“Life is a journey, not a destination,” said poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Replace the word, “life” with “Halloween” and you have a pretty compelling argument for having fun this month without being too fixated on the day itself! Probably not Emerson’s original intention, but that’s ok…
Sensory-overload parties and crazed-sugar-rushes can lead to day-of meltdowns (aren’t you getting excited?) – October 31st can be pretty hit or miss. So it’s probably best to tap into your inner-Emerson and appreciate the “journey” of Halloween most of all.
That includes carving out time to play with your kids in their character.
Some dramatic play games will give a little structure to imaginative-free-for-all that can be hard for us parents to hook into. But beyond that, playing games can help with executive functioning skills and beyond. Psychologists call this “scaffolding play”. Scaffolding describes the ways that adults can build a game – through the premise and the questions along the way – so that kids can solve problems or meet goals that they normally would not be challenged enough to do.
Here are three of my favorite ways to engage those dramatic play muscles and scaffold some quality Halloween playtime.
Chow Down in Character
Have your kids to do everything from setting the table to scraping their plates in character. Obvious pitfalls here are inviting the Hulk to eat chicken tenders or the Wicked Witch of the West to rinse her plate (“Water will make me melt!!”). But, hey – it’s all in the service of “getting into character!” You can have a conversation with your child as they munch or slurp. Finding out how they eat, what their food preferences are, or really just how their (“character’s) day was over a meal will likely be hilarious, illuminating and messy. Extra napkins are encouraged.
The Tonight Show with Special Guest _______(Your kid’s Halloween Character!)
Help kids flesh out their “back story” in a lively and goofy way: You take on the character of an interviewing TV host and they are the guest celebrity. Self-consciousness fades away because you are giving them status as a “famous” character worthy of an interview – so whatever they say is right. Kids also come up with creative histories/persona’s for their characters because they are speaking in the 1st person. Siblings or friends can be the TV audience and ask questions, and you can also come up with specific talking points that will help them along in their understanding of character. So that it doesn’t just feel like question-answer format, you can ask them to perform their special “yowl” or sing along to their character’s hit song. If they have a special physical trick or stunt (like disappearing or telling fortunes), by all means, they should do that on the talk show!
This is especially great if they are dressing up as someone who doesn’t have a backstory handed to them from a movie or a book. The “black cat”, “Dragon” “Voodoo-doll” deserves to have their story known and told. But it was also great to hear more specifically about characters that we think we know about (“Jasmine, what is your biggest pet peeve about living in the castle?” “Olaf, what was going through your mind when you saw Anna turning to ice?” etc.). Try to keep the questions open-ended so that they can’t just answer in “yes” or “no”.
Make a Commercial
At Child’s Play NY we love to make commercials for products that our characters use. It gets kids working together in creative off-script ways, while still thinking about their character and then things they find indispensible. This is fun to play on a playdate, for a Halloween party game or among siblings too since it is really collaborative. Scaffold their playing by having them follow these instructions:
- Get a clear product and really pitch it! A witch might sell a cauldron, Harry Potter’s wand, Cinderella, her glass slipper. Frame it by a question: “Are you thirsty for the most delicious drink? Try our famous Frobscottle made by The BFG…” or
- Have a jingle – create a silly song or rhyme about the product.
- Make a mini sketch or re-enactment. Go a step beyond just saying what the product is and why we should buy it! What happens if you leave home without your magic carpet? Or how blissful is your life when you put on your mermaid tail? Just like good writing and acting, we want to see it in action, so have them “show” about the product – not simply “tell” about it.
So now it doesn’t have to be about who got the most candy, or how many parties you made it to. You and your kids can relish the playful-potential of the holiday and enjoy the “journey” of Halloween!