Halloween — There Is Still Time

Creepy Doll is Creepy

Dr. Pretlow and many more doctors, members of other health and caring professions, parents, and anti-obesity activists — what do they all have in common? A hope that Halloween can be transmogrified from an excuse to consume mass quantities of sweets to a different kind of holiday altogether. Parents can do a lot to divert and distract their children’s attention from the caloric angle and focus it on the creative aspects of what is, let’s face it, a much-loved annual festival.

In the first week of October there is still time to find out what the plan is at preschool, daycare, public school, or wherever else your child spends time offsite — and possibly to influence that plan. There is still time to conspire with other parents in your neighborhood or social circle to create a sugar-free Halloween party. One obvious, practical step can be taken. A family can get ready for the whole series of fall and winter celebrations by stepping up the physical activity in any way possible.


The American Dental Association recently did a Halloween Consumer Study and found — well, prepare to be amazed: “Nine out of ten children said they would still like Halloween if it was less about candy and more about other types of fun.”

Out of any 10 kids, nine are big enough Halloween fans to enjoy it without the harmful junk food. That is a substantial piece of information to grab hold of and work with. As parents and grownups, we can cultivate a new, improved holiday that will eclipse the lame, sugar-centric travesty it has become. Suggestion: make a big project, and an opportunity for family togetherness, from the non-candy side of October 31.

Maybe a family is lucky enough to live in a city where haunted houses materialize just before Halloween every year. Visit them. Combine those excursions with the idea in Paragraph 2, and explore the feasibility of walking or biking to the haunted houses. Or maybe there is one that donates its proceeds to a local charity — could you and/or your kids volunteer?

Start a new tradition

Depending on how ambitious a parent feels, she or he could feed the words “make haunted house” into YouTube, and see what people are doing in their garages and back yards, and how they do it. Some DIY-ers are visited by hundreds of kids on Halloween. Like many hobbies, haunted house creation can soak up a huge share of your disposable income, or it can be done on the cheap. A lot of materials and props for such projects can be picked up for free, found at yard sales and used-stuff emporiums like Goodwill, or located online through FreeCycle.

As amateur set designers, don’t be afraid to start modestly. If you are fortunate enough to live in a house, ask your computer’s search engine for images of “Halloween yard decoration” and go nuts. If you intend to give out treats on the big night, put the kids in charge of spooking up the front door and/or porch, perhaps with scary sound effects. Or decorate a room inside, or several of them.

Decorating is more likely to appeal to older children, who are comfortable with the idea of a good time that doesn’t involve candy. Fortunately, little kids have a natural desire to imitate older ones, and benign advantage can be taken of that tendency.

But what if you live in an apartment or other small space? One word: miniaturize. Turn a cardboard box on its side; paint it. Use odds and ends of cloth, plastic, string, styrofoam, or whatever is around, to create furniture and monsters; rig a small penlight to create an eerie effect. It is totally possible to make a haunted house diorama that any family can be proud of.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “2012 US – Halloween Consumer Study,” infosolutionsgroup.com, 2012
Image by Tori Siegel

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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