By Carla Selby

With Halloween approaching, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, and guardians should be mindful of how to keep their little ones safe on the most ghoulish of nights.

As a concerned aunt of an adorable 3-year-old nephew that will be trick or treating in the community where my husband and I recently moved in, I wanted to be aware of any special precautions I should take before taking him trick-or-treating.

I did a lot of research online and these were the top 10 tips I found for safe trick-or-treating:

  1. First and foremost, make sure your children don’t go trick-or-treating on an empty tummy, otherwise, they would be tempted to snack on treats before their goody bags gets sorted out. Give them a light meal or healthy snack before they head out.
  2. Before you leave your house, check out if the area you live in has a sex offender database. This is an obvious one, but just don’t go knocking on a registered offender’s door for candy.  If your child is allowed to go out alone or with friends, then make sure they know and understand what an offender is and that they must stay away from that house (even if they have the best decorations of all the houses and are giving out the “best” candy).
  3. Use the Buddy System. It seems like common sense, but many kids are telling us they are walking around by themselves.  If your child does not have a group, you need to go with them or find an adult supervisor to accompany them. Many kids say their parents claim they “have” to stay home to give out candy.  That’s not a good excuse.  Set a time you will walk around with your child, and then come home and give out candy. A win-win to keeping your child safe.  While you’re out, remember that the international signal for “no candy” is a porch light turned off.
  4. If they are going by themselves or with an older sibling make sure your kids only go to people’s homes you know and trust. We know that a lot of children are allowed to go to every house in their neighborhood… but it’s also important to remember “stranger danger.” If you fear that your children will be tempted to knock on stranger houses, then make sure you’re with them. Of course, not every unknown neighbor out there is dangerous or a registered sex offender, but you should be safe rather than sorry. The best thing to do for your family is to know your neighbors before it comes time to trick or treat.
  5. Make sure your kids know to never ever go into anyone’s house.  There are some pretty frightening stories about kids knocking on the door and being told to come inside and get candy. Even if our children may not understand the danger of going into a house, you do. So before your child goes trick or treating, sit down and have a discussion about the rules.
  6. Enforce a “Do not eat” rule until they come back home. This is particularly important if you have a little one with any allergies. Check your kids’ candy before they are allowed to eat it.  A good rule is that no candy can be eaten before they get home and you can sit down and sort through it. Also, tell your little ones not to accept-and especially not to eat anything that isn’t commercially wrapped. Do not allow them to accept or eat any home-baked goods he or she may receive, even if those chocolate chip cookies smell great and look spookilicious.
  7. Advise your children to avoid petting unfamiliar dogs or puppies. Even though puppies are extremely cute, they still have teeth and may be scared from all the commotion. As a rule, your children should never pet a dog without your permission, the owner’s permission and the dog’s permission.
  8. If you’re not going to be with your children, make sure you set up designated times for them to “check-in” with you. Make sure they each have a fully charged cell phone with the ringer volume turned all the way up for them to hear. Texts don’t suffice, make them call you.
  9. Walk on the sidewalk if there is one. In neighborhoods with no sidewalk, always walk in the opposite direction of traffic so you can see the cars coming. Otherwise, you might drive the trick or treat trail. If they are walking, especially on the street and wearing dark costumes, a flashlight is a must. Adhesive reflectors attached to the costume are good too, but even more fun for the kids are glow stick necklaces.
  10. Tell your kids not to talk to anyone driving by in a car. Remind them that adults should not be asking kids for help or directions; they should be asking other adults. If approached by an adult stranger, they should report this to a trusted grownup immediately.

I’ve never been more excited about Halloween than I am now. I lived over 10 years in a small South Tampa condo and I never received a single knock on my door on Halloween nights from trick or treaters. This year will be our first year celebrating it on a very kid friendly, family-oriented neighborhood, and I may or may not dress up like a zombie myself and go all over the place with my little nephew.

Thanks for reading, have a fun and safe Halloween!