CLEVELAND - Parents know the drill -- they want their little ones to have a fun and not-too-spooky time trick-or-treating, all the while staying safe. No problem. If you follow these handy tips, your trick-or-treater should be good to go.
There are about 41 million potential trick-or-treaters between the ages of 5 and 14, according to the latest U.S. Census data. That's a lot of kids out on the streets getting their Halloween on.
"Halloween is one of the most anticipated nights of the year for children," said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations with a mission to prevent unintentional childhood injury. "And it's an important night for parents to be extra vigilant, because the reality is, twice as many kids are hit by a car while walking on Halloween than any other day of the year." The statistic is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
On Halloween, kids are enjoying new sensations and experiences that are fun, but distracting. They're wearing unusual outfits in unfamiliar material. They may be wearing headgear such as a crown or pirate hat, or wearing face paint. And they're suddenly at liberty to venture outdoors in these ensembles, knock on doors, and munch on some candy while they're at it.
Keeping your kids safe starts with some smart choices, Carr said, including picking a costume that's safe for your child to move in and see out of.
"Loose fitting clothing and oversized shoes can trip a trick-or-treater," she said, advising that families also "leave sharp objects, like pirate swords, at home." Since masks can obscure vision, she suggests using face paint instead.
Halloween usually means mobs of kids will be walking the streets at dusk, so it makes sense to talk to your kids about pedestrian safety, too.
"Remind them to cross at crosswalks or at a corner, make eye contact with drivers before stepping into the street, and check left, right and left again," Carr suggests.
When it comes to older kids, "remind them to take out the headphones and pocket their cellphone when crossing the street," Carr urges. "That's actually a good reminder for every day of the year."
Whether mom or dad plan to dress up as a witch, vampire, or pirate, you can set a good example for your kids with your costume and your conduct. Some more Halloween safety tips for families:
- Buy costumes and wigs labeled "flame resistant."
- Never walk near lit candles or luminaries while wearing costumes.
- Wear shoes that fit well.
- Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
- Be cautious with face paint--much of it isn't FDA-approved and could trigger allergic reactions. (Always test it first on a small patch of skin). Remove it before bedtime to avoid skin/eye irritation.
- Never use decorative contact lenses; they can result in severe eye infections.
- Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.
- Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you.
- Always walk and don't run from house to house.
- Stay on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic. Look for cars when walking by a driveway. Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.
- Enter homes only if you're with a trusted adult.
- Only visit well-lit houses. Don't stop at dark houses.
- Never accept rides from strangers.