Plan for Halloween Safety
The trick to making Halloween a treat is being prepared, experts say. “The number one rule is plan, plan, plan,” says Rene Hopkins, RN, Coordinator, Safe Kids East Central, led by the Georgia Health Sciences Children’s Medical Center. “Have a plan for before, during and after trick-or-treating to keep your kids safe.”
Below are some tips to making sure little goblins have fun and stay safe.
Plan Your Child’s Costume
“Face paint is better than a mask because masks can make it hard for children to see and could decrease their peripheral vision,” Hopkins says. Parents should also choose costumes that are flame retardant, especially if the costume has loose-fitting parts like wigs, cloaks and skirts, which can end up flowing into a live jack-o-lantern flame.
“Shoes should be sturdy,” Hopkins adds. “While little princesses love high heels, they can be unsteady on uneven ground or grass. Save those for picture time.” It’s also a good idea, she says, to have shoes with thick soles so that anything children step on doesn’t pierce their feet.
Accessories should be made of soft, flexible material so that if your children fall, they’re not impaled. “Make a sword from cardboard and cover the “blade” with foil,” she suggests. “Even fairy wands can be quite sharp. Make a homemade alternative from glitter paint and cardboard.”
Incorporate reflective materials. Parents can use reflective tape or attach reflectors and glow sticks to a costume belt or treat bag for example.
Plan for a Snack
“Children who are hungry when they go out trick or treating are likely to sample candy before their parents have a chance to inspect it,” Hopkins says. Make sure children know that their candy must be inspected by their parents before they eat it and that homemade treats are off limits.
Plan the Route
If you’re not accompanying an older child, plan his or her route ahead of time and go over it with them. Minimize the need to cross the street, other than at street corners and in well-lit areas. It’s also a good idea to require a buddy system and provide older children with a cell phone to call home if needed.
“In this case, ‘older children’ means those who are at least 12-years-old,” Hopkins says. “Children have the cognitive skills to be independent pedestrians by the time they’re 10, but on Halloween, with the added excitement and increased risks, it’s a good idea to wait until they’re a little older to let them venture out without a parent.”
Set the Ground Rules
“Instruct your children to NEVER enter anyone’s home, not just strangers, “ Hopkins says. “It’s also a good idea to explain that homes without the lights on are not just trying get into the scary spirit of Halloween. Make sure they know those homes are off limits.”
Even if you don’t have a trick-or-treater at home, plan. “If you’re giving out candy, clear your yard of obstacles like rakes and hoses that can be tripping hazards for children,” she says. “Think like a child. A child will not walk on a pathway necessarily. They’re looking for the shortest route to your front door and that may be directly across the front yard.”
Experts also recommend changing the way you carve your pumpkin. Carving a hole at the bottom and using inexpensive tap lights instead of live flames is a safer option. If you do choose the traditional candle to light your pumpkin, a whole at the bottom also eliminates the need to reach into the pumpkin to light it.
Plan for Pedestrians
Watch for increased foot traffic. It’s a good idea to drive UNDER the speed limit. “Children will come out of places you don’t expect,” Hopkins says. Statistics show that pedestrian accidents increase dramatically on Halloween.
“Be overly vigilant in planning for yours and your children’s safety,” she says. “And remember, everyone doesn’t prepare like you do.”
Rene Hopkins, RN, is coordinator of Safe Kids East Central, led by Georgia Health Sciences Children's Medical Center.