The healthy side of Halloween

By • Published: October 29th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Chances are you’ve heard a thing or two about the dangers a sackful of Halloween candy can pose to a child’s pearly whites… and waistline. But what about the benefits of strapping on a black conical hat and becoming a witch for a night? Or a flying superhero? Or a fairy princess, for that matter?

The truth is, for children, Halloween holds a hidden power most people don’t usually think about — the power of pretend.

Studies show that playing make-believe is more than just simple fun. Activities like pretending to be an astronaut or a teacher can actually help children build crucial thinking, language and social skills. For example, pretending to be someone else helps children see the world from another person’s point of view, which builds empathy. Some experts believe pretend play also helps children solve problems.

Researchers from the Yale Child Study Center have found that playing make-believe games with preschoolers could help better prepare them for school, too. How? The Yale study trained parents and caregivers to incorporate learning into games of make-believe. The children who participated in the study showed marked improvements in important preschool skills such as counting and vocabulary.

How can you use Halloween to extend this benefit to your own children? Encourage kids to think about the role they’re playing as they trick or treat and make up stories as you walk through the neighborhood.

That brings up another healthy habit Halloween can help instill. The October holiday gets families off the couch and out for a long stroll through the neighborhood.

Exercise is always a good thing… even if it is in pursuit of a few sweet treats.