Halloween is as different from family to family as it is town to town. Two years ago, we found out the hard way that some communities don’t trick-or-treat on Halloween, but some other designated night of the week…huh? Right. This mom is planning her 21st time around taking children out in costume! Serious, if that don’t make me a veteran, what does? With at least five more to go until my youngest is eleven, I’ve got a few more creative ideas in me. Here are my rules for planning and executing the perfect Halloween for any family:

  1. Plan ahead, including costumes, goodie bags, participants (who is going with whom, who is driving, who is assisting door-to-door) and your route (whether walking, riding or some combination of the two). We live way out, so we drive to little clusters of houses; one parents drives 2 miles per hour while the other walks the kids to each house.

  2. KISS principle still applies. Less is more when it comes to costumes (except for teenage girls). Keep the costume simple, without blocking vision or breathing and leaving easy movement for feet and hands. It is not really fun to walk down the street in some costumes, and remember all those houses in your neighborhood with a million front steps? We used to live in a neighborhood with all hills on one side…what a workout!

  3. Consider the weather. Unless you live where it’s warm or are going to an indoor party, it’s best to leave the costume with the little skirt on the store shelf. Late October is not usually warm at night, so plan on layers or get creative by decorating last year’s fall jacket.

  4. Speaking of last year’s fall jacket…Recycle! Stop spending fifty bucks per kid every year to get something new and different. Re-use old stuff, get creative, recycle something from home to come up with a cool costume. Borrow a book from the library and, like we did when we were kids, make your own costume! It only needs to last a few hours of one night…

  5. Be smart and teach little kids and older ones who might walk without adults to follow basic safety rules, to the letter, like never trick-or-treat alone, carry a flashlight or wear reflective/light clothing (or decorate yourself with glow sticks), walk facing oncoming traffic, cross using crosswalks or at corners, approach only lit houses, never enter homes, don’t eat candy until parents inspect it, don’t approach vehicles and always make sure your whole party is ready to move on to the next house together. Have a designated end time, like just about dark, so kids are home safe by seven or eight at night.

Thankfully, I have always had a younger one (or three) going out, and we live in a rural area, so the kids don’t go out without adults. At the same time, I both dread and love taking them out. It is torture to drag candy-laden, costume wrapped and tired kids for an hour or two, but it is a right of passage of childhood in America for most kids. For older kids, be sure to go over the safety rules, especially if your older kids are taking younger ones. I highly recommend an adult accompany the whole crowd, to supervise and have some spooky fun yourself. If this is all just too much for you (or you don’t celebrate this holiday), plan a harvest-themed party at your house and make spooky treats to share with family and friends in a less sugary and less stressful way!

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