Monday, October 02, 2006

Preparing for Halloween Fun in Houston

Well, as promised in my October newsletter, here are some great suggestions for preparing for Halloween with children in Houston.

1). Make your own scarecrow, which will be a great decoration through Thanksgiving. Grab some old jeans, shirt and hat. Stuff them with old rags or hay. You can use an old T-shirt to make the head and paint a funny face to give the scarecrow plenty of personality. Prop your new friend up on a bench, hay stack or against a tree.

2). Use Halloween cookie cutters to make holiday cookies. My 1.5 year old loved pushing the cookie cutters into the dough last Friday. Of course, her enticement was probably a pinch of the dough!

3). Pick out your pumpkin from a pumpkin patch. Our family loves Dewberry Farms for its wonderful pumpkin patch and loads of fun activities. You can easily spend a few hours here. Wear jeans, comfortable shoes and a hat.

4). Create your costume and practice wearing it. Even if you're not on a strict budget, it can be fun to get creative and make a costume. Plus, it gets the kids involved early on so they can contribute to the costume making throughout the month. Last year, my mom made my daughter a Lady Bug costume for her first Halloween. We put her in black tights and a black leotard. Then "Grand" made a small set of ladybug wings that velcro'ed to the back of the leotard. Finally, Grand created a hat that included the antennas. It was adorable!

5). Produce a masterpiece. Your children will enjoy making their own Halloween decorations out of crayons/markers, construction paper, old buttons, candy sprinkles, pipe cleaners and more. Then, the youngsters can decorate their closet (who cares if the paint gets torn off in there?) or give the art to a favorite relative or neighbor.

6). Attend the Creepy, Crawly Critters on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 10 am at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center. Your family will learn that spiders, snakes and other creepers play a key role in keeping nature in balance. Visit for details.

7). Head to the Bat Cave. On Friday, Oct. 20, starting at 6:26 pm, meet on the east side of the Waugh Street bridge at Allen Parkway by the viewing platform for the bat lecture. Bring a blanket and a snack/dessert for the kids. You'll learn so much about bats and then see them take flight. It's cool and not scary.

8). Turn on movie time. There are plenty of Halloween movies available for all ages. From the Peanuts Halloween special to Friday the 13th and Arachnophobia.

9). Get spooked at a haunted house. If your kids are older (middle school or older), haunted houses can be fun. Just be sure they feel comfortable in knowing that it's all pretend and encourage a group of friends to go together with one or two parents. A list of Houston haunted houses are available at

10). Carve your pumpkin a few days before Halloween. Add a candle to the center and watch it glow. Carving kits are available at most grocery stores but kids can help adults instead create their own fun face. Ask your kids to draw on the pumpkin the face they'd like to see. Have an adult do the carving. Then be sure to remind kids to be careful around the fire. Place the lit pumpkin in an area where it won't be easily pushed over.

As for trick or treating, thanks to the Bellaire Young Moms group and the Houston Police Department for these great suggestions:

Trick or Treating Safety Tips
- Shoes should fit (even if they don’t match the costume). - Avoid wearing masks when walking from house to house. Your child should be able to see properly through a mask. - Children should wear light-colored costumes with reflective tape for better visibility and the garment should be short enough to prevent tripping.
- Participate at church or local organization's festivities where the environment is more controlled.
- Carry a flashlight after sunset.
- Approach only houses that are lit. Children should be accompanied by an adult at all times, should stay within their neighborhood, and only visit homes of people they know.
- Look for costumes made of flame retardant material. Avoid hard plastic or wood props such as daggers or swords. Foam rubber is a good substitute.
- Make sure your child eats dinner before heading out. Get the vegetables in early!
- Stay on sidewalks, obey traffic signals and don't cut across yards or driveways.
- Inspect candy before any is consumed. If any candy appears to be tampered with, throw it away. If this is your child's first time to trick or treat, remember that he/she could be 1 in 15 kids under age 3 who are highly allergic to the nuts in many candies.

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Until the next nap time...

It's the Little Things

Kids are funny. I try so hard to do fun, educational and creative things with my daughter, yet she finds joy in the littlest things. Yesterday, we went to Sears to get -- I can't believe it -- an ironing board. Oh, the excitement. My little monkey took a glimpse at the escalator and couldn't wait to go up. After wandering around the first floor, a salesman finally told me the ironing boards were hidden upstairs in housewares... probably because no one in her right mind would actually want one. (Sorry, Grammy, most people hate that chore!) Well, Kylie's smile grew ear to ear as we went up that escalator. As she waved to everyone and every clothing rack on the first floor, I smiled too. Shouldn't we all enjoy the simple things like an easy ride to higher ground? How do we lose the innocence and the enjoyment that youngsters revel in? More importantly, how do you get it back?

I'm going to try by focusing this week on the little things like the woodpecker that landed outside my window this morning. Later this afternoon, I think we'll fill up the empty bird feeder in our yard and see who comes for a snack. If no birds, at least we'll have goldfish crackers and apple slices to eat... and plenty of smiles.

Lots of fun things going on in Houston next weekend so check back later this week. Until the next nap time...