While children might be counting down the days until the sugar-fueled last day of the month, it can be a stressful time for parents, especially in light of the terrifying clown pranks that are occurring across the country. According to ABC News, clowns intent on creeping out adults and children alike have been seen from California to South Carolina, and the Washington Post has even reported that Ronald McDonald has gone into hiding until the whole thing blows over. Halloween has always been a safety concern for parents, and these reports of clowns have only heightened the need for extra vigilance when it comes to everything from candy to costume selection. There’s no need to be alarmed, but it’s important to be aware. Here’s how to prepare for a safe and fun Halloween, according to a child safety expert.
It all starts with safe costume selection, says national child safety expert Debra Holtzman. “Consider makeup (but make sure it's nontoxic) instead of a mask, which can obstruct the child's vision or restrict breathing,” she suggests. “If they do wear a mask, make sure the child can see and breathe easily.” You should also ensure that your child’s entire costume—including beards, masks, and wigs—is “clearly marked as flame-resistant, or look for flame-resistant fabrics such as nylon or polyester,” she says. You should also make sure that the costumes fit correctly so they won’t trip, and go for sturdy, well-fitting shoes.
Holtzman says, “Children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than any other day of the year. Flashlights, glow sticks, and reflective tape are essential to help children and parents easily see and be seen,” when trick-or-treating at night, she adds.
When You Trick-or-Treat
Go over the basics with your children before leaving home, even if you are going with them. Remind them “they should walk on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the farthest edge of the roadway facing traffic,” Holtzman says. It might be difficult to get them to hear you throughout all the excitement, but Holtzman stresses it’s important to continually remind and “instruct your children to walk and not run from house to house. Never run across the street, and only cross at corners or established crosswalks.”
Even your teens and pre-teens should take a few precautions if they’re going out on their own. “Be sure that older children go trick-or-treating in a group, and tell them to only stop at those homes with an outside light on,” says Holtzman. “Make sure they know that they should not go inside any home. Your child should carry a fully charged cell phone, and you should set a specific time limit for children to be out.”
Whether you’re staying home to pass out treats or coming home after a night of fun, there are still precautions to take, even in your own house. Holtzman reminds parents to inspect a child’s candy for anything unusual, but to also ensure the safety of others coming to your house by “removing obstacles from the porch, steps, or lawn.” While that jack-o-lantern display might look amazing, you should ensure the pathway is clear to minimize accidents.
She also recommends illuminating carved jack-o-lanterns with glow sticks instead of candles so you can come and go from the house as needed without worrying about a fire hazard. Secure your pets— “the safest place is an area where they won’t have a chance to be spooked,” points out Holtzman—and remember “even the sweetest animal can act differently in new situations or become violent when they are feeling threatened.” These precautions only take a few minutes but could make a huge difference on October 31. Now relax and enjoy yourself, knowing that you’re fully prepared for a safe and unforgettable Halloween with your family.