Trick-or-treating is one of the central joys of Halloween for children. The candy is a big draw but so is the chance to run around in a costume. Whatever your child or grandchild will be going as this year or however much candy you’ll be tempted to steal afterward, it’s bound to be a good time. Trick-or-treating isn’t without risks, though. While pins and razors in apples and poisoned candy are by-and-large urban myths (though you still see reports pop up every year), there are still dangers presented during trick-or-treating that you need to watch for. Whether you’re taking your own kids or your grandkids out for some Halloween fun, make sure to use these precautions so the evening is only scary for all the right reasons.
Trick-or-Treat with a Group
Going with a group is best practice for both children and adults. While abductions by strangers are exceedingly rare in the United States, having a large group of children makes them less likely to be targeted. Walking in a group helps children avoid being struck by a car, which is the greatest risk to children on Halloween. A large group of children is easier to spot crossing the road than one.
The larger the group, the more adults you should bring.
Having multiple adults supervising the group can help keep the children safe. Each adult can help corral the children from house to house by walking near the front and back of the group. They can also help keep things controlled while getting candy. For example, if you have at least two adults, when you get to a house, one can go with the children to the door, while the other stands back. This adult can stand with the children who have already gotten their candy or didn’t go to the door, preventing them from excitedly wandering off to the next house or running into the street. The larger the group, the more adults you should bring. While a one-to-one adult-to-child ratio probably isn’t necessary, five-to-one could be difficult unless they’re particularly well-behaved or older children.
Give Costumes a Safety Check
Costumes are the centerpiece of any trick-or-treating adventure, but you should make sure they’re safe for the child before sending them out. You can make your child safer and more visibility by adding reflective elements to the costume, shoes, or candy bag or choosing a brightly colored or light-up costume. Consider adding glow sticks necklaces or walk your neighborhood route before it gets too dark. Someone should also have a flashlight, as this can make it easier to see (preventing tripping) and to be seen by cars and others.
A thorough check shouldn’t take too long but can save your child from bumps and bruises or worse.
You should also make sure the costume is safe for the child wearing it. Check any masks to be certain that the child can see well. Masks shouldn’t restrict breathing or get too hot. If the child is wearing face paint or makeup, don’t assume it’s safe. Read the ingredients before use and stick with brands you know and trust. You may even be able to test the makeup by applying a small amount to your skin a day or two prior to trick-or-treating.
Finally, check the costumes to ensure they won’t cause a safety hazard. This could include tripping hazards for young children, like a ghost’s flowing robe or a vampire’s cape that can tangle up feet. Verify that the costume is flame-resistant or made of flame-resistant materials like polyester or nylon. If the costume comes with any accessories like a toy sword or devil’s pitchfork, check that they’re not too hard and safe for the child to be carrying or play with throughout the night. A thorough check shouldn’t take too long but can save your child from bumps and bruises or worse.
Go to Trick-or-Treat-Friendly Areas
Where you take the kids to trick-or-treat can play a role in the safety and being a considerate neighbor. When in doubt, stick to neighborhoods you know. This could be where you live, where your grandchild lives, or where one of the other children or adults live. Somebody should be familiar with the area and the people living there. Even then, the general rule of thumb is only go up to homes with the porchlights on or are otherwise signaling that they want trick-or-treaters. Not everyone has candy or wants children visiting their homes, and it’s important to respect this.
If there aren’t any other groups, there is probably a reason.
First, the neighborhood you trick-or-treat in should be well lit. Again, stranger danger risks are generally overblown, but a well-lit neighborhood makes it easier for you to keep an eye on your candy-chasing kids and for others, especially drivers, to see them, too. A cul-de-sac or closed neighborhood is also ideal since there won’t be through-traffic.
You also shouldn’t be the only trick-or-treating group in the neighborhood, unless you’re very familiar with it. If there aren’t any other groups, there is probably a reason. The best-case scenario is that nobody on the street is home or participating in trick-or-treat. The worst-case scenario is that it’s unsafe for whatever reason, whether that’s high traffic, poor visibility, or unsavory characters.
Attend an Organized Event
Perhaps the best way to maximize safety during trick-or-treating is to take your group to an organized event. These will often be in traffic-free zones, like a parking lot or a street that’s been shut down, removing one of Halloween’s greatest risk factors. Furthermore, most organized events, whether that’s through the town or privately organized, will have trick-or-treat homes or destinations registered with the organizers, giving the goodies an extra layer of safety. Most towns or localities will have a trick-or-treat night. Some are loosely organized and mostly used to contain trick-or-treating to a single night or grouping of nights. Others are more centralized, with windows of time and locations where the events occur.
Depending on how tightknit your neighborhood is, you may even plan events like a neighborhood haunted house, pumpkin carving, or games for young children.
If there isn’t an organized trick-or-treat night in your area, you can try to make one yourself. Contact your neighbors and see who would be interested. Gauge the level of organization everyone is comfortable with. In some cases, it may just be a message of “be available for trick-or-treaters on this night between these hours.” Others may prefer to have a list of participating houses with what treats they will be providing. This can help trick-or-treaters plan out their evening and help them avoid homes that aren’t participating, saving everyone an awkward interaction. Once this is settled, you can notify families with children of the event and spread the word. Depending on how tightknit your neighborhood is, you may even plan events like a neighborhood haunted house, pumpkin carving, or games for young children.
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Halloween should be a holiday filled with spooky fun. Too often, the scares hit a little too close to home, with close calls or worse. Make sure you keep your trick-or-treating filled with sweets and scares for all the right reasons — be safe and take the right precautions this Halloween.