Costumes, candy, decorations all over town. Halloween can be one of the most fun holidays for children (okay, and adults, too). But, as you head out trick or treating this year, remember the statistics can be just as scary as the decorations.
According to the National Safety Council, children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year.
In fact, each year there are about 3,800 Halloween-related injuries.
At Sheepdog Response, we train adults on the fundamental skills they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. But, we also believe that it is never too early to start teaching your children many of the same skills we teach you.
Halloween is a great time of year to have conversations about safety with your children and an even better time to teach by example.
As you head out this year, remember these three pillars of safety and the Halloween safety tips that go with them.
Stay Safe with Proper Gear
Just as you need proper gear when defending yourself from an attacker or saving the life of someone who has been hurt and is bleeding out, your children need the proper gear when it comes to staying safe on Halloween.
Costumes these days are getting more and more elaborate, but some are also becoming unsafe. Masks, special effect contacts, and other eyewear accessories should not block sight or lessen visibility. Costumes and shoes should also fit properly to avoid trips and falls. If your child’s costume includes swords, knives, or similar accessories, make sure they are short, soft, and flexible to avoid accidentally hurting others.
When it gets dark out and visibility decreases, ensure cars and other trick or treaters can see you and your family. 82% of parents don’t use high visibility aids on their children’s costumes, making it difficult for them to be seen, contributing to the high numbers of injuries and fatalities. Be sure to incorporate reflective tape, glow sticks, finger lights or light up accessories to your child’s costume.
Serving the dual purpose of making your child more visible and lighting their way, a good flashlight can help navigate crooked sidewalks and stairs, yet 63% of children don’t carry one when they go out trick-or-treating. Get your child a flashlight and insist they carry it with them throughout the evening.
Start Drilling in Situational Awareness
If you’ve taken any of our Sheepdog training courses, you’ve heard us talk about situational awareness, the most basic yet game-changing skill of all. Halloween can be a fast-paced evening with a lot going on all at once – teach your children to slow down and stay safe.
As they make their way around the neighborhood, make sure your children only walk on sidewalks (or on the far edge of the road facing traffic if a sidewalk is not available). When crossing the street, use crosswalks wherever possible and look both ways before crossing.
In addition to watching out for cars, you also want to watch out for fellow trick or treaters. Even with the safety concerns we see, 70% of parents don’t accompany their children trick or treating. When you are out with your kids (or if they are older and out on their own) be aware of those around you. They may not be looking for trouble, but unaccompanied teens can be reckless or goofing off and unintentionally knock down younger kids.
Practice Caution, Not Paranoia
One of the skills we stress a lot in training is the importance of being aware but not paranoid. This holds true when it comes to being cautious on Halloween.
You hear stories of poisoned or tampered with Halloween candy each year, but before you toss all your treats, know that there are few documented cases of this actually happening. But, this doesn’t mean you should just let your children dig in either. Better safe than sorry; consider teaching children to take the cautious route, eating only factory-wrapped candy and avoiding homemade treats made by strangers.
Likewise, watching too many horror movies can make you feel like everyone is out to get you. There’s no need to lock your doors and stay home for the evening as most of your neighbors are likely good people, but make sure you are being careful. Ensure your kids know they should never enter homes unless they are with a trusted adult. Teach them to only visit well-lit houses where other trick or treaters are present and to never accept rides from strangers, no matter how friendly they may seem.
Know There Are Alternatives to Traditional Trick or Treating
If traditional trick or treating doesn’t sound like it’s a good fit for your family (or doesn’t go with your schedule), there are some alternatives to consider.
From trick or treating at your local mall to Boo at the Zoo events to “trunk or treat” gatherings where everyone who signs up parks in a circle so kids can go around and collect candy from festively decorated trunks, the options are extensive. In some communities, senior centers and nursing homes host Halloween parties so children can trick or treat around the facility and spend time with residents, giving your children the opportunity to do a good deed while still satisfying their sweet tooth.
A huge plus for these types of events is that from a safety perspective they are easier to plan for as the environment is more controlled. Typically you don’t have to worry about traffic, the areas are properly lit, and the candy your children will be receiving comes from trusted sources.
Check the local community calendars in your area for these trick or treating opportunities.
Be The Safest House on the Block
Not heading out this year? You can still do your part to help Halloween be a fun and safe night for all.
Make sure any areas where trick-or-treaters may be walking are well-lit and free of obstacles that could cause someone to fall (including stairs, pathways, and lawns). If you have any candle-lit jack o’lanterns and luminaries, keep them away from doorsteps, walkways, landings, and curtains, making sure they are not in a place where they can be knocked over by pets or small children.
Don’t be the house whose candy gets tossed. Get candy that is properly wrapped so parents aren’t worried it’s been tampered with. Another thing to think about when choosing candy? 1 in 13 children have a food allergy, and while many parents will go through candy at the end of the night and remove anything their kids can’t eat, there are several kinds of candy you can get that most children will be able to enjoy without worrying about common allergens. Look for nut, gluten, and dairy-free candy like Dots, Dum Dums, Nerd, or Smarties.