It's the time of year for costumes, sweets, and tricks and treats. While Halloween offers plenty of make-believe fun, it also brings real safety risks, as children dart across dark streets with their minds more on candy than on cars. Kids are twice as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than on other nights of the year.
Burns and cuts are also common on Halloween. And then there's the candy: Almost two-thirds of parents think their kids eat too much of it around Halloween.
Halloween can be safely enjoyed — especially when parents put extra care into planning and supervision. Talk with your children every year about safety concerns unique to this holiday, and review do's and don'ts before heading out to trick or treat.
Follow these tips to keep your family safe this spooky season.
Before you start carving pumpkins, consider these Halloween safety rules:
- Decorate with markers, glitter glue or paint. Let young children draw faces on pumpkins with art supplies. Leave any carving to an adult.
- Use candles with care. Place candlelit pumpkins on a sturdy surface away from curtains and other flammable objects. Never leave candlelit pumpkins unattended. Better yet, light pumpkins with flashlights, battery-operated flameless candles or glow sticks instead.
Get clever with costumes
From furry animals to princesses and superheroes, choosing costumes wisely is an important part of Halloween safety. Follow these tips:
- The brighter the better. Whether you buy a costume or make one yourself, choose bright colors and flame-retardant materials. If your child will be trick-or-treating outdoors after dark, attach reflective tape to his or her costume or treat bag.
- Size it right. In case it's chilly outdoors, make sure your child's costume is loose enough for warm clothing to be worn underneath — but not long enough to cause tripping. Avoid oversized shoes and high heels.
- Skip the masks. A mask can obstruct your child's vision, especially if it slips out of place. Use kid-friendly, nontoxic makeup instead.
- Limit accessories. Pointed props — such as wands, swords and knives — might pose safety hazards. Carry flashlights or wear glowing wristbands instead.
Trick or treat with care
Before your children start trick-or-treating, review these basic Halloween safety rules:
- Get in on the fun. Accompany trick-or-treaters younger than age 12. Pin a piece of paper with your child's name, address and phone number inside your child's pocket in case you get separated. Encourage older kids to trick or treat with a group of friends, parents or older siblings. Make sure someone in the group has a flashlight with fresh batteries.
- Set ground rules. If your child will be trick-or-treating without you, plan and discuss a familiar route and set a curfew. Review safety rules, including staying with the group, walking only on the sidewalk, approaching only clearly lit homes, and never going inside a home or car for a treat. Have your child carry a cellphone for the evening so that he or she can contact you.
Inspect treats before indulging. Don't let your child snack while he or she is trick-or-treating. Feed your child an early meal before heading out, and inspect the treats before allowing your child to dive in. Discard anything that's not sealed, has torn packaging or looks questionable. If you have young children, weed out gum, peanuts, hard candies and other choking hazards.
If your child has food allergies, check candy labels carefully. Even hard candies may be manufactured in facilities that process nuts, milk, soy, wheat, egg or other allergens.
- Ration the loot. If your child collects gobs of goodies, dole out a few pieces at a time and save the rest. You might even ask your child if he or she would like to swap some — or all — of the candy for something else, such as a special toy, book or outing.
- Plan a party. Consider planning a trick or treat party with a couple of neighbors instead of house-to-house door knocking. Decorate the garages, have a costume contest, and plan games and prizes. Check local schools, malls and churches to find other safe celebration options.
Stay safe and sweet on the home front
Planning to hand out treats? To make sure you're ready for trick-or-treaters, follow these tips:
- Clean up. Put away anything trick-or-treaters could trip over, such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations. Clear wet leaves, snow or other debris from the sidewalk.
- Turn the lights on. Replace any burned-out bulbs to ensure good visibility at the walkway and front door.
- Control your pets. Take no chances that your pet might be frightened and chase or bite a child at your door.
- Consider sugar substitutes. Instead of handing out sugar-laden treats, try stickers, fun pencils, rubber insects or colored chalk.
If you'll be driving on Halloween, watch for children who might pop out between parked cars. Be especially careful entering or leaving driveways and alleys. Extra caution can help ensure Halloween safety for everyone.