Most kids look forward to Halloween with barely contained enthusiasm. The candy! The costumes! And did we mention the candy?
But parents might be more concerned about everything that could possibly go wrong when their little ones are traipsing around the neighborhood after dark, disguised in a costume with their mind focused on one thing and one thing only: candy!
If the concerns ring true for you, then it’s time to do your due diligence: talk with your children about the safety rules that will be in effect on Halloween night. And make sure you do your part by employing the following key Halloween safety tips:
1. Don’t “size up” when it comes to your child’s costume. “You have to make sure you’re putting your child in a costume that won’t trip them up or make them fall,” says Michelle Boykins, communications director for the National Crime Prevention Council. Choose shoes that are easy to walk in, too.
2. Use reflective tape. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends fastening reflective tape to your children’s costume, especially if the costumes are dark-colored, so drivers will be able to see them.
3. Reconsider the mask. “You have to look at whether you want your child to be using a mask that could obstruct their vision,” said Boykins. “We suggest trying makeup instead. The makeup doesn’t obstruct their view. You can do a lot of creative with things with it.”
4. Watch out for button batteries. That string of lights or the cute trick or treat bag with the blinking light may contain small round batteries often called “button” batteries. These are extremely hazardous, even potentially deadly, if swallowed. “They should be kept out of the reach of a young kid,” stresses Dr. Kyran Quinlan, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ council on injury, violence, and poison prevention, adding that you should promptly store those decorations out of reach after the holiday is over.
5. Avoid open flames. Steer clear of luminaries and other decorations that use candles. You don’t want your child’s costume to accidentally catch fire—even if it’s supposed to be flame-retardant, it may still burn.
6. Be careful with swords and other accessories. Your little pirate will invariably want to brandish that plastic sword in his best Captain Jack Sparrow imitation, so you should discuss why that’s not okay. “Even if they’re plastic, they can still hurt people,” says Boykins. Better yet, go with accessories made of foam or other soft materials.
7. Carry a flashlight. Put fresh batteries in your flashlight so the light will be bright. Charge up your cellphone and take that with you, too. And consider sending a cell phone with your child if you’re not accompanying her on her trick-or-treat route.
8. Set clear boundaries for your child. If your school-aged child is trick or treating with friends, make sure she knows exactly which streets she’s allowed to visit. You might even want to print out a map from the Internet. “You map out for them where you feel it’s safe to go, and you tell them, ‘I don’t want you go to beyond this area,’” says Boykins.
9. Don’t let your child carve the jack o’lantern. Dr. Quinlan also suggests using a safety knife to minimize the likelihood of cutting anything other than the pumpkin.
10. Check the candy. Before you let your child dig into that glorious mass of sugar he’s collected, inspect it. Make sure none of the wrappers are torn; if they are, toss those pieces. Get rid of any homemade treats that weren’t made by someone you personally know. And cull out any candy that isn’t safe for your child—think hard candy that might be a choking hazard for a toddler.
All that being said, you can still have lots of fun while being safe, says Dr. Quinlan. “We want to encourage kids to have a fun time on Halloween,” he says. “It’s such a magical time for kids.”