With Halloween coming up we are all looking forward to all the fun festivities with our kids: costume parties, pumpkin patches, haunted houses and trick-or-treating to name a few. One tip we always give our parents when it comes to helping their child be successful during holiday events is to PRACTICE. Since these events are something we only do once a year, practicing to make it a familiar routine will help them participate within each activity when the big day actually comes. How do we do this? Pretend play is an excellent way to help your child become familiar with different things they may come across during Halloween time. Pretend play also naturally builds vocabulary, social language and social skills.
For example, if your child attempts trick-or-treating on the night of Halloween without any previous practice, this can be overwhelming. Their street and yard will look different. There will be kids everywhere in unusual (and sometimes scary) outfits, masks and face paint. There will be lots of noise. It will probably be dark, which your child may not be used to. Then there is the safety factor of walking to each house. There’s the anticipation of wondering who in the world is going to answer the door and what is going to happen. This may cause some anxiety or uncertainty. There’s the concept of not being able to eat all the candy as soon as you receive it. So many elements to trick-or-treating! Practicing in advance will help your child work through all these unfamiliar elements and be the most prepared they can be. Some things might still be difficult, but you are giving your child tools to do their best on a special social day.
Here are a few fun examples of Halloween and fall-inspired pretend play activities that will help your child become more familiar with everything as well as build on their vocabulary and social skills within each activity:
Pretend Dress-up With Halloween Characters
Playing pretend dress-up with Halloween characters helps your child become more familiar with wearing a costume and with some of the characters they may see at parties or trick-or-treating. Start by gathering some costumes and accessories of familiar Halloween characters. Then create simple pretend routines for each character. Model each pretend routine first and the then let your child take a turn.
Here are a few ideas:
Frankenstein: mask, black t-shirt and old blazer
Pretend: Hold arms out in front, stomp around, and say, “Errr!”
Witch: black gown, witch hat and broom
Pretend: get on broom, fly around on broom and say, “Eeeeeee!”
Ghost: white sheet with two holes cut out for the eyes
Pretend: hold arms out on sides and say, “Oooooo!”
Black cat: cat ears or cat mask and tail
Pretend: crawl on the floor and say, “Meow!”
You can add in any characters you wish and make the pretend play as simple or as complex as you would like, depending on your child’s level of pretend play skills. Your child may not want to wear the items initially. This is okay. The more they watch you wear the items and they more you allow your child to touch and manipulate the items freely, the more likely the will be willing to try them on.
Pretend Pumpkin Patch Activities
Going to a pumpkin patch is a favorite fall activity for many families. Playing pretend pumpkin patch at home can be a fun way to practice. First gather all the materials you will need and then set them up. You can set up each station of the pumpkin patch in different rooms or in different areas of one room.
Here are a few ideas:
Materials: cardboard box or laundry basket, pretend hay
Set up: Put the pretend hay in the basket or box
Pretend: Have the child get in the “wagon” and the adult push the child around for the hayride. As they ride talk about things they see along the way, “Look pumpkins!” You can also use an actual wagon if you have one.
Pretend Corn Maze
Materials: masking tape, pretend corn or pictures of corn
Set up: Put the masking tape on the floor in a maze formation. Then put the pretend corn or pictures of corn along the maze
Pretend: Walk along the line and talk about the corn you see along the way, “Look yellow corn!”
Pretend Pumpkin Patch
Materials: pumpkins and gourds with different shapes and sizes, basket for the pumpkins
Set up: Arrange the pumpkins and gourds on the floor or a table
Pretend: Walk around the patch talking about the pumpkins, “Look big pumpkin!” Then pick out a pumpkin and put it in the basket. You can also practice taking pictures of your child with the pumpkins and gourds if you want to take pictures of your child at an actual pumpkin patch later.
Practicing trick-or-treating is a great way to help your child prepare for the big day and it is something you can do with the whole family. There are a lot of different ways to do this at home.
Materials: Halloween decorations (this can be as simple as pictures printed or cut out of a magazine), costume, goodie bag or basket, small toys the child already has
Set up: Put up the Halloween decorations around the door of different rooms in the house. Have one family member wait in each room with a toy. Then close the door.
Pretend: Have the child dress up in their costume. One parent can walk the child around to each room. Have them knock on the door and say, “Trick-or-treat!” The family member then opens the door and puts the toy in their bag. You may have to model this a few times. After you go to every room. Walk back to the starting room to talk about all the goodies they got, “Look! Blue truck!”
Transaction Support Helpers
Providing your child with some transactional supports throughout these pretend play activities is a great way to help your child attend to the activity, increase their understanding and comment within each activity.
-Visuals: Since our kids think in pictures, providing them with visual supports will help them immensely. One visual to use would be a “how-to” list for the activity. We use the Boardmaker® software to create play activity boards like the ones seen in the pictures. You can also write out a list and use stick figure pictures. You can use these not only with the pretend play, but also during the actual event.
To purchase your very own pretend visual collection, check out our KidSpeak Store at (scroll to middle of page for Custom Visuals): http://kidspeakdallas.com/products-page
-Singing: Singing is an incredible support for our kiddos. You can sing about what you are doing in the activity to help them attend and understand the routine. For example, within pretend trick-or-treat you can sing (to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”), “We’re walking to the door, walking to the door, walking to the doooor, and now it’s time to stop.” You can also sing songs related to the theme of the activity: Five Little Pumpkins, It’s Halloween, Three Little Witches and lots more.
-Videos: Try videoing your child engaging in the above pretend play activities and then watch them together. This is a very helpful visual and cognitive support that will help your child remember the routines and have positive social memories and associations with the routines. For instance, if you practice and play pretend trick-or-treating AND watch videos of your child doing so, they will be much more likely to engage in actual trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Playing these pretend activities with your child is a fun way to help be successful during Halloween. The more you play and practice these activities the more they become a familiar routine, which will help increase their understanding and enjoyment during the real event. We hope you and your family enjoys these activities and has a Happy Halloween!
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