Friday, October 22, 2010


Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of year. I was the kind of kid who had his costume planned on Nov. 1st for the following year. As a music teacher, it means the start of a busy time learning first Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and finally Christmas music back to back to back. Even so, I enjoy it just the same.

This year I've been thinking a lot about the joys of saying (shouting), "Boo!" Kids can't seem to get enough of it. From the smallest toddler to the coolest elementary school kid, startling an adult or catching a fright by shouting, "Boo!" is an experience that needs to be repeated again and again. Most of the songs I have been singing this month have some part where the kids get to do their best ghost imitation.

There is a big difference between the sense of surprise and excitement that comes with a healthy, "Boo," and the fear and panic that can come with more frightening images, sounds, movies and TV shows that come with this season. I fear that too often adults aren't sure where to draw the line. It's a tough task, and I am constantly surprised by what frightens certain children.

For me, as a two year old, sounds (like the jingling keys in the intro to E.T.) would get my heart racing and the tears flowing. For other students I have had, spooky imagery in songs that we sings might trigger anxiety. Costumes with masks are often a source of upset during preschool Halloween parties.

Often a child's response to a brush with the scary is a strange fascination. I recall a boy who would ritually draw swirling dark patterns, labeling them "Voldemort" (this was even before the Harry Potter movies). His imagination couldn't let this image go. It took this particular boy a while to move past his fear and start drawing robots and dinosaurs again.

As a lover of everything Halloween, I really enjoy sharing this excitement with my students. I always endeavor to keep my Halloween activities and songs spooky but not scary. It can be a fine line, but it's important for a child's sense of safety.

Kid Quote of the Day: I have come across some funny and clever Sesame Street clips on YouTube lately. Parodies of Madmen and Old Spice commercials show that Sesame Street hasn't lost it's edge in the 40+ years it's been on the air. Here's my recent favorite:

~Willow Smith a la Sesame Street (age: 9)


Anne Deysher said...

Some astute observations about scary & kids. It is so individual, too. As a long time early childhood educator, I would tend to err on the side of caution, particularly with children I don't know well. Of course I was the one who took little Nicholas to ET!!!!

Anne Deysher said...

The video is something else. It is great that Willow has spoken to girls like her in a catchy song made all the more entertaining with its Sesame Street treatment!