Just as you wouldn't give your child a battery-run toy without providing batteries, you shouldn't give him recreation equipment such as a bicycle or in-line skates without the proper safety equipment. Wrap up a helmet, knee pads, or whatever is called for as a separate present. It could be the most valuable gift you give him.
When you think of Halloween safety hazards, contaminated candy may be the first thing that comes to mind. Of course you should check everything that comes home in that treat bag, but pedestrian injuries, burns, and falls may be more likely to occur.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study says children 14 and under are four times more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than on any other night of the year. It's understandable. Kids who would normally be more careful get distracted by their friends or excited by the trick-or-treating. Careless street crossing coupled with drivers' more limited vision at night can make for a deadly mix.
In general, children under the age of 10 should be accompanied by an adult or a responsible older sibling on their Halloween rounds. For older kids, you'll have to decide how mature they are and how safe your neighborhood is before deciding when it's okay to let them go without an adult. In any event, they shouldn't go off on their own, but always with a friend or friends.
Help drivers see your little one. Put reflective tape or stickers on kids' costumes, shoes, or treat bags. You also can have them carry flashlights. That not only helps them be seen but see better, too, so they're less likely to trip and fall.
A safer alternative to candles is to use flashlights in pumpkins. They can even be used at parties instead of candles for spooky lighting effects.
Don't wait until the big night, when their attention span is short, to remind them not to dart into the street between parked cars, not to cross mid-block, and to look left, right, and left again before crossing at a corner.
Here are other Halloween trick-or-treat tips from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign:
- If your kids are going out without an adult, set a time for them to return home.
- Make sure they have change so they can call you from a pay phone if they have a problem.
- Restrict their visits to homes with porch or other outside lights illuminated.
- Instruct the kids to travel only in familiar areas and along a pre-established route.
- Tell them never to enter a home or an apartment building unless accompanied by an adult you approve.
Halloween costumes can catch fire. It sometimes happens when children trip into jack-o'-lanterns or luminaries. Candles used as decorations at Halloween parties are a hazard, too, especially when put too close to crepe paper or in a place where they are knocked over easily.
If you use a candle in your jack-o'-lantern, place it away from where children will be walking. Remind your kids to steer clear of jack-o'-lanterns that may not be as strategically placed at neighbors' homes.
Teach your kids the phrase “stop, drop, and roll.” Then have them pretend to put out the flames by stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their faces with their hands (so their faces won't be burned and smoke won't go into their lungs), and rolling over and over to put out the fire.
The National Fire Protection Association suggests these additional tips:
- Purchase only those costumes, wigs, and props labeled “flame resistant” or “flame retardant.”
- When creating a costume, avoid highly flammable fabrics and accessories.
- Don't make costumes with billowing or long trailing features.
- Be sure your child knows the “stop, drop, and roll” technique if his clothing catches fire (see the accompanying Safety Savvy).
Candy Is Dandy, But …
Although the incidents of contaminated candy have been few, it's best to be on the safe side. Have your child bring home the candy for inspection before eating it. Check that the wrappers are intact. If he's been given fruit, check the skin for punctures, then wash it well and cut it open before he eats it.
Costumes that drag the ground can trip kids up. Masks contribute to falls, too, because they limit how much a child can see, especially in the dark. Young kids often balk at wearing masks anyway, so consider face-paint as a safer alternative. If your child insists on a mask, cut the eye holes large for better visibility.
Additional tips for a really Happy Halloween:
- Secure hats so they don't slip over your children's eyes.
- If your children carry props such as swords or knives, make sure they're made of flexible material so they won't cause injury during a fall.
- Warn your kids not to cut across yards, which can conceal hazards in the dark such as clotheslines or lawn ornaments.
- Adult shoes may look cute with a kids' costume, but they also can cause a tumble. Stick to shoes that fit, preferably with non-skid soles.