Fill them with candy, homemade treats, or nonfood alternatives like homemade slime. A few days before Halloween, deliver them to friends’ or neighbors’ houses. Have your child ring the doorbell, drop the bag, and dash.
Leave a note in the bag explaining that they’ve been “booed” by your child. And encourage them to “boo” your child and other friends in return.
2. Trick-or-treat during the day.
The crowds, flashing decorations, and darkness of trick-or-treating can be overwhelming, especially for kids with sensory processing challenges. One way to avoid sensory overload is to trick-or-treat during daylight or dusk.
Find out if any local stores, recreation centers, or parks offer daytime trick-or-treating. Or ask your neighbors if you can bring your child to their homes before nightfall — and before the crowds.
3. Attend a candy hunt or “trunk-or-treat.”
Going from door to door can be hard for kids who have trouble switching gears, including kids with ADHD. They may struggle when it’s time to stop trick-or-treating, even if you remind them repeatedly what time you’re stopping or how many houses you’re going to visit.
One way to limit transition battles is by having a one-time event. Invite a small group of kids to participate in a Halloween candy hunt. Hide treats in your home, yard, or local park. Have the kids hunt for the treats. Once the kids find them all, the hunt clearly ends.
You could also go to a “trunk-or-treat” event if there’s one in your community. These events tend to get crowded. But they’re a good option for kids who need a firm boundary of when to stop. You can make it clear that trunk-or-treating is over once your child has visited each trunk.
4. Host a Halloween party.
Hosting a party might sound like too much work. But if you keep the party small and tailored to your child’s needs, it may save you from Halloween headaches.
For kids with lots of energy, host a Halloween dance party. Kids can get rid of excess energy in the safety and limited space of your home. For kids who do best with quiet activities, pick a kid-friendly Halloween movie to watch. And for kids who don’t want to wear itchy costumes, dressing up is optional.
Ask your party guests to bring over treats to exchange with each other. For dessert or throughout the evening, guests can pick treats from a candy bowl.
No matter what activity you choose, for some kids, the most challenging part of Halloween is going to bed. To help kids transition, make a wind-down ritual part of Halloween night. Younger kids might take a bath and then read a Halloween story. Older kids might quietly count or sort their candy while listening to soothing music.
About the author
About the author
Gretchen Vierstra, MA is the managing editor at Understood and co-host of the “In It” podcast. She’s a former educator with experience teaching and designing programs in schools, organizations, and online learning spaces.
Andrew Kahn, PsyD is a licensed psychologist who focuses on ADHD, learning differences, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, behavior challenges, executive function, and emotional regulation.