By Dunwoody Police Officer William Furman
October symbolizes the beginning of fall for a lot of us. We see the changing of the leaves, the cooler weather, approaching holidays and Trick-or-Treating! Below are a few safety tips when you are out gathering candy on Halloween night:
• Have each child carry or wear something lit for better visibility, such as a flashlight, a glow bracelet or necklace or flashing attire. Light-up shoes are also practical, and ever-so-noticeable on a dark Halloween night.
• Adults should plan out a route in advance and check it during the daylight for such obstacles as broken sidewalks, (or no sidewalks), construction timber, or other obstacles that could trip up trick-or-treaters. Trick-or-treat in familiar neighborhoods or areas.
• Require well-fitting shoes to be worn; preferably sneakers. While customs like princess high-heels and too-large boots are adorable in the store, kids planning to go trick or treating should wear sturdy shoes. Save costume shoes for parties and not when a child is going trick-or-treating. Their feet–and most likely you, who may end up carrying either the shoes or the child–will be thankful.
• Avoid costumes that drag on the ground. While cute initially, costumes that drag can trip up little feet, get caught on bushes, and create a tussle that sometimes results in the child wanting to remove the costume. Remember, kids who trick-or-treat want to be costumed and comfortable.
• With the thought of comfort, pick costumes that are bathroom-friendly as well. On this same subject, parents should plan a bathroom stop along the way. A friend’s house will do and is a good time for a water break as well. A public facility can be used if driving.
• Be sure a child’s mask allows full visibility and breathing. Spiderman masks, for example, sometimes only have small eye slits and nothing for the nose or mouth. Parents should try on masks for size and not hesitate to cut out larger openings for a trick-or-treater’s comfort. If possible, find a mask that “breathes” and is easy to take on and off. The types of mask that easily slide up on the head and can easily pulled down are best.
• Trick-or-treaters should walk, not run, and should never cut across lawns or driveways. Obstacles could exist that aren’t readily visible in the evening.
• Only carry flexible props, such as knives, swords, ninja items, etc., that can’t cause injury if a kid accidentally falls. No play prop should resemble a real weapon. Consider leaving play weapons at home and not part of trick-or-treat night. Remember, some individuals are offended by seeing small children carry these items. Trick-or-treating should be a fun and positive experience for everyone.
• Only trick-or-treat at houses that are lit. Residents who do not wish to be bothered by trick-or-treaters often leave off their lights as a sign to stay away. Respect their preference by only going to houses that are lit.
• Be sure kids don’t get overheated and keep them hydrated. Plan costumes according to weather; don’t have your child dress in an adorable lion costume with heavy fur and hood if you live in southern states where temperatures could still be in the 80s in the evening. By the same token, a fairy costume might be impractical for a cold northern evening. Be one of those creative parents who accessorizes jackets or thinks “cool comfort” for their kids.
• Think “practical” over “cute” when picking a trick-or-treat goody bag or container. Some of the seemingly fun ones sold in stores are heavy, even before any treats are added. Others are too long and will drag the ground or have sharp edges that could scrape against tender skin. One of the best and simplest suggestions is to have kids utilize a backpack to keep their hands free except for, perhaps, a flashlight.
• Keep track of time and don’t trick-or-treat after 9 p.m. (general recommendation). That allows ample time for children to trick-or-treat, and by then, the excitement of the evening and the candy and treats means little ghouls will be tired.
Here are trick or treat tips for parents to ensure your little princess doesn’t turn into a witch or your transformer into a “wail-wolf.”
• Feed your kids a healthy meal prior to going trick-or-treat. Your children will be happier, and it will help reduce the temptation of kids wanting to devour candy from the first trick-or-treat stop.
• Children of any age should be accompanied by a parent, if possible. Tweens or young teens who still trick-or-treat may resist this notion. If they are allowed to trick-or-treat without an adult, set firm rules and require a child to carry a cell phone that can be used in the event of an emergency. Older kids should know where they can go, what etiquette they must follow, the safety rules and have them carry a flashlight or a lit device, and have an absolute deadline for returning home.
• Purchased costumes should be made of flame-retardant material. Costumes should also be reflective of the local weather. Some parents overdress their kids so that they sweat and are uncomfortable in costumes that are very heavy or don’t breathe. Others freeze in skimpy costumes or those made of thin material. Trick or treating is for children; comfort and safety should come before a parent’s reluctance to have a child wear a coat over a costume.
• Insist that your child goes to the bathroom before leaving the house. And, be considerate of your child’s bathroom needs by not choosing a costume that is difficult to get on and off in time to avoid last-minute bathroom needs, if at all possible.
• Never allow children to eat candy before it is inspected. Any opened candy should be thrown away, and unless you personally know the families who make homemade goodies, it’s recommended that you dispose of homemade treats. Immediately toss any items that are suspect in any way, and get rid of (either through donation or throwing away) any treats that your kid doesn’t like. Some parents also put away some candy and save some for later or set rules allowing kids to eat all they want for a designated period, then dispose of the rest.
Officer William Furman is a member with the Community Outreach Unit of the Dunwoody Police Department.