How to keep Halloween sweet (not spooky!) for toddlers

1. Follow your toddler's lead.

how to make halloween less scary

From ghosts to witches, monsters and skeletons, front porches and storefront windows everywhere tell us that something spooky is in the air.

Halloween can be a lot of ghoulish fun, but it can be truly frightening to your little ones. Your young child is just now figuring out who they are and how they are separate from their parents. Likewise, as they figure out the world around them and how things work, they can't distinguish real from pretend. Just about everything they see, touch or experience is real to their rapidly developing minds. Looking at Halloween through your toddler's eyes makes it easier to understand why the holiday can create anxiety and overwhelm them. So before you head out to trick-or-treat with a child under 5-years-old, keep their perspective in mind.

Here are seven ways to plan a simple, toddler-friendly Halloween:

1. Follow your toddler's lead.

If they want to wear a costume, let them, but if they do not, that is okay, too. Toddlers live in the moment, so their opinion may change on a minute-to-minute basis. Your little may like to dress up around the house on any given day, but if they don't want to put on a costume Halloween night, don't push it. You can always try again next year, or even next week (just for fun!)

Let your child do as much or as little as they want. One of my children (aged 2) loved knocking on doors and couldn't get enough. His brother, 5 years old, was done after just a few apartments and then insisted on returning home. Both were normal reactions.

2. Monitor your child.

Signs that your child is overwhelmed can include getting overly wound up, withdrawing or melting down. Are they clinging more than usual? Sucking their thumb when you don't expect it? Screeching for what appears to be 'no reason'? These are all signs that your child could be worried or upset by all the Halloween stimulation. Stay close to them and plan to leave the festivities if it gets to be too much.

3. Avoid masks.

Masks can be confusing and even terrifying to your child. Toddlers cannot grasp that a mask is temporary. Imagine, for a moment, what a costume looks like from your toddler's point of view—they think, I know I am Me. I know Mommy is mommy. So what does it mean that I am now a dragon? Even more scary to them is that you could change. What does it mean that Mommy is a witch and that Daddy has claws and fangs? What seems to be simple fun to an adult can really confuse your child.

If your child becomes frightened by someone wearing a mask, address their fears with reassurance. You might say, “That mask looks scary, but it can't hurt you. It is not real, but I know it scared you." When you honor your child's fearful feelings like this, they feel comforted that you will take care of them when they are scared.

4. Pre-plan trick-or-treating.

Most young children, especially the itty-bitty ones, don't do well going door to door, at all. If you decide to trick-or-treat, pick a few houses to visit and go on the early side. Ask your friends to answer the door mask-free and to greet your child in a friendly manner. In addition, stay close even when your child is having fun. Being close can help head off meltdowns if they get overwhelmed.

5. Plan alternative celebrations.

Many cities have a version of Boo at the Zoo, an afternoon of Halloween fun with the animals. Many local communities do parties for little ones or you can plan your own event with a few friends. For years, I got together with friends and their young children. Some children dressed in costume, others did not. The children played together, ate sweets and enjoyed the party. No stress, no pressure, and the adults could enjoy it, too.

6. Limit candy.

For many of us, Halloween is an excuse to indulge. (For me, that means Yorks or Mounds bars!) I suggest a middle ground of making it fun with limits. One way to do this is to try playing the “Pick 3" game—choose three pieces of candy to eat now and put away the rest. When mine were younger, I did this and then over the course of the next week or so, I let them pick several pieces a day. They loved deciding on which ones to pick. After that, I declared, “Halloween is over," and we'd say goodbye to the remainder of the candy. Usually they were done with it, too. Some dentist offices will even “buy back" your candy in exchange for toys or other healthier treats.

7. Respect bedtime.

The over-excitement of Halloween plus a late bedtime can be a recipe for behavioral disaster. If you start celebrating early, you can try to follow their normal bedtime routine to minimize too much change at bedtime. Also, keep a noise machine or fan in their room to minimize the sound of trick-or-treaters outside.

However you decide to celebrate on October 31st, keep it as light and low key as you can to maximize the toddler fun and create lasting family memories.

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They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

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This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


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For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.


Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.


Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.


The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

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The Snoo bassinet


Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!


Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.


Crane humidifier

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The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!


Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.


Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

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1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

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