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Festive fun aside, pediatrician says some Halloween activities can be important for children's development

Dr. Razaan Bryne with Children's Minnesota says different fall activities can promote physical, social, and emotional growth.

MINNEAPOLIS — Carving pumpkins with the family can certainly be fun and likely even be a little chaotic and messy. But Dr. Razaan Byrne, an outpatient pediatrician with Children's Minnesota, says the activity can actually be really educational. It can start with picking out the pumpkin.

"Starting the process of choosing your pumpkin, talking about differences between different pumpkins, using all five senses to pick one out," Dr. Byrne said.

She says caregivers can ask their children to compare and contrast the different sizes and textures, using critical thinking to make a decision on which one they'd like to take home.

"Then once you bring it home, [there are] lots of wonderful things you can do with the carving itself," Dr. Byrne said. "Planning out a particular theme or pattern for the pumpkin. Let’s have a process – steps one, two and three."

Dr. Byrne said it's a good time to ask your child open-ended questions.

Then once you bring the pumpkin home, there are lots of wonderful things you can do with the carving itself.

"What does the pumpkin look like on the inside? How are we going to get in there?" Dr. Byrne said. "Really asking those open-ended questions, particularly in the preschool age and elementary school ages. It’s really fantastic to help them problem-solve."

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She says carving can help develop muscles and coordination. 

"Really focusing on those fine motor skills—the ability to grasp, turn, and rotate. Using all those small muscles in the fingers and the larger muscles in the arms," she said.

Then when you get to the insides of the pumpkin, it's a chance to talk about textures.

"How do things feel when you grab it softly versus squishing it? What happens when you have a pumpkin seed in what you’re scooping it out?" Dr. Byrne suggests asking.

Another part of the holiday--picking out costumes--can help a child's imagination, especially if you get them involved with putting one together.

"If they say, ‘I want to be dressed as such and such.’ Okay – what are parts of this costume that seem to be really important? And working backwards from that, and tackling it one at a time," she said.

Lastly, though some kiddos may be spooked by Halloween, Dr. Byrne says it can be an opportunity to develop emotional resilience. She suggests talking with your child about what Halloween is and emphasizing that the "scary" parts of it, like monsters and creepy characters, are pretend.

"Whether it’s reading a book or having a conversation," she said. "Really emphasizing that—Halloween is just for fun. All scary things are really pretend around Halloween. That realness component is really where the anxiety and fear can come from."

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