Halloween’s a time for harmless tricks and tasty treats. But when you have a bunch of people, mostly kids, running around the neighborhood in the dark—well, there are some risks. Let’s talk about some tips to make your Halloween festivities delightful but not too frightful.
Know where your kids are
Your kids may go trick-or-treating with an older sibling, an aunt or uncle, a babysitter, or a group of neighborhood friends. If your children don’t have a cell phone and you’re not trick-or-treating with them, lend them yours. Even if they’re with an adult, you’ll be able to check on them directly.
Cell phones on Halloween
Make sure your child has fully charged their cell phone and knows who to contact in an emergency before heading off into the night.
If you don’t want to lend out your phone, look into child GPS devices. Parents typically use these to track their children in crowds, but they can also be handy on Halloween.
Check all treats before eating
Reports of children receiving candy laced with poison or drugs or filled with razor blades are largely urban legends.1 Still, to be safe, check your children’s treats before they eat them. And if your children get unwrapped or homemade treats, consider tossing those unless they’re from a neighbor you explicitly trust.
Between 1975 and 2002, Halloween was one of the three top days for pedestrian casualties.2
Halloween’s an unsafe night for pedestrians. Between 1975 and 2002, it was one of the three top days for pedestrian casualties.2
On the pedestrian side, make sure you and your children are visible. Teach them to stop, look, and listen before crossing the street.
If you’re driving, keep your eyes peeled for children stepping into the road. If you can avoid driving at all between about 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Halloween, that’s safer for everyone. And don’t drive while intoxicated—ever.
Light up the night
Ideally, your children would dress in pastel or neon costumes to make them easier to spot while trick-or-treating. But since popular costumes like Hogwarts students and Star Wars characters involve dark robes, you may want to turn to lights.
Make your children easily visible with flashlights or glow sticks. You can even put glow sticks inside transparent candy bags. These small candy bags limit the amount of loot your child can carry but make it easier for drivers to see them and avoid a tragic accident.
Watch out for allergies
As we said, Halloween treats are unlikely to be filled with poison, drugs, or razors. But there’s a possibility that they’ll contain something else: nuts. Or lactose. Or gluten. Or anything else that your child might be allergic to.
If your child has a severe food allergy, hold their candy bag for them so that they don’t sneak a piece with the wrong ingredients. And, if you choose to give treats to trick-or-treaters, we recommend choosing something allergy friendly.
If you hand out allergy-friendly treats, you can put a teal pumpkin on your doorstep. That tells kids with allergies and their parents that you’re giving away safe treats.
The big nine allergies are:
- Tree nuts
While fish and shellfish are unlikely to pop up in US treats, the other seven appear in various popular goodies. As you can probably tell, it’s hard to find foods that don’t contain one or the other of these. Fruits and veggies are exceptions, but we’ll be honest: when we were kids, we didn’t think of produce as a tasty holiday snack.
With that in mind, your safest bet may be small toys from dollar stores or party favors from Amazon. Or, to help other trick-or-treaters be visible on Halloween, you could even hand out glow stick bracelets.
Alternatives to trick-or-treating
You don’t have to take your children trick-or-treating. You could take them to a haunted house, corn maze, or hayride. Or you could take them on a quick jaunt to the homes of relatives and friends.
Alternately, an easy way to watch both your children and your home is to host a Halloween party. That way, you can more directly track what your children eat and who they talk to.
Protect your home while you’re out
If you’re not into trick-or-treating, you might find yourself in a dilemma.
Stay home with the lights on, and children will come knocking for their holiday treats. Stay home with the lights out, and potential vandals or burglars will believe you’re ripe for the picking. You can always leave, but you still have to decide whether to turn the lights on while you’re gone.
Light up your home
We recommend erring on the side of light, even if you’re not home. Sure, trick-or-treaters will be disappointed to realize you’re not around to hand out candy. But that’s far better than risking stolen or damaged property.
Keep outside lights on to deter potential intruders and pranksters.
Use your security system
Upgrade or add devices to your security system before Halloween gets here. After all, Halloween is the one time of year when random strangers are expected to wander your neighborhood wearing masks. You’re more at risk for break-ins and other security issues than you are at other times of the year.4
Adjust your security camera settings
If you have security cameras, consider adjusting the areas they watch. For instance, for Halloween, you might want a camera aimed at the streets around your house. That way, if any pranks occur, you can see where they came from. Toilet paper rolls can be thrown from the road, as can eggs and other items. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the perpetrators too.
Use your timers
If you have timers on your lights, light up different rooms now and then. For instance, leave the living room light and television on but use a timer to light up the kitchen occasionally. It will look like there are people in the house getting up for a snack.
You can also flip lights on and off remotely if you have smart plugs.
Arm your security system
The excitement of Halloween may make you forget the small stuff. Make sure to arm your security system (and lock doors and windows) before you leave your home.
A high-quality wireless security system will let you check on your home from your phone. You can even get alerts that let you know if something is happening as you take your kids out hunting for candy.
Keep safe at home
Criminals probably won’t come trick-or-treating at your door on Halloween. Still, if you’re not comfortable opening your door to strangers, you can make use of your security cameras, especially doorbell cameras.
For instance, you can leave a bowl of candy on the porch with a sign that tells trick-or-treaters how many pieces they can take. You can observe through your security camera and use two-way communication to intervene if someone takes too much.
If you choose to sit out on the porch instead, keep your cell phone on hand. Invite a friend or family member so you’re not alone. There’s safety in numbers.
Use common sense
Above all, use common sense on Halloween. There’s no candy so enticing that it’s worth a security risk. And remember, if you have a home security system, make effective use of it that night.
If you don’t have a home security system, now’s a great time to consider getting one.
To recap, here’s a summary of our tips for a safe Halloween:
- Have a way to reach your kids
- Check all treats before eating
- Drive carefully
- Wear light-colored or reflective clothing or carry lights while trick-or-treating
- Watch out for foods your kids are allergic to
- Keep your home lit all night
- Arm your security system
- Adjust your security cameras
- And above all, use common sense!
Contributing author: Kimberly Alt
- Smithsonian Institution, “Where Did the Fear of Poisoned Halloween Candy Come From?”
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, “Trend and Pattern Analysis of Highway Crash Fatality By Month and Day”
- Food Allergy Resource & Education, “Common Allergens”
- Dallas Morning News, “Why Sharing Your Halloween Plans on Social Media Could Cost You”