Is My Child Too Young for a Haunted House?

Read expert advice to help you figure out what's appropriate for your child at Halloween


Published:

Photo courtesy of Ilkin Zeferli/Shutterstock.com

Wondering if your child is old enough to graduate from scare-free Halloween events to haunted happenings around the Triangle this year? Experts at the Lucy Daniels Center in Cary offer this expert advice on the subject. 


Q. My family wants to visit a haunted house, but I'm concerned about our youngest, my 7-year-old. How can I tell if she will be too scared?

A. Halloween is filled with both the potential for fun and healthy excitement, and fear and unhealthy overexcitement. Halloween challenges parents to find the balance between protecting children from scary, overwhelming experiences, and permitting them to have fun, growth-promoting experiences. Understanding some of the ways children see the world may help with this dilemma.


Understanding Monster Fears

Most children encounter monsters long before age 7. Many 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds worry about monsters as well as robbers, vampires, kidnapers and bad guys, all of which are monsters by other names. Parents are generally perplexed by the appearance of these fears, especially if the child has not had any direct experience with robbers or with people doing monster-like things.

The secret to understanding this monster mystery is that children have met monsters because they know themselves. They know that they wish to do wrong things, have done wrong things, and have rather outrageous and even destructive thoughts. By packaging and exporting these feelings into the persona of a monster, robber or other bad guy, children can face and grow beyond these feelings. Children invent monsters because they need them, and they generally relinquish their fears as they become more confident about their own feelings and impulses. Even though children are afraid of monsters, they become little directors who bring the monsters on the scene and tell them when to leave the stage or return for a curtain call.


Recognizing Pretend Versus Reality

Children grow over time to know the difference between real and pretend. Their ability to truly tell the difference can be deceptive. A 4-year-old may say that unicorns are not real, but will be very excited if told that one is in the backyard. A 6-year-old may giggle over that prospect without even asking, "Unicorns are not real, right?" Yet a small doubt might remain even at age 6.


Determining a Child's Readiness

Parents are always making decisions about their child's readiness for a next step. They decide if their child is ready to go on a play date without them, use the potty, join a T-ball team, or manage a potentially scary situation. Because the negative impacts of failures are much greater than the positive impacts of successes, we recommend that parents support next steps only when they are 90 percent confident that the child can meet the challenge. If a parent is unsure about a child's readiness, it is best to wait and protect the child from discouraging or even frightening experiences.


Specific Considerations for Scary Fun

We advise parents to wait until a child is 7 before considering a haunted house visit. Younger children will not sufficiently understand reality to know — and feel — that the haunted house is totally make-believe. Allowing a younger child to brave the terrors of a haunted house would not follow the 90 percent confidence rule.

Your 7-year-old may or may not be ready to enjoy healthy fun in a haunted house. The answers to the following questions can help you decide whether you have 90 percent confidence about her readiness:

  • Has she generally been free from anxieties and worries?
  • Has she been exposed to milder frightening pretend situations, such as mildly scary movies, and found them fun?
  • Does she try to keep up with her older siblings, and might this affect her judgment about whether she feels ready?

Preparing for a Haunted Visit

If you reach the 90 percent confidence level, we recommend that you keep in mind that your daughter will not be the director of this monster drama. She will be in the audience, absorbing whatever frights the haunted house throws at her. Whatever you can do to help her prepare for the haunted house and feel more active and in control will increase the possibility that she will have a positive experience.

Preparation and anticipation might take some of the fun out of it for teenagers and adults, but not for your school-age child. Tell your daughter about the events in the haunted house. It would be best if one of her parents could go through the house first and report to her what she should expect. A parent should go with her and be ready to offer any support she might need. If she freaks out in the house, you can suggest that she close her eyes, hold her hand and lead her out, or even carry her if possible.

You have the double challenge of balancing the various needs and interests of different children and balancing the opportunities and obstacles of Halloween. Weigh your 7-year-old's readiness using our guidelines, remembering that 90 percent is a high level of confidence. Hold strong if she is pushing and you don't think she's ready for a haunted house visit this year.


The Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood is a nonprofit agency that promotes the health and well-being of children and families. The question of the month may be a composite or illustration of parents' questions.

This article was updated Oct. 17, 2018

 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Fun Things to Do With the Kids July 15-18

July 15-18: Food Truck Flicks, North Hills Kids in the Park, Summer Storytime and Pizza and a Movie at the Halle

Sunflower Fields Forever at Dix Park

Get ready for Raleigh’s best photo op. Sunflowers are blooming at Dorothea Dix Park.

Enter to Win a $50 Gift Card to Pizza LaStella in Raleigh and Cary

Experience cuisine from the only Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana certified entity in the state of North Carolina.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

July 2019

More than 1,300 makers from around the globe will gather to learn, share, and celebrate lathe-turned work. And with this year’s record-breaking turnout, it will be the largest woodturning...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

“A Teddy Bears' Picnic” is a song with a 1907 melody by American composer John Walter Bratton and lyrics written by Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy in 1932. It remains popular as a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Cary’s popular food truck rally also features music from local performers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Cary
, NC  27511


Website »

More information

Enjoy food trucks and live music in Downtown Park.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Park
319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy an evening of jazz music, improvisation and collage inspired by the art of Romare Bearden with music from the Raleigh Jazz Orchestra. Romare Bearden was born in Charlotte, NC and drew...

Cost: Free

Where:
Borden Building and Grounds
820 Clay Street
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Resources and Museum Programs
Telephone: 919-996-4364
Contact Name: Borden Building at Fletcher Park
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 11-17 make comfort foods inspired by the South. Register online. Choose course #124743.

Cost: $44/resident, $57/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Drop by the cybrary for storytime with a librarian. Activity Room 4. Preschool and kindergarten ages. No registration necessary. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Cybrary
100 N Greensboro St
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-918-7387
Contact Name: Cybrary
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

The world famous Glenn Miller Orchestra brings timeless classics like In the Mood, Moonlight Serenade, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Pennsylvania 6-5000, String of Pearls and Tuxedo Junction back to the...

Cost: $50-$70/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy storytime with Amy Godfrey. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Locopops Dessert Cafe
2618 Hillsborough St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Preschoolers (ages 3-5 with accompanying adult) meet a real turtle and hike to see others.  Play turtle games and bring home a rock 'turtle' in a terrarium you design. Preregister online using...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
Website »

More information

In The Wild with Dan The Animal Man Dan brings his wild animals to Clinton, NC, followed by a free community cookout, Wednesday, July 17. 1017 Sunset Avenue, Clinton, NC 28328 (Between Pizza...

Cost: Free

Where:
Immanuel
1017 Sunset Ave
Clinton, NC  28328
View map »


Telephone: 910-592-3854
Contact Name: Will Matthews
Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy yoga and breathing exercises. Register online. Choose course #125023.

Cost: $9/resident, $11/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Bring your own poles or borrow one of ours through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are provided. All...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Kids ages 6-9 discover the creatures that live in the pond and streams at the Preserve.  The focus will be hands-on outdoor investigation and the study of living things in their habitat. ...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Parent and child ages 2-5 water plants in the native wildflower gardens. Register online. Choose course #124907.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs learn the basics of archery. Register online. Choose course #124599.

Cost: $15/resident, $20/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

TreeRunner Raleigh’s Adventure Park Glow Night returns in July with an adventurous Safari theme! Join the TreeRunner staff and dress up in safari-themed attire. Reserve your spot early...

Cost: General Admission

Where:
TreeRunner Raleigh
12804 Norwood Rd
Raleigh, NC  27613
View map »


Sponsor: N/A
Telephone: 919-410-7347
Contact Name: Jami Sowers

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 14-17 learn basic cooking skills and use a recipe to create a delicious dish. Register online.

Cost: $40

Where:
The Poe Center for Health Education
224 Sunnybrook Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs stroll through the woods. Register online. Choose course #124384.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #124971.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Enjoy a party and summer movie under the stars. Purchase advance tickets online. 

Cost: $7/nonmember. Free for members and ages 6 and younger.

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Support local artists as they perform in Wake Forest.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre for the Arts
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Support local artists as they perform in Wake Forest.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre for the Arts
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate World Jump Day on July 19th at Sky Zone Durham with Buy 1 Get 1 Free offer on Open jump and GLOW jump.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
1720 Guess Road
Durham, NC  27701


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Shop for local handmade arts and crafts from local vendors. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

"In every flower, every stem, every leaf, a world to discover that's beyond belief!" In the Dr. Suess story, Horton the elephant finds a tiny world on a clover flower. Just like "whos", insects...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

North Carolina's food history and heritage take center stage for the day with barbecue and pie competitions, live music, arts and crafts vendors, kids' games, living history reenactors,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Preschoolers (ages 3-5 accompanied by an adult) meet a real turtle and hike to see others.  Play turtle games and bring home a rock 'turtle' in a terrarium you design. Preregister online using...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a fun, festive and family-friendly event featuring a replica of the space suit worn by Neil Armstrong (step inside! perfect for photo ops!), educational activities, complimentary refreshments...

Cost: Free

Where:
Morgan Imports
113 S. Gregson St.
Durham, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with kids programs, a bungee jump station, demos, food trucks and much more.  p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 13.0px...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 E. Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Create your own apron and bake your own individual cake. Register online. Choose course #124900.

Cost: $35/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy a summer movie under the stars to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Purchase advance tickets online. 

Cost: $7/nonmember. Free for members and ages 6 and younger.

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.