For youngsters all across our nation, the month of October means but one thing—Halloween is on its way. On this one special night of the year, kids get to fan out through their neighborhoods, dressed in outlandish costumes, with the goal of collecting a sack full of sugar-laden goodies. However, in their haste to accumulate as many treats as possible before the “witching hour” arrives, kids are also quick to forget some basic rules of safety. Though we don’t yet know exactly how various communities across our region will handle the tradition of trick-or-treating in light of COVID-19, parents should set the stage for a safe, healthy Halloween with a little planning.
Safety starts with the costume
Deciding what to be and putting the costume together is almost as much fun for kids as the actual trick-or-treating. This is also the point at which parents should get involved to ensure their little ghouls get off on the right foot where safety is concerned.
Costumes should be bright, reflective, and short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flame (e.g., the candles in those porch Jack-O-Lanterns). It’s a good idea to incorporate a flashlight and bands or strips of reflective tape into the costume’s design so your child will be clearly visible to motorists. Law-enforcement authorities also suggest that emergency-identification information, including your child’s name, address, and phone number, should be discreetly concealed within each child’s costume or worn on a bracelet.
Masks are often considered an integral part of the Halloween ensemble. However, if one is worn, make sure it doesn’t limit the child’s field of vision. All elements of the costume, including wigs and handheld accessories, should be clearly labeled as flame resistant. Simulated weapons—knives, guns, etc.—are best left at home. Too often, tragedy results when a toy weapon is mistaken for the real thing.
On Halloween night
When Halloween night finally arrives, make sure your kids eat a nutritious meal before hitting the streets. This simple step will discourage them from gobbling up half their Halloween booty before they even reach home.
Home fire safety must also be considered. Make sure electrical circuits aren’t overloaded with Halloween lighting or decorations, and position Jack-O-Lanterns at a safe distance from drapes, decorations, flammable materials, or any areas where costumed children will be walking. To eliminate the risk of fire from Jack-O-Lanterns altogether, light them with chemical glow sticks instead of candles.
If your children are old enough to trick-or-treat without parental supervision, make sure you know the neighborhoods they will be visiting and the exact route they will take to get there. Agree upon a time for them to return, and equip them with a cell phone so they can call or text you in the event of any unforeseen delays or call 911 in the event of an emergency.
- Young children should be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult.
- Older children should travel in groups.
- Carry a flashlight.
- Visit only well-lit streets.
- Use sidewalks at all times. If no sidewalk is available, walk on the farthest edge of the road, facing on-coming traffic.
- Never cut across yards or walk down alleys.
- Walk, don’t run, especially when crossing roads.
- Never enter a stranger’s house or car for any reason.
- Obey all traffic and pedestrian rules.
- Remove masks before crossing a street, driveway, or alley.
- Never consume food items or drinks offered by strangers.
- Never eat candy until it is inspected by parents.
- Immediately notify law-enforcement authorities of any suspicious or unlawful activity.
The candy inspection
Actual cases of candy tampering are extremely rare. Nonetheless, parents should check their kids Halloween haul for any unwrapped or otherwise suspicious-looking candy. Parents should also be on the lookout for age-inappropriate treats, such as gumballs, hard candies, or other choking hazards in a toddler’s candy sack.
Last but not least—though this step might prove unpopular with little trick-or-treaters—it’s a good idea to divide your child’s treats into small, reasonable portions so they aren’t consumed all in one sitting.