Halloween Safety: 5 Things Parents Should (and Shouldn’t) Do
By Brad Winfrey, Manager of the Center for Childhood Safety and Injury Prevention
The countdown is on until Halloween, but before your kids head out to trick-or-treat here are some lesser-known safety tips to help keep your ghosts and goblins safe.
Don’t worry so much about the candy
Parents spend so much time worrying if the candy is safe to eat, when they should be thinking about the big picture. Don’t get me wrong, parents should inspect the candy. But they should be more concerned about making sure kids are crossing the street safely.
On average, twice as many children are hit and killed while walking on Halloween compared to any other day of the year. Kids are running door-to-door, darting across the street, laughing with their friends (all while amped up on sugar) and they’re not paying attention.
Any child under the age of 12 should cross the street with an adult, and don’t forget to watch out for cars pulling in or out of driveways too.
Plan your route
Plan your trick-or-treat route in advance, and decide on a route that has the fewest street crossings and is well-lit. Make this a fun activity you can work on together leading up to Halloween. It’s also a good time to remind your child they should walk on the sidewalk or a path, avoid running through yards, and cross the street at the corner or crosswalk. If a neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks, walk in the road facing traffic and stay as far left as possible.
Having a route isn’t just for younger kids. Children 12 years and older can trick-or-treat on their own according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but make sure you know who they’re with and where they’re going. That way you know the path they’re supposed to be on if there’s any concern about how long they’ve been gone.
Light up the night
Make sure your trick-or-treater is visible. Only 18 percent of parents put reflective devices on their child’s costumes and there are several, easy things you can do to make sure drivers see them.
First, look for reflective costumes. If you can’t find one or make your own, put reflective tape on the arms, legs, torso and back of the costume. Don’t forget to use reflective tape on the trick-or-treat bag too.
Have kids carry glow sticks and/or a bright flashlight to help them see and be seen. (Make sure to carry an extra flashlight or batteries if trick-or-treating for more than a couple of hours in the dark.)
To make sure kids can see properly, use face paint instead of masks, eye patches, or hoods that may obscure vision.
Use your headlights
A lot of parents drive their kids to neighborhoods to trick-or-treat. Parents tend to think they can drive just like they would drive any other day, but the fact is kids are not paying attention. Kids have one thing on their mind, and it’s having fun and getting lots of candy.
If you’re driving, slow down and be vigilant at crosswalks. Also, don’t forget to turn on your headlights at dusk. Drivers will turn headlights off when pulling into a neighborhood so they don’t blind trick-or-treaters, but this is absolutely the wrong thing to do. You need to be as visible as possible.
Kids also need to know drivers are not paying attention. They’re watching their own kids going door-to-door and not the kid running across the street in front of them. Teach your child to make eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of them.
Trick-or-treating for different age groups
Many children start trick-or-treating when they begin to walk-and-talk. Get the little kids out early when it’s still light out, so they can easily see where they’re going and before the older kids are out wearing scary costumes.
Another option is to take toddlers to a neighborhood shopping center where local businesses are handing out candy. A lot of churches also host trunk-or-treats. These events are a good way for young children to gain experience trick-or-treating in a safe environment.
For school-aged kids, parents should absolutely go up to the door with children until third grade. Number one, the child is going to be nervous interacting with a stranger and all they want is candy. Second, they haven’t developed common sense safety skill yet. If you have older kids, stand back and watch, but always be within earshot of what is being said and done.
Remind children, especially those without adult supervision, not to approach dark houses and stay together in groups. Going in groups is not only fun, it’s safer.
Learn more about the Center for Childhood Safety at Children’s Mercy.