Birth Roots’ Little Monsters Ball was a no-go this year. Same for the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s Halloween programs. And Maine Audubon hadn’t had an in-person event for toddlers since the pandemic hit Maine. But together, these organizations co-hosted an outdoors Little Monsters Fall Frolic at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth for children 4 and under, limited to 12 families per hour, spread apart, with masks required for adults and recommended for ages 2 and up.

“So many parents are so excited about their child’s first, second or third Halloween,” said Leah Deragon of Birth Roots Center for Community Supported Parenting. “But that can be lost in traditional Halloween events, and toddlers have been thought of here.”

Six activity stations invited wee ones to walk a plank between hay bales, jump in leaves, pick up pumpkins, mix a cornmeal potion, toss bean bags or listen to a theatrical retelling of “The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything” for just one or two families at a time.

Alexia Jones of Saco dressed her 19-month-old son, Cameron, as a kitty and helped him walk the plank. Again. And again.

“We would have dressed up to take a walk,” she said, “but that’s what we do every single day.”

When tickets went on sale two weeks in advance at $9 per person, the Halloween morning event sold out within a day.

“I’ve seen two Elmos, two dinosaurs, a ladybug, a caterpillar, a deer, a Pooh bear and two owls,” said Reba Askari, the Children’s Museum theater director. “It’s been pretty magical.”

Despite all the activity-station planning by adults, little ones found unexpected joys. Aggie Fellers delighted in being lifted to a tree to pick an apple. Lucia Biddle and her little brother Declan giggled when cardboard cutouts of Wild Things fell over. Benyo Quimby and Miles Harkleroad, dressed as Calvin and Hobbes, just sat on a whale bone on the Maine Audubon property, because they could, as two sets of parents (and 5-month-old Judah Quimby) tagged along.

“When I was first looking for childbirth education classes, everybody recommended Birth Roots,” said Hannah Quimby of Portland. “They’ve been an incredible support all along the journey, from pregnancy through child rearing, and part of it is connecting and community amongst parents.”

Since March, Birth Roots has offered classes on Zoom and, since moving to Vannah Avenue in Portland, some small gatherings in an outdoor classroom with a pavilion. But no social events.

“Today, raising morale was the point instead of raising funds, and I think we did that,” said Leigh Baker, Birth Roots supporter. “Our families often come together through a pregnancy and are often together for a couple of years and form a flock – or they did when it was safe – and we have some flocks celebrating up to their seventh birthdays together.”

The Fall Frolic raised $1,200, which was split between the three hosting organizations.

“Normally the Little Monsters Ball is one of Birth Roots’ significant annual fundraisers, raising over $6,000,” Deragon said. “This week we have launched a Resilient Roots Campaign to raise $100,000, our budget shortfall, to ensure we can continue to operate after this crisis is over.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]

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