Child in Halloween costume. Mixed race Asian and Caucasian kids and parents trick or treat on street. Little boy and girl with pumpkin lantern and candy bucket. Baby in witch hat. Autumn holiday fun; blog: dos and don'ts of trick or treating

There are many things for you and your child to look forward to this time of year. Cooler temperatures offer relief from hot summers, children are more settled into the new school year, and you can break out the jeans and sweaters again. But the thing your child might be most excited about in October is Halloween. And why shouldn’t they be? Halloween is one of the most fun holidays for children because it’s all about spooky stories, dressing up, and getting treats.

However, as with any big occasion, there are things to look out for during Halloween, especially when it comes to trick-or-treating. The American Pediatric Academy has good information on Halloween safety for kids, and we’ve also come up with a helpful list of the dos and don’ts of trick-or-treating to keep everyone safe and happy on the holiday.

DO Set Ground Rules

If you have an older child who is trick-or-treating with a group of friends, or if your child is going around with another adult you trust, make sure they (and the responsible adults) know your rules. This can include rules about eating candy, safety rules, and when they need to be home. It is also a good idea to have your child carry a cell phone if you won’t be with them and they’re old enough to use one.

DON’T Let Kids Under 12 Trick-or-Treat Without Adult Accompaniment

You or your partner may trick-or-treat with your children each year, which is a great choice. You can also join up with other friends with children to trick-or-treat as a group with multiple adults to supervise. If you won’t be with your child and they are younger than 12, make sure they are with at least one trusted adult. Children 12 and older should still go with a group (friends that you know well or other older siblings). Set specific guidelines on where they are allowed to go, when they need to check-in and what time they need to come home.

DO Take Safety Precautions

Even when you are with your child, there are some things that pose risks during trick-or-treating. The biggest risk factors are that it’s dark and there may be moving vehicles where you are trick-or-treating. Safety precautions you should take include:

  • Review all of your safety rules with children and make sure they know why they are important.
  • Use bright colors in costumes when possible.
  • Use flashlights and have them available for children if needed.
  • Pin a tag with your child’s name and contact information to their costume in case you get separated.
  • Consider using reflective tape or glow sticks on costumes, shoes, or bags to make them visible to cars.
  • Enforce the “look both ways” rule when crossing the street. Also make sure they stay aware of their surroundings, especially when near roads where there are cars driving (even at the slow speeds required in residential areas).

DON’T Accept Homemade Treats from Strangers

Unless you know someone very well and trust them, do not let your child eat homemade candy or other sweets on Halloween. Most people do not have malicious intent when handing out homemade treats, but they could contain ingredients may cause an adverse reaction or illness.

DO Pay Attention to Costume Safety

Dressing up is a big part of Halloween fun. So, it makes sense that a few of the dos and don’ts of trick-or-treating are related to costume safety.

  • Make sure your child’s costume fits correctly. Hem pants and skirts to avoid tripping. Avoid costumes that are too tight and can be uncomfortable to wear for an extended period.
  • Make sure your child’s shoes are comfortable and suitable for walking in. Avoid high heels, plastic slippers, or other flimsy footwear that can cause injury.
  • Make sure your child is warm enough in their costume. If it’s chilly, they can wear layers underneath for insulation and if it’s cold enough, you can require them to wear a jacket. Also, make sure they won’t overheat if you live in a place that might be warm on Halloween.
  • Only allow costumes made with non-flammable fabric.
  • Attach reflective material to the costume.
  • Avoid masks that may impair breathing or vision.
  • Insist that your child wear their glasses if they require vision correction. They might argue that glasses don’t “go with” their costume, but being able to see clearly is non-negotiable.

DON’T Forget to Monitor Candy

For a child, one of the ultimate goals of Halloween is collecting a big bag of candy and treats. And it is generally fine to allow your child to indulge their sweet tooth occasional. However, you need to make sure they do not eat too much at one time and that the things that they do eat are safe. Some guidelines to follow when it comes to Halloween candy:

  • Do not let children eat a lot of candy as they trick-or-treat. If you inspect the candy carefully, it might be fine to give them a couple of pieces as they go along, but avoid letting them have too much and never let them eat something that you haven’t checked. It is recommended that you have children eat a healthy dinner before going out to trick-or-treat, even if it’s earlier than usual.
  • Ration their candy. Don’t let kids just take the whole bag or bucket up to their room and leave them to their own devices. They might not be able to grasp the benefits of moderation. Instead, keep the candy in a safe place where kids can’t get to it and give them a few pieces every now and then as a treat. If you’d rather not have your child have the candy at all, you may be able to negotiate a trade for something else they like. Things they might be willing to swap candy for are small toys, books, or special outings.
  • Inspect all candy before allowing children to eat it.

DO Make Your Own Home Safe for Trick-or-Treaters

While you may be focused on your own child’s safety, some dos and don’ts of trick-or-treating apply to keeping other children safe on your property. This is especially applicable if you will be passing out candy.

  • Clear your yard and walkways of any tripping hazards and debris that could cause slipping.
  • Make sure your walkway and porch are well-lit. Replace burned-out bulbs and make sure the lights are switched on during the hours trick-or-treaters might come.
  • Control your pets and do not take any chances that a pet might frighten or be aggressive towards a child. It can also be a problem if your pet is prone to bolting when the door is open. You may want to leave pets in a fenced in yard during peak trick-or-treating hours or keep them in a room or gated area where they can’t get to the door. If your pet is anxious, they may feel safest in their crate or bed. You are probably the best judge of your pet’s personality and tendencies but exercise extreme caution when it comes to children they aren’t familiar with.

About HealthPark Pediatrics

At HealthPark Pediatrics, we strive to provide quality comprehensive health care for the children of Raleigh, NC. This not only includes physical medical care, but also includes considering environmental, psychosocial, community, and family influences when developing a treatment plan for a child. That’s why we want to make sure your child has the safest and healthiest trick-or-treating experience possible. If you have questions or concerns about anything relating to your child’s overall health, call us at 919-896-7066 or request an appointment online.