The long anticipated week of Halloween! Our children have been planning, imagining, and singing about this glorious autumnal celebration for numerous days now. What exactly does Halloween look like for a Waldorf student? Regardless of your child’s age, it is a teaching moment which strengthens the child’s imagination and resourcefulness.
Early Childhood students age 6 and under will experience the holiday quite differently from those across the street in the grades. As Steiner School Early Childhood teacher Somer Serpe says, “The youngest child does not understand the concept of Halloween and will be best nurtured by a simple celebration, if at all. A costume that is handmade allows the child to live into the imaginative and creative process. A simple gnome hat and sweater, a cape and crown, or a dress with autumn leaves attached brings the beloved nature stories alive for them.”
As students become older, teachers and parents can encourage them to apply imagination and planning to their costume. Fourth grade teacher Veronica Banach (formerly Horowitz) says, “Think of Halloween like a dress up box. Let your child put together things that you already have. Children feel so much more accomplished and proud of themselves when they build a costume or put it together. Those are the memorable Halloweens! When your child puts in the effort, they have a relationship with their costume; they are telling a story. Characters from loved books are favorites.”
As second grade teacher Tracy Fernbacher so aptly writes, “Foundational to Waldorf education are both the cultivation of a child’s inner picturing (a kind of generative imagination) and the development of the child’s feeling life as a means to connect their individual humanity with the world around them. Both of these capacities can be enriched through a child ‘being’ someone else. We utilize this in the classroom with opportunities like class plays and stories in which the child can easily enter. Halloween, also, is potentially this kind of opportunity. Making a costume, which involves thinking through how this character expresses itself, and the exercise of collecting and making the various components of a costume are great activities for the imagination and will. A premade costume or even a costume of a character fully flushed out and fixed in the social collective, like superheros or cartoon characters, do not provide the same depth of experience for the child. At 5, my son wanted to be something ‘scary.’ When I inquired what that might be, fully expecting to hear a zombie or ghost, I was pleasantly surprised when he said a volcano. For Halloween, that was pretty out of the box thinking. It was made from a box, too, and proved difficult to navigate on the stairs during treat-or-treating. What a great lesson in engineering!”