Safe, Adaptive Halloween Ideas | Halloween at ChildServe

Guy concentrating on pushing buttons that light up to test reflexes.

With a little bit of creativity, Halloween fun can be accessible and safe for kids of all abilities. At ChildServe, team members love coming up with unique ways to help kids with special healthcare needs enjoy Halloween. Check out our Halloween 2021 recap below, and find tips at the bottom to help inspire your own adaptive Halloween activities for next year!

Box Decorating Contest 

  • ChildServe staff and volunteers decked out our Healing Garden with decorated boxes for the kids and young adults living at ChildServe’s long-term care program and inpatient rehabilitation program to enjoy!
  • Some of the boxes were equipped with interactive devices so kids could press a button and hear a character’s voice.

Trick or Treat Practice

  • For some children with autism, trick-or-treating can be challenging for multiple reasons, from new environments and new social cues, to interacting with strangers. Children in our ABA program practiced their trick-or-treating skills with support from their Registered Behavior Technicians and BCBAs. Our service leaders and administrative team members loved getting to hand out treats and prizes to the kids we serve.

Give-away Bags and Baskets

  • Our Volunteer Services team put together over 600 goodie bags to give away in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Scroll down to our “Tips” section to find a list of great items to include in an inclusive give-away bag.
  • Volunteer Services also developed a gift basket for each of ChildServe’s group homes.

Pumpkin Decorating Contest 

  • Our friends at Delta Dental of Iowa help make Halloween special with their amazing painted pumpkins. Before being distributed throughout ChildServe, the pumpkins were on display so families could vote on their favorite. This year’s winner was Hedwig the owl from the Harry Potter series.

Costume Contests 

  • Costume contests at ChildServe are always spectacular. We love watching kids light up when they see our team dressed up in kid-friendly costumes. 

Tips for Adaptive, Safe Halloween Fun for Kids with Special Healthcare Needs 

  1. Consider non-candy prize options.
    1. While candy is a staple of Halloween, it can leave some kids out of the fun due to food allergies or chewing and swallowing difficulties. At ChildServe, we partner with many kids who rely on feeding tubes or soft diets for their meals. By expanding your candy bucket to include non-food options, you’ll give more kids a great experience.
    2. Non-candy prizes options to consider include stickers, fidget toys (slinkies, bend-sticks, bracelets), temporary tattoos, pencils/erasers, and slime/putty. When giving prizes to children, always get their parent’s permission first.
  2. Create a physically accessible space.
    1. Many kids use wheelchairs and walkers to access their world. If you’re hosting a party or expect lots of trick-or-treaters, consider whether a child using mobility equipment will be able to participate. If you have stairs leading up to your porch, a ramp or tube of cardboard makes it easy to slide prizes down right into a child’s bucket.
  3. Create a sensory-friendly environment.
    1. To make a safe and welcoming space for kids with seizure disorders and children with autism, avoid using strong flashing lights in your decorations. Children with autism may also have sensitivity to loud noises and strong smells. You can be inclusive by ensuring that the key spaces within your event do not have these factors and warning parents which spaces they may want to avoid. 
  4. Consider health/safety concerns.
    1. Some children are immunocompromised or have complex healthcare needs. These children are at a higher risk for severe outcomes from illnesses that may not seem as serious to the general population (such as cold and flu). By passing out pre-packaged prizes, rather than having each child dig through the bucket of prizes, you can help limit the spread of germs. If you’re having a large gathering, consider hosting it outside and spacing out your activities.
  5. Fun doesn’t have to be expensive! Check out these low-cost ideas that may work for your family to have a fall/Halloween themed party:
    1. Create activities focused on the 5 senses.
    2. Play “guess the smell” with fall flavors like cinnamon, apple pie, and pumpkin pie filling.
    3. Make a Halloween-themed sensory bin.

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ChildServe improves the health and well-being of 5,200 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.

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