Safety Tips for Trick-or-Treating
Although confused with other European cultural and religious traditions, the concept trick-or-treating actually originates as a custom from the United States during the 1920s that involved pranks ranging from simple annoyances to tragic violence. In hopes to end the mischief, the trick-or-treating we know today really grew in popularity by the end of the 1940s. Over the last 60 years, trick-or-treating continued to evolve and is a common custom around the United States, as well as a multi-billion dollar industry focus mainly on costumes, candy, and decorations.
Even though the violent pranks have decreased, some criminal behavior and accidents are shown to occur more on Halloween in certain areas. However, there are some simple safety rules to follow when you take your children out trick-or-treating this year that will help ensure they have a wonderful time and return home safely to enjoy their stash of Halloween treats.
Map Your Route
Before heading out to go trick-or-treating, be sure to map your route. Go over this route with your children. There are a few benefits to this. One is covering as many houses in the allotted time as you can. More importantly, if your child gets separated from you, you both will know what route to take to look for the child.
When possible, use sidewalks. This will reduce the chance of being hit by a car. If there are no sidewalks available, walk as close as possible to the curb and walk against traffic.
Trick-or-Treat in Groups
Trick-or-treating in groups has a variety of safety benefits. For starters, there is always more safety in numbers. Children are less likely to be targeted by child abductors if they are in a group. Larger the group the better. Also, walking in a group makes the band of trick-or-treaters more visible to drivers.
Children wearing masks should always lift up or take off their mask before crossing the street. This allows the child to be fully aware of any oncoming traffic and other dangers, as most masks hinder full range of vision.
Crossing the Street
Be sure to remind your child about the basic safety tips when it comes to crossing the street. Always use crosswalks, but if there isn't one, remind them to cross at intersections opposed to other parts of the street. Chance are there are stop signs or yield signs at the intersection, therefore typically drivers are more cautious at intersections. Crossing at other parts of a street, or jay walking, is particularly dangerous at night because drivers aren't always expecting something or someone to dart out in front of them. Another reason for trick-or-treating in groups is that pedestrians are less likely to be hit when crossing the street as a group because, as mentioned above, they are more visible to drivers.
Make sure your child remembers to look both ways before crossing the street. Younger children should also hold the hand of the adult taking them trick-or-treating.
When choosing a costume for either your child or yourself, consider what accessories and hidden safety issues the costume may have.
- Costumes that do not fit properly could pose a tripping hazard. Make sure the length of the costume doesn't drag the ground and that the shoes fit properly.
- Make sure the costume is flame-retardant. Read the label to make sure that the costume and accessories, such as wigs, are resistant to catching fire quickly.
- Weapon accessories should be foam or soft plastic and flexible. Also, they shouldn't be too large. This will help reduce injury if the child falls. Besides, you want your child to enjoy trick-or-treating, not spend most of the time fumbling with a costume weapon or other accessory.
- Costumes with capes should be worn with caution because they could pose a choking hazard. Capes should be short and several inches from the ground. Also, be more aware when walking close to trees, bushes, and candles.
- When possible, use Halloween makeup instead of masks. This allows for a wider range of vision and makes it easier to breathe.
- If possible, encourage the child to choose a costume that is light-colored. Darker costumes will blend in after dark, making the child practically invisible to drivers and other trick-or-treaters.
- Consider either writing or attaching a card to the inside of the costume with the child's name, parents' names, address, and phone number. This helps identify the child in case the child is injured or or separated from the parent or group.
Candles and Luminaries
Although it is encourage to use battery-operated lights, some people are still using candles in their pumpkins and other illuminated decorations. Parents should teach their children to stay clear of any candles to prevent their costume from catching on fire. If such an event should occur, be sure you and the child know basic common safety when putting out fires.
Stop, Drop, and Roll
Stop - If your costume catching on fire, the first thing you need to do is stop. Do not take off running. This will intensify the flames and cause the flames to spread.
Drop - Next you need to drop to the ground and cover your face with both hands.
Roll - Keep rolling until the fire is out.
Basic Manners for Safety
It is important that parents instill basic manners and etiquette in their children. Some trick-or-treaters are excited and rush to the next house looking to score more sweet treats without any thoughts of safety or respect for the homeowner. Even worse, some parents think nothing of their child behaving rudely nor do they consider the dangers of letting a child forget about manners and behaving as an out of control goblin. Although some basic manners is about being polite, others are for safety reasons. Here are some basic manners for trick-or-treating that all parents should teach their children:
- Do not run through a yard. Use the sidewalks, driveways, and walking paths. Even if the house doesn't have Halloween yard decorations, it is not only safer to not cut across yards, but it is also respectful to the homeowner.
- Encourage children to walk, not run.
- Only go to houses with the porch light on. This is a tradition that signifies that the homeowner is participating in the trick-or-treating festivities. Houses with their light off signify that they are not passing out treats for Halloween.
- Do not repetitively ring the doorbell or knock on the door constantly. Not only is it annoying but very rude.
- Do not bother the Halloween decorations or anything else on the property.
- Do not grab candy from the trick-or-treating bowl. Most homeowners will hand out the allotted amount. If the homeowner encourages the child to grab some, teach the child that grabbing handfuls is greedy, rude, and very ill-mannered.
Always carry a flash light. In fact, it is advisable for each child to carry a flash light as well. This allows the child to see any hidden dangers as they walk up to the door, especially at houses that are highly decorated with Halloween decorations. It also helps make the child more visible to drivers. Many stores now carry Halloween themed flashlights that will encourage the child to want to carry one.
Another great safety tip is to attach reflective tape to the child's costume. This will help drivers see the child as the headlights will reflect light of the tape allowing drivers to see the child, especially after dark. Be sure to attach the tape to the front, back, and sides of the costume.
If you can't find reflective tape, consider attaching glow sticks to the child's costume. You could also have the child wear glow stick bracelets and necklaces, as well so that they can be visible from all angles.
- U.S. National Sex Offender Public Website
This web site is provided by the U.S. Department of Justice to facilitate a free nationwide search for sex offenders registered by states, territories, Indian tribes, and the District of Columbia.
Research shows that Halloween is a prime time for child abductions and molestations. Most criminals see this as a prime time to abduct a child as hundreds of children hit the neighborhood streets to trick-or-treat. This is also why children under the age of 12 should be under the supervision of a parent or guardian, or a designated adult when trick-or-treating. This is also why trick-or-treating in groups is encouraged because there is less-likely of a chance that a criminal will target a group. Be sure that your child fully understands the practice of stranger danger and how to avoid or limit the chances of being kidnapped on Halloween.
Do Not Enter a Strangers Home
Teach your child that under no circumstance should the child enter a home, especially a stranger's home. If the child is lost and goes to a person's home for help, have the child still insist on staying outside the home while the homeowner calls the parent.
Whether you are trick-or-treating in your neighborhood or another neighborhood, it is a good idea to double check the National Sex Offender Registry to locate which houses on your route or in your area has a registered sex offender.
Do Not Get in a Car With a Stranger
Same rules apply on Halloween as any other time. Stress to you kids to never get in a car with a stranger. Also teach them to be aware of their surroundings and any suspicious vehicles. Although child abductions can occur with any vehicle, be extra cautious with vans, trucks, and any vehicle that has tinted windows, especially those that you cannot see in.
Work with your child in advance on making sure they know their address and parents' cell phone numbers. For children having trouble remembering, write the information down on an index card or business card and safety pin it to their costume, along with the child's name.
Many older kids have cell phones now. But for those who don't or the younger kids, consider getting them a simple emergency cell phone to carry with them for the night. This is a great concept for other events and occasions. Although some parents do not want their preschooler or young child to have a cell phone quite yet, it is a good idea to keep around a cheap prepaid phone just for these occasions. Make sure all emergency numbers are pre-programmed into the phone and the child understands how to use the cell phones, considering each phone has different features. Cell phones are great in case your child gets separated from you. All they have to do is call you or you can call them.
Meet Up Place
Aside from mapping out your route prior to trick-or-treating, consider designating a meet up place along the route in the event you get separated. This is a good idea for older children, especially those who do not have cell phones. It may also eliminate having to knock on a door asking a stranger for help. It is also a great idea for young teens who may be trick-or-treating as group.
Do you think teenagers should be allowed to trick-or-treat?
Trick-or-Treating Without Adults
It is advised that children under the age of 12 should never trick-or-treat without an adult. However, as children move into their teenage years and become more independent, they may feel that parents will cramp their style, so to speak.
Be sure that your teen has plans to trick-or-treat as a group with other teens. Again, encourage that they map out their route in advance and share the planned route with parents. If the teens have cell phones, be sure to have a list of each teen's cell phone number and their parents' phone number in case of an emergency. Although trick-or-treating only lasts for a few hours, encourage designated check-in times so that it will give both the parent and teen a better sense of safety.
In 2015, the Jackson, MS Metro Police issued a warning to parents that there are ecstasy pills disguised as candy (pictured above). Although, it is doubtful that someone will pass out this expensive drug on Halloween to trick-or-treaters, it is a reminder to parents to take an active part in examining the candy your child collects Halloween night before allowing the child to consume it.
One of the hidden dangers to trick-or-treating is the candy. Some demented people have been known to tamper with the candy causing the child to become sick or high. All police agencies and health agencies advice parent to not allow children to eat the candy while they are trick-or-treating. All candy should be inspected by the parent before allowing your child to consume any of it. Here are some basic signs that the candy may have been tampered with:
- tiny tears or pinholes in candy wrappers
- wrappers that look like they were opened and re-closed
- unwrapped candy
- homemade goodies
- any treat that is not prepackaged
Parents should feed their children a good, solid meal before trick-or-treating to deter snacking on candy along the way. Once home from trick-or-treating, children are anxious to eat some of their Halloween candy. Have the child get cleaned up and changed while you or another responsible adult begins going through the candy - to check for safety, not to steal candy from your kids. And remember, when in doubt through it out.
For those who have teens trick-or-treating, be sure they understand that they need to wait until an experienced adult double checks their Halloween candy stash. Be sure they are aware of the potential dangers of eating candy that hasn't been properly inspected.
Although it is encouraged to keep your pets isolated indoors during the hours of trick-or-treating, many pet parents enjoy dressing up their pet and taking them for a walk as if the pet is trick-or-treating. Children should be taught to never approach an animal, regardless of how cute or adorable it may be. Some animals aren't as friendly as others, and even the nicest of animals can become easily anxious or afraid during the chaos of trick-or-treating, which may prompt an out-of-character attack. However, if you do come across an owner with his pet, there are some basic guidelines to follow before interacting with the animal.
- Always double check with the owner before petting an animal.
- Get down to the animal's level to seem less intimidating to them.
- Set down any costume accessories and trick-or-treat bags.
- Allow the animal to smell the back of your hand first before petting them.
- Never feed the animal any candy. Chocolate contains alkaloid known as theobromine, which cannot be metabolized like it does in humans and can cause severe health complications and even death. Some sugars are also bad and can cause other health issues.
Halloween is a fun time of the year that many children and some adults look forward too. By following these simple safety tips it will help to make sure that everyone has a safe holiday to create fun memories to last a lifetime.
© 2014 Linda Sarhan