Don't Even Think About Halloween Trick-or-Treating Until You Read This
Everyone loves a good scare on Halloween, but Safe Kids Worldwide — an advocacy organization dedicated to protecting kids from injury — knows all too well the very real dangers that can come from being unprepared while out trick-or-treating, even as a family.
On average, twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on Halloween as compared to other days of the year, and a startling 12 percent of kids 5 years old and younger go door-to-door alone, without any adult supervision. And although most parents reported having concerns about safety during this holiday in particular, only one-third of moms talk to their kids about Halloween safety.
Whether it's finding an appropriate costume, setting clear trick-or-treating guidelines, enforcing candy rules, and driving defensively yourself, we've compiled a helpful checklist of easy and effective ways to keep your kids safe every step of the way.
- Choose a costume — including wigs and accessories — that is made of flame-retardant material. These should be clearly labeled as "flame resistant" on tags.
- Make sure the costume is the right size to prevent trips, falls, and entanglements. It should fit snugly and have no fabric dragging at the hemline. Consider giving it a test drive around the block before the day arrives.
- Have kids wear comfortable, sturdy shoes.
- Choose nontoxic face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child's vision. If wearing a mask, make sure it fits securely and provides adequate vision and ventilation.
- Test makeup on a small area of your child's skin several days before Halloween first. On Halloween, remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin or eye irritation.
- Never use fake knives, guns, or swords that look real. If props are used, make sure they are clearly "make believe" and are soft and flexible.
- Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.
- Attach emergency contact information to your child's costume or treat bag in case they get lost or separated.
- Have kids carry flashlights or glow sticks to help them see and be seen by drivers.
Children 12 years old and younger
Young children should not be alone at night without adult supervision, even if in a large group with older kids.
Children 13 years old and older
Just because a child is a teenager doesn't mean they are mature enough to be out without supervision. If kids are trustworthy enough to be out sans adult, they should:
- Review an acceptable route — only familiar areas that are well-lit — and plan to trick-or-treat in groups, never alone.
- Carry a watch and a cell phone for communication purposes only.
- Agree on a specific time to return home.
Children of all ages
No matter what age, kids should follow the following safety guidelines. Equally important, parents and other chaperones should abide by the same rules to set an example and encourage appropriate behavior.
- Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Look left, right, and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.
- Never run when crossing the street.
- Put phones and other electronic devices down while walking.
- Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
- Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
- Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
- Do not let kids enter homes — even those that appear to be themed haunted houses — or cars without a trusted adult present.
- Only trick-or-treat in well-lit, familiar neighborhoods in which most homes appear to be friendly to trick-or-treaters. Only approach homes that have a porch light on.
Candy and Decorations
- Inspect all candy before it is consumed, and let children know they are not to eat anything without the consent of a trusted adult.
- Tell kids to not accept anything that is not commercially wrapped in factory-level packaging. For example, they should not eat fruit or homemade treats made by strangers.
- Do not trust individual pieces of candy, like a single piece of gum or candy hand-tied in a clear baggie.
- Tampering is rare, but closely examine all treats for any suspicious items or markings. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Make sure items that can cause choking — like hard candies — are given only to those of an appropriate age.
- Keep candles and lit jack-o'-lanterns away from landings and doorsteps were costumes could brush against the flame.
- Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
- Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians, and on curbs.
- Enter and exit driveways slowly and carefully. Consider honking before approaching the end of an alleyway.
- Eliminate any distractions inside your car — consider turning off the radio entirely — so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
- Turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.
- Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids and heavy pedestrian traffic levels during that time period.