Sure, October 31 is a magical night for children -- but it can also be dangerous. Kids are four times more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than on any other night of the year, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign in Washington, DC. In addition, bulky costumes or vision-restricting masks can increase the chance of falls. But if you incorporate these tips into your planning and celebration, you'll go a long way toward protecting your child and helping her have a frightfully fun time.
- Choose brightly colored costumes so your child is more visible at night.
- If you buy a costume from a store, make sure the outfit and all props (masks, beards, wigs) are labeled "flame resistant."
- Avoid oversized costumes -- they're more likely to come in contact with flames, such as one from a jack-o-lantern.
- Decorate your child's costume and candy bag with reflective tape or stickers.
- Instead of giving your child a mask, which can obstruct a child's view, consider applying nontoxic face paints (available at drugstores). If he does wear a mask, make sure it fits snugly and that the eyeholes are large enough for full vision.
- Be sure hats don't interfere with your child's vision.
- Dress your child in well-fitting shoes and costumes short enough to avoid tripping.
- If you allow your child to carry a prop like a sword or knife, make sure it's made of soft plastic or rubber and is flexible enough to bend if your child falls while carrying it.
- Consider visiting houses during late afternoon when it's light out -- but first ask neighbors if they'll be home and ready for little guests.
- Give your child a flashlight with new batteries.
- If your child is 12 or under, accompany her and label her clothing with your name, address, and phone number in case you become separated.
- If your child is older than 12, make sure he knows his phone number and either has a cell phone (with your contact numbers clearly labeled on it) or enough change to call you from a pay phone.
- Establish an agreed-upon route and curfew for children over age 12.
- Teach your child to trick-or-treat only at homes with outside lights that are turned on and to never enter anyone's home unless accompanied by an adult.
- Remind your child to walk -- never run -- while trick-or-treating and to stop at street corners and driveways before proceeding.
- Instruct your child to look left, right, and left again before crossing the street and to continue looking both ways as he crosses.
- Teach your child to stay on sidewalks at all times and to avoid cutting through people's yards, where clotheslines and other hazards are hard to spot.
- Remind your child to wait until you've inspected her treats before eating them. Discard anything that's not completely wrapped.
- If your child is allergic to nuts, check all treats carefully before allowing him to eat any.
- Remember to not allow children under 4 to eat popcorn or hard candy, both of which are choking hazards.