Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for kids.  Ok, maybe that’s not exactly true.


I could easily live without the added sugar, overstimulation, and constant parties…


But…I love the costumes.  I love the unicorns, princesses, super heroes, and tow trucks (yes, you read that right.  More on tow trucks later).  I love the cute little voices when I open the door and the smiling parents standing behind them.


I love (most of) Halloween.


But Halloween can actually be very dangerous.  More pedestrians (many of them children) are hit by cars on Halloween than on any other night of the year.


It’s dark, the kids are excited, and the added sugar can lead to impulsive decision-making.


It’s best to take precautions.


Watch them:  Kids crave independence and trick-or-treating without parents seems to be a coveted milestone among the elementary school crowd.  All children age 10 and under should be supervised by an adult.  Yes, that means walking door to door with them. The rest should have specific instructions (map a route and establish a firm curfew) and carry a cell phone.  That’s right:  Forget everything I’ve said about media overload for one night and fork over the Smart Phone.  It’s just smart.


Add light:  When darkness falls it can be very difficult for drivers to track the hundreds of kids repeatedly crossing the streets.  Glow sticks and glow necklaces are both fun and safe, while flashlights are a must.  Consider using reflective tape, particularly on the back of dark costumes (I would even go so far as to put a design on your kids…hearts or stars, anyone?)  Don’t assume that the streetlights will suffice.  One flashlight per person is always a good idea.


Walk, don’t run:  Running from house to house increases the excitement and increases the potential danger.  Forget about what others are doing.  Enforce a no running rule while trick-or-treating.  When in doubt, hold hands.  Yes, even with older kids…trust me.  That will stop the running!


Make a plan:  With all of the supervision, you shouldn’t need a safety plan.  But it’s always a good idea to have one.  Drive your trick-or-treating route earlier in the day to familiarize the kids with the route.  Establish a safe house (this should be someone you know very well) in case anyone gets separated from the group.  Keep it simple.  Stick to familiar houses on nearby streets.


Eat first:  Hunger leads to meltdowns and meltdowns lead to poor decision making.  Feed the kids a protein filled meal prior to trick-or-treating and make sure they drink plenty of water.  Halloween tends to be a loss as far as healthy eating goes…but a balanced dinner will go a long way toward keeping your kids calm and happy.


Quit early:  Kids will go and go and go.  Know when to say when.  Set a time limit and stick to it.  If the kids begin to tire early, take them home.  There’s no award for the largest bag of candy and they will have fun regardless.


Remember the routine:  There’s a good chance that you won’t make it home for bedtime on Halloween, but don’t stray too far from your normal routine.  The kids are already tired, sugared up, and over-stimulated…try to stay on track with your normal bedtime routine as much as possible.  This is particularly important for the 8 and under crowd.  Kids don’t know when to say when.  You do.  Just do it.


Get on those costumes and have a very happy and safe Halloween!

About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)