5 reasons every aussie CHILD should go Trick or Treating
Unlike the UK and USA, Australia is still in two camps when it comes to Halloween. While our research shows that 87% of families participated in Halloween in some form last year, some parents remain tentative when it comes to taking their children Trick or Treating.
As we will show, however, that there are some very compelling reasons why every Australian child should be out Trick or Treating this Halloween. Here are our top five.
The importance of Play
Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child (UNHCHR, 1989). Trick or treating is a simple and joyful form of play that children of all ages can enjoy.
Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000). It is through play that children engage and interact in the world around them. Play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges (Ginsburg, 2007). During the play associated with group Trick or Treating, children learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate and resolve conflicts.
Trick or Treating offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage in play with their children outside of the distractions of home life. The interactions that occur through the playful nature of Trick or Treating tell children that parents are fully paying attention to them, and this helps to build enduring relationships (Tamis-LeMonda et al, 2004). Parents who engage at this level learn to communicate more effectively with their children and are given another setting to offer gentle, nurturing guidance. Quite simply, play offers parents a wonderful opportunity to engage fully with their children, and Trick or Treating offers a joyful and simple means of play.
The act of dressing up for Halloween is one of the purest forms of creativity and self expression. There are no rules when it comes to Halloween costumes, particularly in Australia where the tradition is relatively new. From a favourite gaming culture jumper, to a full day of the dead costume with face paint, kids are free to express themselves in any way they like.
In an article by renowned author and business executive Judith E Glaser in Psychology today, she states that “Neuroscience is teaching us that ‘self-expression’ might be one – if not the most important way for people to connect, navigate and grow with each other”.
An experiment that Glaser ran years ago at her children’s school shows as much. The project, titled “Children’s World,” was a compilation of students’ stories and pictures that were ultimately gathered into one book. Creativity surged during the years “Children’s World” was published.
When Glaser and her team did a follow-up to see what if any relationships could be drawn between the creativity projects and the student’s social-emotional and academic development, they found that although “Children’s World” ran for only a few years, the number of students who were later accepted by top universities was measurably more than in the years before and after the projects were held.
Costumes allow children to express their individuality by allowing them to pick out their own costumes. It also fosters creativity. The child can adopt a variety of identities, utilizing them as an outlet to exhibit self-aspirations or to imitate role models (Kim & Ko, 2007).
Because self-expression allows people to reflexively present themselves, the act of dressing up for Trick or Treating can be beneficial in revealing insights and new perspectives into the self-concept of children as individuals. Furthermore, Sigmond Freud argued the suppression of self-expression seems to be connected to mental illness and psychopathology (Freud, 1923/1961).
Suppression of self expression has also been related to negative stress responses and to many physical problems such as coronary heart disease in adults (Friedman & Booth-Kewly, 1987; Gross & Levenson, 1993).
In short, dressing up allows children the freedom to express themselves in a creative and visual way, which is good for the soul.
A sense of community
Trick or Treating is one of few events that encourages neighbours and communities to come together in the spirit of fun, adventure and to foster joy. The real joy of Halloween is not about the candy, its about the community. Halloween offers the opportunity for people of all walks of life and age groups to come together and celebrate. Whether it’s families with Trick or Treating children or householders of all description, Halloween is an inclusive event.
In an article by Dr Leone Huntsman for Raising Children titled “Helping your child connect with others”, she explains that children who are connected to other people in their extended family, friends, neighbourhood and community have:
- a sense of belonging to a network, place and community
- opportunities to learn about getting along with others
- people to go to when they need help
- a network they can use to learn about different jobs, skills and so on.
Strong social connections can also boost children’s confidence and lead to stronger friendships. Huntsman explains that children benefit from being part of the local neighbourhood community group, and through the experience of being out and about in the neighbourhood, can appreciate how people in the neighbourhood work together to make it a safe and friendly place. When you’re out Trick or Treating around your local streets, just saying hello or waving to your neighbours creates this friendly feeling.
Halloween is also an opportunity for children to learn that connection is a two-way thing. When you work with others and help them, they’ll do the same for you.
Friendships and belonging
All children have a strong need for affiliation and belongingness; they desire love and acceptance from their social world.
Trick or Treating is an extremely social activity. When children go Trick or treating with their friends or family members, they are laughing and feeling the shared joy of human experience. This helps to strengthen friendship bonds and build a deep sense of belonging.
In a study by Dorothy Faulkner and Dorothy Miell in 2006 on the importance of early friendships for childrens social understanding, they found that friendship not only plays an important part in developing young Children’s social competencies, but also that it influences children’s performance on a range of classroom‐based learning activities, particularly those which involve mutual collaboration and co‐operation.
British researcher Caspar Addyman found in his research of babies and pre-schoolers that the key ingredient to joy and laughter was a shared experience. In his studies he found that children laughed eight times as much when they were with another child than when they watched a funny cartoon on their own — even though they reported that the cartoon was just as funny in both situations. Children will experience more joy and belonging when they are engaged in the shared experience of Trick or Treating.
There is much research into the benefits of recreational activities outside of school, and childrens well-being. Trick or Treating offers an opportunity for children to get out of the house, do something completely different from their day to day lives, and connect with others in an unmeasured environment.
Research findings indicate that students who participate in extracurricular recreational activities are more popular with peers, tend to be school leaders, and may be influential in directing the norms of the school social system (Coleman, 1961; Eder, 1985; Eder & Kinney, 1995; Eder & Parker, 1987; Evans & Eder, 1993; Kinney, 1993; Mahoney & Cairns, 1997). In a study with elementary school aged children, Sandstrom and Coie (1999) determined that participating in extracurricular recreational activities was positively related to improved social status.
Participation in extracurricular recreational activities is also beneficial more generally for the child’s developing self. The time children spend outside of school in recreational activities provides them with contexts in which they have the opportunity to learn and develop their social skills and form meaningful relationships with others (Haensly et al., 1986; Holland & Andre, 1987; Otto, 1982).
In a study of elementary school children, Posner and Vandell (1994, 1999) found that the time that children spent in extracurricular activities was related to their general emotional adjustment over a three-year period. Holland and Andre (1987) reported that adolescents who participated in extracurricular recreational activities tended to feel more in control of their own lives than those who did not participate.
In summary, there are many compelling reasons why every Australian child should hit the streets this Halloween for a little playful, creative, friendly community fun!
Convinced? Be sure you use the Trick or Treat Me Map to find the best places to Trick or treat this Halloween, or register your home to receive Trick or Treaters.
Barnett and Weber, 2008 Controlled Risk Taking (resilience building)
Faulkner, D. University of Warwick & Miell, D. 2006 Settling into school: The importance of early friendships for the development of children’s social understanding and communicative competence.pp 23-46. In International Journal of Early Years Education. Published Online
Ginsburg, Kenneth R. 2007. The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. Pediatrics. January 2007, VOLUME 119 / ISSUE 1
Kim, Heejung S. and Ko, Deborah. Culture and Self-Expression. in The self, 2007 pp 325-342
Huntsman,L., 2019. Helping your child connect with others in the community. In Raising Children.net.au
Hurwitz SC. To be successful: let them play! Child Educ.2002/2003;79 :101– 102
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Convention on the Rights of the Child. General Assembly Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989. Available at: www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm. Accessed June 22, 2006
Shonkoff JP, Phillips DA, eds. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2000
Tamis-LeMonda CS, Shannon JD, Cabrera NJ, Lamb ME. Fathers and mothers at play with their 2- and 3-year-olds: contributions to language and cognitive development. Child Dev.2004;75 :1806– 1820