Written by Jonathan Wojcik

October 22: Halloween Alternatives for Sheltered Children

   It's not a subject I usually like to acknowledge, but amazingly enough, some families in America actively dislike Halloween. Some deluded people out there actually believe that the festival's "supernatural" themes are legitimately dangerous to their immortal souls, rather than outlandish fantasy no reasonable person could ever take seriously. Some are even convinced that Halloween has roots in the worship of demonic figures, rather than its actual roots in what Historians best describe as "meaningless nonsense." Other, less religiously inclined killjoys just don't think all the imagery of death and terror is healthy for their precious little snowflakes, who, if allowed to go trick-or-treating at all, are forced to wear humiliatingly "cute" costumes and guided door to door by parents who see the world through ped-o-vision goggles.

   Ask enough people raised in an environment like this, and you'll find a staggering number who resent missing out on the same fun as the rest of their neighborhood, and became avid Halloween lovers the moment they attained an ounce of adult independence.

   I'm not going to rant about the laundry list of reasons why various anti-Halloween sentiments are depressingly misguided. I know I won't be convincing anybody to re-think their faith anytime soon. Instead, I'm going to take the high ground and kindly suggesting that even if you believe your progeny will burn forever for dressing like Darth Vader on a particular day of the year (or disappear into a creepy white van if you let them outside after four in the afternoon), they still don't have to miss out on some spooky fun.

Shielding kids from the lure of candy pumpkins and rubber skeletons is clearly a losing battle, but maybe there's a compromise out there? No, not church picnics. A compromise that kids won't find lame. Something that fulfills the same innate craving all healthy children have for gross, gooey, creepy-crawly excitement. The following are my ideas for 100% "EVIL" FREE Halloween alternatives you can enjoy in the safety of your own home. Activities that, with a little imagination, can be as edgy and outlandish as anybody else's Halloween, but without the spiritual and macabre themes that might make some parents uncomfortable.


   Understanding how the human body functions can be highly encouraging towards a healthy lifestyle, and just as freaky as a Halloween horror house. Many Halloween websites and magazines can show you how to create such anatomical treats as eyeball cupcakes, jello brains or crunchy pretzel fingers. Take advantage of this and the many skeleton props available this time of year to teach children about their own bones and organs in a humorous, hands-on way. Make edible body parts, talk about their functions, and eat them. Go over how their nutrient contents would affect the same parts they represent. Sculpt organs from modeling clay to fit inside a plastic skeleton, or purchase and assemble some cool anatomy models available at most toy and hobby stores.

  For even crawlier entertainment, take some time to learn together about both the dangers and importance of microscopic life in and around us. Viruses, bacteria and parasites can be just as eerie as any ghosts and goblins, while their simple shapes can be fun and easy to reproduce with colorful construction paper, cloth and other craft items. Put in a puppet show about the human immune system!


   Invertebrates make up the vast majority of life on our planet. They are all around us, all the time, and you guys probably believe some sort of spirit designed them, so why not stop to appreciate his handiwork? Whether your kids like them or loathe them, they can only stand to learn something about "bugs" on Crawl-O-Ween. Again, you can use existing Halloween decorations, crafts and recipes to turn your home into a swarm of spiders, roaches and beetles. See what crawly creatures you can find lurking around your own property, do your best to identify them and read up on their characteristics; you might be surprised just how innocent and beneficial many so-called "pests" really are.

   Kids won't need Dracula or the Wolfman when they can learn about the grisly, alien habits of assassin bugs and parasitoid wasps; they may seem downright disturbing to us humans, but they still play vital roles in nature's delicate balance. Take the opportunity to show children that what might appear creepy, ugly and "weird" to our sensibilities is as beautiful and necessary as any other form of life.


   I couldn't come up with a "Halloween" pun for being afraid of things. Just pick a cool, spooky fall friday and call it FEARDAY! Oh no! Everyone is afraid of something, but nobody should let fear get the better of them. Got a kid terrified of snakes? Spend Fearday learning about snakes. Paint snake pictures. Write poems about all the good things about snakes. Maybe the kid hates flying. Or the dark. Or clowns. Maybe you hate those things...find some way to make them fun and interesting. Plan ahead and set aside a whole day to understand and face your fears with people you care about. Fearday could end with scary story telling; everyone can take a turn telling the next part of the story, but must incorporate something they're afraid of, even if they have to shoehorn it into the story by completely preposterous means. In fact, that's even better. Maybe you spin the tale of a snake flying an airplane full of clowns. Whatever.

Then, just when the kids are laughing it up and have their guard down, you can leap out of the closet dressed as their darkest nightmare and shriek forth a resounding....





COMMENTS TIME! Let's not talk about the anti-Halloween crowd. I bet plenty of you have some pretty strong religious beliefs and still enjoy it for the innocent, goofy festival it is. If so, are there any special reasons you're comfortable with Halloween, or was it just never taken too seriously in your home?

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