Is it appropriate to trick-or-treat with a toothless wonder that’s too young to fully enjoy it? Are the priceless photos worth it all, anyway? Dressing up your baby and rapping on neighbors’ doors has its merits: You might score those incredible mystery taffies (you know — the ones in the unmarked black-and-orange wrappers) and it’s a great opportunity to get out of the house and have silly fun. Here, we offer some tips.

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photo: Juhan Sonin via flickr

Dress-Up Time!
You can read stacks of parenting books and never be warned about the teeny-tiny window of opportunity you have to dress your bundle in whatever you please. Before that window is painted shut with the non-toxic finger paint of your future toddler with wardrobe opinions, take full advantage of this opportunity on Halloween. However you envision the perfect costume, consider these simple tips.

  • Think how you’ll be bopping around town and whether or not the costume allows you to do it. Dressing your little one as an octopus with crazy long tentacles or a costume with a lot of bunting, for instance, will make it difficult to slip them into a BabyBjorn.
  • Remember you may need to carry them along the way, so look for costumes that won’t make them to difficult to hold onto. A mini, babbling Saturday Night Fever John Travolta sounds irresistible, but encasing them in all that polyester, Lycra and spandex makes for one slippery baby.
  • When deciding on accessories (wands, swords, tridents, etc), imagine how bad the accessory will hurt if you’re smacked in the face with it 16 times in succession. If you grimace, put it right back on the shelf where it belongs. Babies flail and sometimes there are casualties — don’t let your eyeball be one.
  • Avoid masks that can make it hard to breathe. Stick to non-toxic makeup or costumes that don’t need anything on the face to complete the look.
  • Ensure there are no small pieces that could turn into choking hazards should they make their way to baby’s mouth.
  • It’s advisable to keep the bottom half accessible for diaper blowouts. Just keeping it real, folks.

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photo: Eden, Janine and Jim via flickr

What to Bring
Every outing as a parent begins with questioning what supplies are needed to successfully maneuver around whatever curve ball baby is packing up his sleeve. There are the obvious items you need when taking even two steps out the front door: diapers, wipes, change of clothes, favorite soothing toy or blankie, and at least five pacifiers so when the first four disappear into oblivion you have one more to count on. You’ve mastered that list, but what do you need to keep everyone happy on a trick-or-treating excursion?

  • Pack baby with a tummy full of healthy food so they’re less likely to grab for the sweets and they don’t get crabby from being hungry.
  • Bring along a healthy snack as an alternative to gumming a newly acquired chocolate bar in case they do get the munchies.
  • Consider trick-or-treating during daylight hours; but, if schedules don’t allow for that, carry a flashlight to illuminate your path and to assist in checking for signs of trouble in the diaper region.
  • If you’re out after dark, apply reflective tape to your little one’s costume, stroller or wagon.
  • Bring along a mental plan for your route. Scope out the route beforehand so you know if there are houses that might be a bit too scary for the audience you have in tow.
  • To avoid bringing a good excuse as to why you’re panhandling for candy with a kid that’s all gums, consider stopping only at the houses of friends and neighbors that will get a kick out of seeing your baby in costume.

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photo: rashida s. mar b. via flickr

You’ve Got Candy. Now What?
After traipsing through the neighborhood with your costumed ticket to endless amounts of free candy, you’ll find that digging through their bag of sugary loot to take inventory is almost as thrilling as when you inspected your own candy bag as a kid. The highlight of trick-or-treating with a baby is they likely have no idea what’s in their bag, so they’ll never miss that King Size Kit Kat bar you have big plans to spoon with later. If you fancy yourself to have a little more self-control than embarking on a sugar binge that could carry you all the way to Thanksgiving, we have these suggestions on how to share the candy with others or spread the joy for your family throughout the year.

  • Freeze the candy bars to add to milkshakes throughout the year as a special treat. Reese’s Peanut Butter cups make an amazing peanut butter and chocolate smoothie.
  • No one will judge if that same candy finds its way into Christmas stockings or Easter baskets over the next six months. It’s called reducing, reusing and recycling — and it’s good for the planet.
  • Convert your daily coffee to a mocha by dropping in a mini chocolate bar.
  • Spread the calories amongst your co-workers by creating an office candy bowl.
  • Check with your dentist to see if they participate in a candy buy-back program, as some pay by the pound.
  • Work with charities like Operation Gratitude or Operation Stars and Stripes to send unwanted candy to soldiers stationed overseas.
  • Contact your local homeless shelter or Ronald McDonald House to see if they’re accepting candy donations.
  • Grandparents tend to come preloaded with a major sweet tooth, so consider sending yours a care package or donate to a local nursing home.
  • They may be too young to fully understand the concept, but it’s never too early to start the Switch Witch tradition. After selecting a few favorite pieces, your kids leave their bag of candy out for the Switch Witch to swap for a small thank you gift.

Avoid Fright Night
Leading up to Halloween, read books to your kids and talk about what to expect when they hit the candy-paved streets. The best way to avoid a scary encounter is stick to the houses of friends and neighbors you know well. Find out beforehand whether they’re dressing up so there are no surprises. If you have a friend who scares the bejesus out of your baby on purpose, you are well within your rights to deliver them a platter of onions disguised as caramel apples as a thank you. Hugs, sweet consoling words and laughing your way through a scare goes a long way to put your little goblin at ease.

Happy Halloween!

What are YOUR tips for taking a baby trick-or-treating? Let us know in the Comments below.

— Maria Chambers