Halloween Safety Tips
With fall comes one of children’s favorite times: Halloween. Whether for the candy, the costumes, or the dusk-time romps, it’s great fun. Parents, babysitters, and guardians can do a lot to make sure Halloween is a safe time too by taking a few steps to make sure children are easily visible, costumes are safe and secure, and candy-nabbing follows a predictably safe routine. The fact is, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are more likely to get hurt from a fall, a car, or their costume than the “razor-in-the-apple” urban legend.
So what to do? Follow these tips to help make the season a fun one for all!
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has some great advice to anyone helping kids select (or make) their costumes, and the point is to make sure the costume helps your child be more safe, not more vulnerable. Color, reflectiveness, fitted-versus-baggy, flame-resistance: there’s a lot to think about!
First, look for the words “FLAME RESISTANT” on all costumes and accessories, especially masks, beards, and wigs. Remember, all those jack-o-lanterns have burning candles, meaning your child is exposed to a lot of open flames! Flame-resistant does not mean they can’t burn, but it does mean the object should be easy to extinguish, hopefully long before your child has suffered a burn.
Next, choose bright, visible costumes. While Dracula was a man-in-black, he was also immortal, unlike the average tyke darting about on a quickly-darkening fall evening. Some basis tips include:
- Decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car’s headlights. Bags or sacks should also be light colored or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware, bicycle, and sporting goods stores.
- To easily see and be seen, children should also carry flashlights.
- Costumes should be short enough to prevent children from tripping and falling.
- Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Mother’s high heels are not a good idea for safe walking.
- Hats and scarves should be tied securely to prevent them from slipping over children’s eyes.
- Apply a natural mask of cosmetics rather than have a child wear a loose-fitting mask that might restrict breathing or obscure vision. If a mask is used, however, make sure it fits securely and has eye holes large enough to allow full vision.
- Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be of soft and flexible material.
To this I’d add: consider dropping the sword/knife-type paraphernalia altogether, at least after the photographs. If they have to carry it, they will drop it, or want to drop it, and what seemed like a great prop quickly becomes a nuisance! If they won’t let it go, find something light and foam. Even a dull-seeming piece of plastic can easily hurt an eye.
Also, glow sticks are a great way to keep kids illuminated. Unlike a flashlight, kids will want to have glow sticks around, and they can even be a part of their costumes.
Trick or Treating
Needless to say, an older, responsible person, preferably a group of parents, should accompany all children. I’ve always thought a group of adults have more fun keeping watch than the lone adult trying to keep track of 5+ kids camouflaged by costumes, and it can be a great way to meet or stay connected with the parents of your children’s friends.
But how should your child go about grabbing their candy loot? Walking is the name of the game. Kids will be excited, so talk with them before and during the trick-or-treating, making sure they know to:
- WALK, not run from house to house;
- Use paths and sidewalks, NOT the lawn! Sure, this is good neighbor behavior (for the sake of the grass), but more importantly, there are plenty of hazards. Hoses, forgotten rakes, decorative stones or Halloween decorations, and lawn ornaments can be hard to see and even harder on a child’s noggin.
- NEVER walk in the street.
- Remember to talk to your children about the danger zone between two parked cars: darting out from them can be deadly! Only cross at the (safe) corners.
Also, know how to spot the safer houses: you either know the residents or the porch light is on. One option is to have the kids come back to the supervisors after each house, so that you can decide together which house will be next. Make a game of it: who can guess which house will have fun people in costumes and great candy based on their decorations and light-levels and then avoid the bad ones.
Your Home: Put out the (Safe) Welcome Mat
You can also help your home be safe and welcoming for trick-or-treaters by removing potential obstacles from your porch, steps, and yard. Jack-o-lanterns should be placed a safe distance from the doorway, so a gaggle of children aren’t forced to stand over an open flame. Better yet, consider replacing the tea lights with a non-flame light source, like a glow-stick.
Halloween should be a safe and fun time for everyone, and keeping these tips in mind should go a long way to making sure your children stay safe. And, while candy might not be the biggest danger, do check all candy for tampering before the kids eat it. The wait makes it taste that much better when they finally get it!
— William Eadie is an attorney with Spangenberg, Shibley and Liber, LLP, in Cleveland, Ohio.