Halloween is an exciting time for everyone but you know what’s not exciting? A Hallow’s Eve trip to the ol’ emergency room. Here are some quick tips to run through with your kids before they head out.
You don’t want to squeeze the fun out of Halloween by harping on about all the dangers. Chances are, your kids will stay safe, having a wonderful time out there. But as with any activity, especially one with swarms of kids running around in the dark, it’s important to proceed with caution. Tell your kids that by paying attention, sticking to the sidewalks, and being aware of risk areas, it’ll guarantee that everyone has a fantastic time.
And that’s what everyone wants, right? To have loads of fun.
Safe Kids Worldwide states that kids have a higher chance of getting hit or injured on Halloween than any other day of the year. It makes sense, since a high number of kids are out trick-or-treating at night, often wearing dark costumes.
Talk to your kids about what they can do to make the evening as safe as possible. Avoid rambling off a list of “rules,” which are bound to go in one ear and out the other. Instead, let your child first write down her own list of danger areas. Then add some of your own ideas to the list. Conclude this with a discussion right before they go out trick-or-treating, reviewing all the items you created together.
Here are the key points you want to cover:
- Crossing streets: Cross at corners, using traffic lights or crosswalks whenever possible. Look left, right, then left again, continuing to keep looking while crossing. Make eye contact with cars if you’re about to step out into the road. Kids might think they’re visible, but that’s not always the case.
- Walk on sidewalks: Always stick to the sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, your children should walk against traffic, keeping as far over as possible. Scout out the neighborhood beforehand, trying to opt for places that have well-lit sidewalks.
- Don’t run: Some kids think that running across the street is the safest way to get across. But this can lead to them tripping or a car not seeing them.
- Avoid dark streets: Encourage your children to go trick-or-treating in popular neighborhoods. Make sure they avoid dark streets, alleyways, or places that aren’t well populated.
- Visibility: Have your kids wear something bright, especially with dark-colored costumes. It can be as simple as adding some reflective tape—or even a headlamp. Glow sticks are another great idea. The kids can carry them or wrap them around their wrists. Also, make sure your kids can see properly: Avoid bulky masks that limit their vision.
Most kids are well aware of avoiding strangers in their day-to-day life, but this is the one day where it’s acceptable to knock on a stranger’s door and accept whatever they give you. It kind of breaks the rules, right?
A kid could easily make the mistake of trusting a “stranger” in this type of situation, especially if the adult promises more candy inside the house. Spend time talking to your children about how it’s okay to accept candy at the door but to never step inside the stranger’s house. This also goes for getting into anyone’s car.
Even if it’s someone they sort of know, it’s best to stay outside. Send your kids with a cellphone (tucked away in their backpack), so they can reach out to you if needed.
Kids under 12 should always have an adult go with them while trick-or-treating. This applies if the majority of the group is under 12, even if a few teens are included.
You don’t have to hover next to them the whole time, though. If your 10-year-old wants to go from house to house with his friends, you can stand back at the street, checking in with them after a few houses. But you shouldn’t send them off on their own for the whole evening.
For kids over 12, they can venture out by themselves for stretches of time. We still recommend that you hang out somewhere nearby, so that you can come to the rescue in case of injury, a costume malfunction, or the need for a bathroom break.
Set regular times to check in, either in-person or over the phone. The group should be able to reach you by phone, feel confident calling 911, and be able to report which neighborhood they’re in.
Also, make sure the kids stick to neighborhoods you know. Don’t send them off to a place clear across town without checking it out first.
Talk about how late is reasonable to stay out. You, and the other parents, all have to feel comfortable about it. If you don’t want your kids out past 8:30 p.m., be firm about that.
Checking the Candy
Is this still a thing? Do we really need to check the candy?
The truth is the risk of getting poisoned candy is incredibly low—so low as to be a practically non-existent threat—and yet it’s drilled into us to always check the candy. It only takes a few minutes to look it over, so why not be extra safe? Besides, it’s a great time to claim a piece or two of your favorite candy as a candy-checking service fee (which is probably the real reason generations of parents have checked their kids’ candy bags if we’re being honest).
Obviously, you can teach your kids to avoid eating stuff that’s been opened or has holes in it. If you don’t trust your children to adequately look it over, make sure they bring their candy home first before eating anything.
You also want to think about food allergies and sensitivities. A candy bar might have hidden nuts, or it might be coated with gluten. Sometimes it’s not obvious because mini candy bars usually don’t have the ingredients listed on them. If your child has food allergies, make sure they wait until they come home before eating any of their candy.
Keep hard candies and gum away from younger children because these pose a choking hazard.
You want to make Halloween as fun as possible for your children. That means also stressing the safety rules. Once you’ve implemented them, let go and trust your kids have enough sense to follow them. And always be available to help out, even with older teens.