"Most children can't distinguish fantasy from reality until they are about age 4, so knocking on a stranger's door in a clown suit can be confusing and scary for younger children," Deborah Best, a child psychology expert and professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, said in a statement.
To avoid unnecessary shrieks of terror, try to experience Halloween through the eyes of your child, Best suggested.
"Rather than surprising kids younger than age 5 with costumes you like, let them choose. Toddlers especially love trying on familiar items such as their parents' clothes, so a big hat and colorful tie might be all the costume he needs or wants," Best advised. "Talk about his costume, try it on, build it up and let him get familiar with it before it's trick-or-treat time. And if on Halloween night he still doesn't want to dress up, that's OK, too."
Some children might be wary about trick-or-treating. Help ease a child's fears by trick-or-treating before it gets dark and starting at a neighbor or friend's home where the child will meet a familiar face, Best suggested.
Seeing other children having a good time might put a fearful child in the festive spirit, but if that doesn't work, take your cues from the child and head home, Best said.