For kids, Halloween is nothing but fun. They get to dress up, go trick-or-treating and receive stashes of free candy from strangers. What’s not to love?
For parents, it’s a different story. Halloween can be a night of full-fledged anxiety. Between the fear of poisoned candy and dangerous strangers, there’s a number of reasons to be worried about letting your little ladybug or Buzz Lightyear roam the neighborhood freely at night.
Luckily, there are ways to keep your kiddos safe this Halloween without taking any of the fun away. For starters, it always helps to go with them and watch them as they knock on every door. It also helps to establish trick-or-treating ground rules beforehand, so your children know not to run away from you or go inside any houses or cars.
Here are six ways you can ramp up your trick-or-treating safety this Halloween—for you, your kids and everyone else too.
1. Stick to a Pre-Planned Path. Walk the route you’re going to trick-or-treat this year with your kids prior to All Hallow’s Eve. Pick a well-lit path that’s familiar to your little ones. That way, if anyone gets separated they’ll have a sense of how to get home. If you can, avoid busy roads or areas where children have to walk near moving traffic.
If you have big kids that are ready to trick-or-treat on their own, establish a safe route for them in advance. There’s also truth to safety in numbers: the bigger the group your kid goes with, the safer they’ll be.
2. Have Your Kiddos Wear Glow Sticks. When you go to pick up a 5 lb. bag of candy to hand out, grab a few glow sticks too. No matter how unique your kid’s costume is this Halloween, there could be a million other neighborhood children sporting the same look. Keep track of your kid easily by having them wear a glow stick around their ankle, wrist or neck. This will be especially important when they’re crossing the street: Halloween is a deadly day for child pedestrian-related accidents, so make sure you can easily spot your kids from afar or when they’re in a crowd. Plus, parents and kids alike can agree that wearing a few glow sticks beats carrying around heavy flashlights any day.
3. Inspect Your Kid’s Candy. Rule #1 when it comes to candy: feed your kids a healthy Halloween dinner before they hit the streets. That way, they won’t be tempted to eat all their candy before they get home. Your kids shouldn’t devour all their candy at once or they could get sick. If your kids want to munch on candy as they trick-or-treat, take some candy from your own house or let them eat only candy that’s been commercially packaged.
And before your kid dives in, unwrap every single piece of candy that hasn’t been commercially wrapped (think rolled candies or taffies). If a bag of Skittles has a hole in it, toss it. If candy that has been commercially wrapped is still air-tight (like KIT KAT or a bag of M&Ms), they’re safe to eat.
Here’s what to look for when inspecting your children’s Halloween candy:
Abnormal bumps or lumps
Pieces of glass, metal, or razors
Sifting through your child’s candy also helps you watch for any allergies your child may have. If your kid is severely allergic to peanuts, toss each Reese’s, Snickers or Payday you see before they get to it.
4. Avoid Candles. Candles can be dangerous around Halloween decorations, and webbing and flammable costumes. When candles are placed inside pumpkins on front steps or walkways, children’s costumes can catch on fire—especially if they’re running excitedly past it. Instead of a real flame, use candles with powered batteries. They look just as cool, and they’re a whole lot safer. It’s also smart to check the flammability of your kid’s costume. Cotton, rayon and nylon are particularly flammable, so be on the lookout if your child has a nylon Superman Cape or cotton Princess dress.
5. Use Lots of Light. Don’t be the dark, scary house children dare each other to walk up to. Fog machines and spooky lighting make for a chilling stop on trick-or-treaters’ path, but it can also be dangerous to walk on. For instance, If you have cobblestone, steps or missing pieces from your pathway, dark lighting makes it difficult for kids to see—even if they’re walking slowly and carefully. If kids are wearing floor-length costumes or shoes that are difficult to walk in, poor lighting can make them especially prone to tripping.
Use lots of external lights to illuminate your pathway. You can position them in a way that doesn’t ruin your decorations. If trick-or-treaters come less frequently, opt for motion sensor lights instead. Don’t waste money by having the light on when no one’s around. All things aside, a well-lit house lets trick-or-treaters know that you’re game to hand out candy anyway.
6. Do a Trunk-or-Treat. If your neighborhood is too dangerous for trick-or-treating, consider a trunk-or-treat! It’s safer, you can keep an eye on your kids, and depending on how big it is, you can let your kiddos roam free. If there isn’t a trunk-or-treat at your child’s school, you can search for trunk-or-treats in your area, on Facebook groups, or by asking around. Trunk-or-treats can be just as exciting—especially if your trunk is well-themed and decorated with love. Get candy and decorations as you would for your home, and then, as a bonus, match your costume to the theme of your trunk. Is your trunk Harry Potter themed? Rock the witch look or a Hogwarts student get-up. If it’s a spookier theme, go the scary route.