Masked kids in dark costumes roaming the streets after dusk could be the makings of a horror movie. Halloween should be scary, but it should be good scary. “It’s a really exciting time for kids, but it’s also a time when safety rules are easily forgotten,” says Kristen Gane, manager of programs for Safe Kids Canada. Here are seven things you can do to keep all your ghosts and goblins safe this Halloween.
One thing parents tend to worry about is costumes going up in smoke, says Gane. “Contrary to common perception, costumes catching on fire is very rare,” she says, (although it’s still a good idea to stick to flame retardant fabrics!). More dangerous are cumbersome costumes that make it hard for kids to move around safely, so try to avoid long capes, high heels and trailing dresses or tails that might trip them up.
When it comes to costumes, visibility is also important. The fall is a bad time for traffic accidents involving children, says Gane. There are more kids on the streets, the light is changing and it’s getting darker sooner. On Halloween, she recommends bright costumes and giving kids flashlights to carry. (If your trick-or-treater is dead set on being a witch or a hairy black spider, put some reflective tape on the front and back of their costume so they can be seen–or give them a white pillow case or bag for their candy collection.)
“Children under nine shouldn’t be going out without an adult,” says Gane. (Or a really responsible teen, she adds.) If older kids are heading out in a pack, remind then not to visit houses that aren’t well lit and to never go inside a stranger’s house.
“Halloween is a great opportunity to teach kids and to have a discussion about how to be safe,” says Gane. This is key when it comes to crossing the street safely. “Remind kids to stop at the curb, look left, look right, look left again–and listen, she says. Even older kids are easily distracted. “Kids on phones are three times more likely to be hit while crossing the street.” And kids of all ages need to be reminded about running out from between parked cars. “A kid will yell, ‘That house over there gives out really good stuff,’ and they’ll forget everything else,” she says. Remind kids to stay on sidewalks or walk beside the road in rural areas, as well as to walk facing traffic so drivers can see them.
Don’t let kids wear masks, says Gane. “Choose face paint because masks can really inhibit peripheral vision and make it hard for kids to look both ways when crossing the street.” (Opt for hypoallergenic face paint to prevent post-Halloween rashes!)
Inspect your children’s haul before it gets eaten, tossing anything that has a missing or torn wrapper or that looks suspect to you.
If your older kids are headed off to a Halloween party, make sure you set a curfew, have them call if there’s a change of plans and make sure they’re going with someone you know.