Trick or Treat For Fun and Safety

Trick or Treat For Fun and Safety
My oldest daughter has always loved Halloween. Whether a toddler handing out candy at the door or an older kid going door to door with friends, she just soaks up the entire experience. My youngest daughter, however, has not always been so keen on the dress up thing. Her first Halloween went well, when she was a happy oblivious peapod, only months old. And the last two years have gone well as she embraced her princess gene. But during those middle years she could take or leave the entire event. As long as no one in a costume talked to her and she got some candy, she was happy. She spent most of those years hiding behind my husband while her sister got the treats for her.

My younger daughter's attitudes about Halloween are much more typical than my oldest daughter's. Halloween can be very overwhelming for small children because they have trouble understanding fantasy vs. reality. To them, what they see is what is real, despite your best explanations that it is only a person in a costume. Logistically, go with your child's flow. Some kids may just prefer to stay at home and help give out candy; others may want to carry their costume; and others may not be interested at all.

For the kids who do venture out each Halloween, negotiating streets and houses in costume does have a certain element of potential danger. As you set out this year with your kids, consider these safety ideas from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Red Cross:
• Costumes should be bright and short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with fire-related objects, like Jack-o-lanterns. All costume material should be flame resistant. Make sure your child’s shoes fit well and that they are dressed for the weather – Halloween is often very chilly!
• Carry flashlights, reflective trick-or-treat bags, or the ready-to-use glow sticks to make sure each child is easily seen.
• Especially for older kids that are going out without an adult, make sure emergency identification (name, address, phone number) is discreetly tagged within Halloween attire or on a bracelet.
• Use make-up instead of masks; masks can block vision.
• Instead of carving pumpkins, consider decorating with markers and paint. Also consider battery-powered lights for the pumpkin instead of candles.
• At your home, remove anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations. Make sure your outdoor lights are on and the walkways are free of wet leaves. Do not overload electrical outlets with holiday lighting or special effects.
• Plan and review with your children which route is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when revelers must return home. Make sure someone in the group has a watch and a cell phone for emergencies. Make sure a parent or older teenager accompanies children, especially small children.
• Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items. Explain to your kids to not snack on the candy until you have a chance to inspect the loot. One way to curtail snacking while out is to make sure your kids have a good dinner before heading out.
• Although sharing is encouraged, make sure items that can cause choking (such as hard candies), are given only to those of an appropriate age.
• Avoid “homemade” edible treats – you can’t be sure what is inside.
• Talk to your Trick-or-Treaters about safety rules of the night:
*keep flashlights on
*stay with their groups at all time
*only go to homes with a porch light on
*remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk
*never cut across yards or use alleys.
*never enter a stranger's home or car for a treat
*obey all traffic and pedestrian rules
*call 911 for any suspicious or unlawful activity.

As for the treats, my rule of thumb is everything in moderation. There is nothing wrong with a few pieces of candy spread over a few days. As long as your child's diet is healthy most of the time, treats like this are perfectly ok.

Finally, above all else, enjoy an evening of fantasy and fun with your kids!

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Content copyright © 2023 by Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, M.D., F.A.A.P.. All rights reserved.
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