Halloween and Bonfire Night are just around the corner! Foster Carers alert- this can be quite an exciting time for young children in care due to the fireworks, dressing up and participating in the Halloween and Bonfire night festivities. However not all fostered children are accustomed to or celebrate these events due to their faith or family history. As foster children come from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances, foster carers may have a dilemma on their hands when it comes to whether or not to take part in such events. Many foster children may have never celebrated Halloween or Bonfire Night before.
Generally speaking foster carers are encouraged to invite children to join in with seasonal traditions as it helps to provide a sense of belonging within the family unit and shared memories. However it’s important to be sensitive to the child’s needs and experiences and it is advisable to discuss it with the child’s social worker and your supervising social worker as well as with the child directly. Ask the child if it’s something they would like to participate in and explain what kinds of things you do as family traditions during this season.
Dependent on age some children may not be comfortable with scary Halloween masks, pretend skeletons and the screaming sounds around when people are in full flow celebrating. Also fireworks can be noisy and scary to younger children particularly if their background has been of abuse where loud noises may remind them of past incidents.
Foster children will have varying degrees of knowledge or experience around traditional events, therefore inviting open discussion and answering any questions will help to alleviate any anxieties they may have. Talking to foster children about Halloween and Bonfire Night helps them understand what it’s all about and if they have any concerns they can be aired and reassured. Having established with the support of social workers and speaking directly with the child if they will be participating in celebrations the next step is to decide on what activities to engage in as a family.
The following is a list of activities that will make this Halloween that bit more special – use your own discretion when deciding which activities will suit your foster child factoring in their age and level of understanding and ability.
- Make Printable Halloween Masks – this means getting creative buying some low cost supplies and working with the children to create some fun and silly face masks they can wear use lots of colour.
- Pin the Spider on the Web – a variation of pin the tail on the donkey- same concept blindfold spin around, see who can put the spider closest to the centre of the web—no peaking!
- Set up a Halloween Scavenger Hunt – hide items like false teeth, Halloween sweets/ cookies and other Halloween themed small items around the home and ask the children to hunt them down.
- DIY Your Halloween Costumes– this one is creative and can be as basic as an old apron you can paint a pumpkin onto to wear or old clothes / t-shirts you draw/ paint onto.
- Pumpkin Carving- Be careful with this activity always ensure adult supervision and do not leave foster children to carve their own pumpkins do it for them- they will enjoy watching it and can help to decorate it afterwards.
- Bake your own tasty treats- Baking cookies or making toffee apples can be fun just supervise younger children in the kitchen and around the oven and ensure older children have the skills to bake safely using oven gloves around the oven.
- Trick or Treating – Never allow foster children of a younger to go out alone unsupervised to trick or treat always accompany them and for older children use your discretion and factor in their age, understanding and vulnerability as to whether or not they need supervising. Have a set curfew time to return.
Bonfire Night – marks Guy Fawkes failure in 1605 with his Gunpowder Plot. Children nationwide will be excited to witness the incredible fireworks, and play with sparklers whilst munching on tasty treats like toffee apples whilst watching a huge Bonfire!
Safety First: In all the excitement it can be easy to lose sight of the obvious dangers that Bonfire Night brings, so here are a few tips to ensure your night is safe, regardless of if you’re at a public display, or at home setting off your own fireworks.
- It is illegal to sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 18
- If three sparklers burn together, they will do so at the same heat of a blowtorch used for joining metal
- Throwing a firework is a criminal offence and you can be fined up to £5000 for doing so!
- Every year children are injured by sparklers or fireworks.
Sparkler Fun! Safety Advice
- Find somewhere safe that is open, and not windy-back garden/ patio/ local park
- Always wear gloves so you don’t get burnt.
- Only adults should light the sparkler and supervise whilst children are using it.
- Only light one sparkler at a time -they give a very bright and heated initial spark.
- Remember to hold the sparkler horizontally and as far away from your body and face as possible. (Don’t give sparklers to little children if they are under the age of five.)
- Once you have had fun with the sparkler (try creating shapes) and it’s finished burning place it in a bucket of water.
- Never touch the end of the sparkler, even after it has stopped burning.
- Stand far away from both the fire and fireworks.
- Remember to keep pets like dogs and cats out of the way inside the home during bonfire night.
- If outside at public bonfire or fireworks displays wrap up warm-hats, scarves, fluffy socks and jumpers with jackets as it gets quite cold at this time of year.
- Do not light fireworks after midnight on Bonfire Nights as this is illegal.
- It’s incredibly important that those purchasing fireworks only do so with items marked ‘BS 7114:1988’, from a reputable retailer. Be safe, have fun and enjoy the festive season.