One of the best things about Halloween is the scary part of it. It's fun to be scared – just as long as you're not too scared. You want to be just the right amount of scared so that you can enjoy the suspense and then the sense of relief when the scare is over. As an adult, you've learned to gauge what level of scary is right for you and how much is too much, which is why you can pick out scary movies or books that are right for you. However, with kids, it can be more difficult to judge just how much scary they can handle, and that can make haunted houses a tricky bet. Take a look at some tips for making sure that a haunted house tour is really going to be a treat for your kids.
How Young Is Too Young?
There's no one right age that ensures kids are ready for a haunted house experience. There are sensitive 13-year-olds who might have trouble handling Disney's Haunted Mansion, and brave 8-year-olds who would happily spend a night in the Bates Motel. So age is not a perfect indicator of readiness for haunted houses. However, it is a good place to start.
Many haunted houses have an age rating like movies – for example, PG-13, where children younger than 13 can only be admitted with an adult. But just like you probably wouldn't take your 4-year-old to a movie meant for people 13 or older, you probably shouldn't assume the haunted house will be OK for them either. Try to stick close to the age guidelines. If your 11 or 12-year old wants to go to a PG-13 house, it's probably OK for you to take them, but a 5 or 6-year-old probably shouldn't go, even if they think they want to.
Many haunted houses have characters in costume that will jump out and scare you, and that's one of the scariest – and most fun – parts of touring a haunted house. However, there's quite a big difference between a character suddenly appearing in front of you or getting uncomfortably close, and a character who actually grabs you. Most haunted houses don't allow characters to grab, but some do. You should find out which one your local haunted house is before you go.
Being grabbed is going to be too scary for many children (and some adults, too). But if you know for a fact that the characters at your haunted house do not touch the guests, letting your child in on that fact can help them relax and enjoy the experience. Knowing that whatever happens, the scary characters can't touch you can be a big psychological relief. If your child wants to go to the haunted house but is nervous, this may be what they need to hear.
Try It In The Daytime
Find out if the haunted house you're considering has a daytime version that's light on the fright. Many offer this option – it's a lot harder to be scary in broad daylight, and many people, not just kids, appreciate a house that's only mildly haunted.
If your child enjoys the daytime version and is up for bigger and scarier scares, you can always hit up the spookier nighttime version later.
The most important thing is to trust your instincts. You know your child – be honest with them and yourself about what they can and can't handle. If your child isn't ready for a haunted house this year, you can always try again next year.