Tips for Having a Safe and Fun Halloween

Trunk or treat family in costumes

Soon those superheroes, video game characters, witches and mermaids will be trotting up the front walks of the neighborhood to ring doorbells for the goodies within on Halloween. While I suspect that it is far more likely children will get the treat than try a trick, there are some things you can do this year (and every year) to make the holiday a safe and enjoyable one.


For most children, costumes are a chance for joyful creativity and play. Have fun with your expressions but keep some key ideas in mind as you craft your own or grab something at the pop-up store. Check labels, looking for nontoxic makeup (keep it out of those eyes — it stings!) and materials that are clearly noted to be nonflammable.

Materials for those getups should allow the child to see clearly when crossing streets or navigating dark stairs — and to be seen. Try to find a way to add light to your costumes, such as putting reflective material on a treat bag or costume, having a glow stick party or simply walking the neighborhood with a flashlight. Thus equipped, children are ready to go haunting.


For younger children, going out in the late afternoon may be the right move because it prevents the disruption (and chaos) of a missed bedtime. Alternatively, check your local calendar, as many communities are moving toward child-friendly trick-or-treats (and trunk-or-treats) in some streets or business districts. For children of early elementary school age and younger, chaperoning is a must. Depending on your children’s ages and stages, it isn’t a bad idea to quiz them on your phone number (if they know it) or to give them an easy-to-find slip of paper with your phone number on it in case they get lost in the crowds after dark. Hey, it can get wild out there!

Counting Candy

When the bags are full or when the little ones’ feet get tired, it is time to go home and count their bounty. I recommend having an adult help the children sort their loot while making a game of it. Count items and put different candies in different piles while a grownup looks for items that might be spoiled, have damaged packaging or potentially be a concern for a child with food allergies. After that, it is a matter of style as to what parents do next. I am agnostic on this part. My dental colleagues mostly object on all counts, and I respect them for that.

Whatever your approach, most often children haul in more than they can ever reasonably eat. I recommend setting aside a ration for your child (and yourself!) and donating the rest to a worthwhile cause like the Ronald McDonald House or your local women and children’s shelter.

Happy haunting!

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