Two skeletons are sitting at a table on the porch and look like they're having a conversation.
Family Life,  Holidays

A Low-Stress, Sensory Friendly Halloween? YES, It’s Possible!

Halloween Is Here!

Spooky season is here: jack o’lanterns on porches, festivals every weekend, Pinterest-perfect vignettes of expertly executed DIY projects and Insta-worthy ads for family costume ideas. And of course, ALL THE CANDY! It seems like everyone’s excited…what if your munchkin isn’t into all the things like (what seems like) every other kid in the neighborhood? What if you don’t have the time or extra money to throw a Halloween extravaganza? What if you don’t have the motivation or skills to DIY a front porch vignette? What if it just seems like…’s too much and you’re doing it wrong? GIRL, take a seat. I’ve got you.

There’s no RIGHT Way to Celebrate Halloween-Do it YOUR WAY

Let’s get this out of the way-there’s no RIGHT way to celebrate Halloween (or any other holiday). Not everyone celebrates it, either! Sure, your social feeds, Google feed, and steaming advertisements are pushing a particular narrative (read-buy this stuff) that makes it seem like this is what people do. There’s more pressure when you see your neighbors going all-out, the trick or treat date comes through on NextDoor, and the festivals and parties are never-ending. You do not, I repeat DO NOT, have to do what everyone else is doing, attend all the festivals, or DIY a darn thing. Spoiler alert-you don’t have to do anything!

Kiddo scared of all the spooky decorations? It’s fine, don’t put any out or if you really want to do something, lean into a color scheme. Pumpkin carving is a flop because of the smell/the slime/time commitment? Guess what-we don’t even carve pumpkins anymore, we reuse plastic pumpkins. Your kid refusing to participate in the Toy Story-themed family costume idea? Don’t do it! Seriously, no one cares. The only thing that matters is that the kiddos have fun-in a way that’s authentic for them.

Does your neurodivergent fam want to do a sensory-friendly Halloween but you’re not sure how? Read on for tips, hacks and inspiration from a mom who works full-time, has very little DIY skills and still pulls together some fun stuff (hey that’s me!) that’s sensory friendly and doesn’t break the bank.

Eric is wearing a skeleton pajama set and a skeleton pirate mask that has blue and red lights by the eye holes.

Easy Sensory Friendly Halloween Costume Ideas

All right, here’s the big one first-99% of traditional costumes are overpriced, hot, itchy polyester that will be worn once and destroyed within the first five minutes of wear. If your kid is sensitive to textures against their skin, hats or anything covering their face or smells (those rubber masks STINK) it may seem like there are no costume options for them. With a little creativity, you’ll be able to pull together something fun for your kiddo:

  • Ask them if they want to dress up. Some kiddos aren’t interested in costumes, even if they’re not scary. This is totally fine. We always tell kids to be themselves, right? I recommend asking a few times, in different ways, before completely discarding the costume idea. You can propose a few of my ideas below and see if anything sparks some interest. Have a last-minute backup plan just in case they change their mind and want to try it (keep reading, I’ve got you covered).
  • Halloween Onsies-I freaking love these things. No multi-piece costume, it’s all one piece! Easy on, easy off (hello, bathroom breaks). Usually made out of a knit and material that’s comfy on the skin, and sometimes with a hood (wear it, don’t wear it, who cares?) that won’t get lost like a mask. You can find these in so many places (adults too! I wore this metallic skeleton costume last year), even for easy family Halloween costumes! I like Tipsy Elves (the quality is fantastic) and Hanna Andersson.
  • Pajamas-Does your kiddo have a pajama set that looks like a superhero, character from TV or movies, or video games? Instant (no-spend) costume that will continue to be used. What about Halloween pajamas? Perfect costume and can be work year-round (start a new family Halloween pajama tradition instead of Christmas!). Eric’s favorite skeleton pajama set is from Gap, and he’s loving this Cat and Jack ghost pajama set, too.
  • Dress-up box. If your kid likes acting out stories and dressing up, perhaps you already have some costumes at home. Have them pick one (or a few) to use.
  • Shop their closet. A Halloween shirt brings out the festive spirit. A solid black shirt and pants can be a cat with a quick eyeliner nose and whiskers (or not!), an old sheet with holes cut out is a Charlie Brown classic ghost (we did this one year), or solid white shirt and light pants. How about a white shirt, black pants and a black zip-front sweatshirt that’s open-instant penguin (my son wore this outfit to school for a week). Just be creative, lean into their interests, and don’t worry about what other people are doing.
A house with a large ghost in the front yard as well as a graveyard, ghosts in the trees, and a skeleton dog

Money-Saving Strategies for Halloween Decorations and Costumes

My real job is in corporate retail, and I’ll let you in on a secret-retailers mark up seasonal goods a lot. You should not be going into debt buying Halloween decor or costumes. With a little pre-planning and my secret sources for Halloween goods, you’ll be able to get into the spirit as much (or as little) as you want and stay within your budget.

  • Make a plan-As a family, decide what you’d like to do, and then determine what you need. A party for kids and/or adults? A spectacular front yard and porch setup for trick or treat? Transforming your living areas into a haunted mansion? Just a sprinkling of seasonal decor here and there? Having a plan will help reduce impulse purchases. Remember-you can appreciate how unique or great something is without buying it.
  • Shop your house-What do you have that you can use? I love using neutral foundation pieces that allow the seasonal bits to be the star of the show. For example, I have a three-tiered white appetizer tray (wedding gift!) that I use to create a “charcuterie” board in a color scheme for Halloween, cookies at Christmas, apps or treats for parties…I only have the one foundational piece to store instead of a bunch of holiday-specific items.
  • Use solid colors-you don’t have to have Halloween themed everything, in fact, less outright theming can seem more elevated (that’s my retail job coming out). Consider black plates, napkins, tablecloths, and layer in a few mini pumpkins or plastic skulls. How about purple, orange (fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving), or green?
  • THRIFT-This is my favorite. It takes a little more effort than going to Target, but the treasure hunt is truly an experience in itself. Check out Goodwill (did you know you can shop Goodwill online?), Facebook marketplace, garage sales, estate sales, auctions, any second hand “junk shop” that you might have locally. How about Ebay or Etsy? Poshmark is one of my favorite places for finding costumes for MUCH LESS than Spirit Halloween because hey, most kids don’t wear their costumes two years in a row (psst-if you don’t have a Poshmark account, sign up with my code ASHLEYEB82 and get $10 to spend-no strings attached!). I got my metallic skeleton costume on Poshmark last year for 70% off the retail price! We look for Halloween items year-round to augment our setup and we save oodles by not buying in-season from traditional retailers.
Eric is wearing a green dragon costume and sitting in a wagon, smiling at the camera.

Halloween Parties, Festivals and Trick or Treating

There are plenty of experiences and traditional “ceremonies” that come along with Halloween. Many school districts have a “fall party”, there’s tons of “trunk or treat” options, pumpkin picking and corn mazes, and of course trick or treating. Pro tip-don’t try to do it all, or force your child to do something they do not want to do. Participate only in what’s interesting and fun for your family.

This might be mind blowing but….our son doesn’t do trick or treat! We went through years where he would be so excited for trick or treat, and when it finally arrived…he wouldn’t make it to the end of our (short) street before saying he was done and going inside without going to a single house. Now we know he LOVES decorating for Halloween (it’s his favorite holiday) and dressing up, but he does not like walking around with a bunch of strangers who he doesn’t recognize and go up to strangers houses over and over and over and say “trick or treat”. So now he dresses up, sits at the end of the driveway, and helps his dad hand out candy. If he gets bored, it’s fine-we just go inside!

A word on the blue pumpkins-as the mom of an autistic child, I’ve never used one and this is why. I don’t expect kids to say trick or treat or thank you, and I don’t judge kids for being “too old” and not wearing costumes (now, adults without costumes pushing a three month old infant and trick or treating makes me raise an eyebrow internally, but I don’t deny them a piece of candy). Trick or treat is supposed to be fun, so just let people have fun however they want to!

Eric is sitting on a parked ATV in the garage with two fake skeletons.  He's dressed up in a skeleton costume and wearing a skeleton mask.

Spooky Season in the Blau House

Tomorrow is October 1st, and that’s as exciting as Christmas for Eric. That’s the day that the Halloween decorations come out and the house transforms into a “spooky house.” We live in a neighborhood with well-maintained sidewalks, and many people slow down during their morning/evening walks to take in the decorations with a smile. Grandparents bring little kiddos to stand on the sidewalk and take a look (we’ll turn on the animated decor if it’s not on so they get the full effect). We do have an annual Halloween party for family, friends and immediate neighbors. We do these things because for us, they’re fun, it makes us happy, and it’s become a tradition that we enjoy. That’s what’s important.

Follow along on the blog this month for more Halloween content with a neurodivergent twist, and check out my Instagram and Pinterest for even more great stuff (Halloween and non-Halloween)! If you’d like to know as soon as a new post is up, you can subscribe for updates by entering your email below. I promise your inbox won’t be spammed and you’ll actually enjoy what I send you.

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