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Trick-or-treating tips for safe celebrations
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Planning ahead for Halloween can help keep the bandages on the mummy costume instead of an injured child.
Ted Gordon, Mississippi State University Extension safety specialist at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, advised both parents and homeowners to prepare for Halloween festivities with a few simple tips.
“Costumes -- whether homemade or store-bought -- need to be evaluated for safety, not just appearance,” Gordon said. “A child’s costume should fit well and be the appropriate length, as something too long can be a tripping hazard. Avoid shoes with high heels or shoes that are much too large, such as a parent’s footwear.”
Masks shouldn’t block the child’s vision, and face paint or make-up should be tested first to make sure it does not cause an allergic reaction. Gordon said children should avoid cumbersome accessories, not only because they will interfere with carrying a container for candy, but also because they can be hazardous.
“If a costume requires a sword, knife or other accessory, make sure it’s short, flexible and plastic,” he said. “Don’t allow children to carry real weapons, wooden swords or metal tools.”
Going out after dark is half the fun of Halloween, so parents should be ready with flashlights and glow sticks. Affix reflective tape to costumes and candy buckets, Gordon said.
Homeowners can help children heading their way by cleaning up yard debris and obstacles that may not be visible in the dark.
“If you want children to stop by, turn on your porch light, restrain your dog, and light the walk to your house with solar lights or some other artificial light source – not candles, tiki torches or other flames,” Gordon said.
Ellen Goodman, project manager with the Mississippi Child Care Resource and Referral Network at MSU, said the excitement of trick-or-treating requires reviewing safety precautions and rules long before walking out the door.
“Anticipation and costume planning begins before October 31, so preparation for going door-to-door should be part of the build-up to the big event,” Goodman said. “Talk about the need to stay on sidewalks, to cross the street at crosswalks or corners, and to avoid running out between cars parked on the street. Caution children never to go into the home of someone they don’t know.”
She said young children need adult chaperones who are dressed in light-colored clothes for better visibility. Older children should trick-or-treat in groups, have a curfew and call parents periodically.
“Remind children to go to houses that are well-lit and to say thank you when they get candy,” she said. “If you’re concerned about their consuming too much sugar, decide in advance how many pieces of candy they can eat Halloween night. Require them to bring all of the candy home for you to examine before they eat any.”
To make the evening more fun, Goodman suggested organizing a group of friends and chaperones to trick-or-treat together, or to plan an alternative celebration.
“If you don’t live in a neighborhood or don’t want to go door-to-door, work with other families to create a new tradition, such as ‘trunk-or-treat,’” she said. “At a local park, school or church parking lot, people can park their cars in a circle, decorate the interior of their trunks, and the kids can go from trunk to trunk to play games or get candy.”
Other activities to consider are a costume parade, pumpkin carving contest or costume contest.
“These types of activities keep children contained in one space and give parents a chance to enjoy the holiday without the doorbell ringing constantly. Parents can plan a potluck or pizza party in conjunction with trunk-or-treating, too,” Goodman said.