Trick or treating is one of the most anticipated things about Halloween for kids. (It doesn’t work out too badly for parents either, considering that we inevitably end up sharing some of that candy loot – yum!). But the fact is that Halloween night is one of the most dangerous times of the year for kids. Kids are out trick-or-treating and are more focused on having fun and getting candy than on thinking about, say, how to cross the street safely or not tripping and falling. Here are some important safety tips to keep your kids safe while trick or treating on Halloween.
- Be street smart.
Keep kids close, especially when crossing the street. Hold young kids’ hands, and always keep kids in sight. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, on average, twice as many kids are killed while walking on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Kids are out in the dark, which means they can’t see as well and drivers can have a harder time seeing them. Plus, they are likely to be too distracted and excited to pay attention to cars and more likely to dart into traffic unexpectedly.
- Have kids carry a flashlight or a lantern.
Lights can not only help your child see in the dark, they can make her visible to drivers as well, making lights and lanterns excellent accessories for any Halloween costume while trick or treating.
- Practice pedestrian safety.
Always walk on the sidewalk and not in the street. If there is no sidewalk, be sure to walk facing the traffic and stay off to the side of the road as much as possible.
- Trick or treat in a familiar neighborhood or area.
Rather than heading to a part of town you don’t know, stick to your own neighborhood. You’re more likely to know the traffic pattern -- which can help you stay safer -- and are less likely to get lost. It’s also a good idea to plan out a route in advance so that you and your child know where you are going ahead of time.
- Stay in well-lighted areas.
Sticking to streets and sidewalks that are brightly-lit is a good way to stay safer while trick-or-treating at night.
- Always cross at the corners and obey traffic lights.
Your child will watch what you do and follow your example. Be sure to always obey traffic lights, look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at designated crosswalks.
- Have a plan in case you become separated.
Does your child know your cell phone number by heart? Does he know how to get help if you become separated? Be prepared for the worst-case scenario so that your child knows exactly what to do. Be sure he has memorized your telephone number and remind him to always approach a woman with a child for help if he is lost. (This is one of the most important recommendations made by child safety advocates such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and something all kids should know in case they are ever separated from their parents or are lost.) For more information on how to teach kids to protect themselves against predators, read, “Protecting Against Child Predators: Beyond Stranger Danger.”)
- Practice costume safety.
Be mindful about safety when choosing Halloween costumes. Reflective tape or fabric on costumes can help keep kids visible at night, and can help drivers see them (a very important factor when kids are running around at night). Make sure your child’s costume isn’t too long or flowing and is made out of flame-resistant material to prevent risk of falls or having the costume catch fire if your child is standing near a candle or other decorative flame. Masks can also obstruct a child’s vision and prevent him from seeing vehicles, so whenever possible, opt for non-toxic face paint that’s FDA-approved for use on skin. Also make sure any accessories, such as swords or wands, are soft, flexible and are not sharp.
- Trick or treat with your kids.
Safe Kids Worldwide and other safety experts recommend that parents accompany their kids while they trick or treat until age 12. While some parents may think that trick-or-treating without an adult is fine as long as a young child is with a group of kids, the fact is that many children are not able to handle unexpected situations and emergencies until they are in middle school or older.
- Never rely solely only on an app to keep kids safe.
While apps can be very useful for helping parents keep track of their child’s whereabouts, they are never a substitute for other safety measures. Apps can do everything from update a child’s location, set up a perimeter so that parents are notified when a child goes beyond a designated area while trick-or-treating, and can even allow kids to send “SOS” messages if they ever feel threatened. But it’s important to keep in mind that these apps assume that a child is in possession of the phone. As previously noted, safety experts recommend that an adult accompany kids under age 12 while they are trick-or-treating. Apps can be a great way to keep track of older kids, on Halloween night and throughout the year, but they are not a substitute for other safety tips.
- Go over treat safety tips.
Remind kids to only eat candy that is still in its wrapper, and to only eat candy after you have checked it. And to keep kids from gorging on candy, fill up their tummies with healthy snacks and treats before you head out the door to go trick-or-treating.