Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tips to Keep Children Safe and Happy on Halloween

‘Tis the season for frolicking fun, festive parties, dressing up in ghoulish costumes, trick-or-tricking and, of course, lots of yummy sweet treats. It can also be dangerous. Each year accidents and injuries ruin Halloween for hundreds of children across the U.S. 

Droves of children will be out and about on Halloween night, which ups the odds for all sorts of accidents, including being hit by a car. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates deaths among pedestrians aged 5-14 is four times higher on Halloween than any other evening of the year. Remember, this is a festive occasion for grownups too and some of them may not be on their best driving behavior.

And it’s not just cars our kiddos have to worry about. Danger lurks everywhere.

Below are some tips to keep in mind to make sure this Halloween is a fun, safe one for your family.

Pedestrian Safety
When romping around the ‘hood on Halloween night, make sure your kids wear brightly colored costumes and/or reflective tape on costumes and bags. Have them take a flashlight, too – not just so they can see better, but for drivers to see them better too. Make sure kids walk in groups, in well-lit neighborhoods, and on streets with which they are familiar. Remind them to use sidewalks and crosswalks and cross streets together as a pack. 

Picking out a pumpkin at your favorite pumpkin patch is a fun family tradition for many. Carving the pumpkin can be dangerous, though. Pumpkin exteriors can be oh so tough which means you need a sharp knife to cut through them. Sharp knives and kids is a bad combination. Suggestion: let the kids draw the design on the pumpkin with a marker and have the adult do all the cutting. Or, skip the carving part altogether and decorate the pumpkin with paint or sharpies or glitter glue.

Whether home-made or store bought, it’s important that whatever mask your child wears fits properly so that it doesn't obstruct her vision. Chances are your child will be climbing up and down doorsteps, most of the time in front of houses dimly lit for an extra spooky effect, with lots of distractions and excitement all around. That’s tricky enough. If her eye-holes are too small for her eyes or are somewhere over her ear and nose, her vision will be impaired and her chances of tumbling down the steps greatly increased - spewing Skittles and candy corn as she goes. Not that I remember something like that actually happening to me or anything.

Remember, you can always cut the eye-holes to make them bigger and enhance your child’s peripheral vision. 

Oh, and make sure your child can breathe well under that mask. Breathing is important.

Candy Safety
It’s the one night of the year when the “never take candy from a stranger" rule is suspended. You still need to be cautious, though. Make sure your child knows that no candy should be eaten before a parent properly examines it. Avoid eating home-made treats handed out by strangers (no matter how yummy it looks), unwrapped candy, or any treat that just looks odd or suspicious for some reason. There will be enough perfectly safe candy to last for weeks. No need to risk your health by eating something funky.

Houses to Avoid
Not everyone celebrates Halloween. Heck, not everyone even likes kids. Avoid those people. It’s pretty easy to determine who in the neighborhood is in the Halloween spirit. Avoid the houses with no lights on and not even a smidgen of Halloween decoration on the porch or windows. They’re either not home or they do not want little Zombie ringing the door bell. Also, NEVER enter the house of someone you do not know. Adults know the protocol: kid in costume rings doorbell, adult answers door, child screams "Trick or Treat," bemused grownup says something along the lines of “…well, aren’t you just the most darling Fairy Princess” then hands kid Snicker’s bar, child says "thank you" and promptly proceeds to the next house. That’s the way it’s always been done. No reason to go inside.

Beware the Shenanigans
Remember, there will be a lot of shenanigans and mischief-making on Halloween night, most of which is fun-spirited, but some of it could get out of hand. Be sure to warn your child about pranksters and also remind him that Halloween doesn’t give him an excuse to vandalize property or play mean tricks on people. Rolling yards with toilet paper or tossing eggs at cars may seem like a harmless prank, but it could land your child in serious trouble.

Check in
If you allow your older child to go out trick-or-treating in a group without adult supervision, which I don’t advise, be sure that she or someone in the group has a cell phone and reports in at designated times, makes regular stops back home to check in, and is clear about a definitive curfew. Stress to your child that she should NEVER accept a ride in a car from an older kid or stranger.

The Spaghetti Effect
Finally, if you don’t want your child to consume huge amounts of candy on Halloween night, one trick is to make sure she eats a filling dinner before trick-or-treating. This will result in either one of two outcomes: she won’t eat so much candy; or, she’ll still eat too much candy and there will be a large pile of spaghetti in the lawn of someone in the neighborhood. Your call.

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