I love Halloween. What other day of the year can we transform into a wholly different persona and be accepted for doing so? As a parent, Halloween has taken on a new kind of joy for me: picking out costumes with my kids, carving spooky and fun jack-o-lanterns, the anticipation of the loot to be gained from trick-or-treating. The parent I have become is also a little concerned every year at this time. I worry about my kids’ safety when they’re out going from house to house, I worry about what “treats” they’re being given…the unknown “bad guy” that could be lurking in the shadows, waiting to take advantage of the situation this night presents. Let’s take a few minutes to go over some safety tips and work together to protect our – and all the other – kids.
I have two boys and girl; it is inevitable there will be some sort of horror mask, capes and a ball gown involved in the festivities. When we choose costumes, I have a few deciding factors. How long is the costume? Can he/she walk in freely, without the risk of tripping over the bottom hem? How is the fit? The kids always try on store-bought costumes before we check out; this way I know the costume isn’t so big it’s falling off and isn’t so tight they can’t comfortably breathe. What color is the costume? If it’s going to be all black, I use double-sided reflective tape to make the kids more visible to other people and traffic. For girls, there is now a nice selection of princess gowns which include fiber-optic lights. I love this option! If there will be a mask, how well does it fit and does it have adequate ventilation? If the kids will be wearing face paint and/or “fake skin”, is it within its expiration date and is it hypoallergenic? I prefer to buy the paint a couple of weeks in advance and test it out on a weekend.
Many areas set “trick-or-treat hours”; I also love this practice! There will be a specific time for kids to enjoy gathering candy before the sun goes down. Not only does it make things safer for the kids, it helps parents plan the candy distribution timing. Some towns have even begun blocking traffic during certain hours to prevent traffic mishaps.
If your kids will be going house-to-house after dark, there are a couple of things you can do to keep them visible to other kids/adults and to cars. First, make their costumes visible (see above). Second, make their candy bag visible. There are little battery-operated candles and tiny strobe lights available at most craft stores; toss one into the candy bag. Nothing says “look at me” like a blinking bag! If you can’t find any of the lights, try getting those sticks that glow in the dark and make necklaces for each of your kids. Third, give every person a hand-held flashlight with a wrist strap. Make sure they all stay turned on for the duration of your evening and bring extra batteries just in case. I would rather spend a bit of extra money on batteries than spend money on hospital bills….
Keep it Together
Travel in packs! There’s an old adage about safety in numbers and it’s so true! Team up with a friend or two and have all the kids go out together. We like to have 1 adult in the front of the pack, 1 in the middle and 1 in the back, watching for stragglers. We also carry inexpensive walkie-talkies to keep in contact and keep tabs on the kids. Also, no one is allowed to go more than one house beyond were the group is. Yes, it can slow things down a little, but we always come home with everyone who originally left with us, and everyone stays safe.
Know Your Neighborhood and Break Your Routine
Don’t go into a new/different neighborhood to trick-or-treat, no matter how great the candy is supposed to be there. It’s easy to get lost or to lose a person in an unfamiliar territory; the best to avoid this is stay in the areas you know.
When I say break your routine, I don’t mean hit up a new area. I simply mean if last year’s trek went Up Elm Street, down Oak and then up Pine, maybe you can flip it around and start over on Pine Street. Why? Predators watch for patterns. Don’t make their efforts easier by establishing a consistent pattern. Make a note of which route you took this year, pack it away with the Halloween gear for next year, and then change it again the next time you go out.
Eat Nothing & Check Everything
It is so hard for me – even as a diabetic – to not sneak a piece of luscious chocolate when we’re out gathering loot, so I know it’s nearly impossible for kids. To combat the candy sneaks, make sure they eat a light meal before you go out. It’s hard to want to eat candy when your tummy is full. Carry a backpack packed with juice boxes, water bottles and healthy snacks like apple wedges. I also keep a small bag of candy I have already checked before heading out; if someone absolutely must have a piece of candy, they can dip into my pre-checked stash.
CHECK EVERY PIECE OF CANDY! No exceptions. There have been years when all the candy was in great shape and there have been years when I have found rocks and even tiny bits of glass in my kids’ candy. As a rule, I toss out any candy whose wrapper is torn in any way. I also ditch any candy that looks melted, wet or damaged in any way. Again, I have a backup stash of candy just in case I may have to toss out too much; whatever I need to get rid of I replace with the good stuff.
One more tip for parents: bring a big bag and a wagon if you have one. If there will be lots of houses, there will likely be lots of loot weighing down the kids’ bags. Bringing a big bag lets the kids dump their bags every now and then and also keeps them from trying to sneak a piece. The wagon helps carry that main bag of candy and any little people who get too sleepy to keep up with the aforementioned pack.
I’m sure much of this information is stuff many of you already knew, but maybe it will help some parents out there. Let’s all work together to keep this Halloween safe and fun!