I have lived in the US for ten years and had a child for four, yet I am still a complete newb when it comes to Halloween. As my four year old is developing a bit of a cosplay habit, I went to a friend who is a detective in our local police force, for some safety tips. These tips are not just pertinent for Halloween, but they are especially useful at this time of year. Whether you are out and about with your littlest cosplayers, or sending your big ones out on their own, safety first.
- Check the costume. Make sure your child has good movement. They need to be able to walk well in whatever they are wearing, and check that they have a good scope of vision. They also need to be seen, make sure that their costume is visible. Batman is cool, but a kid dressed all in black walking down a dark street is not safe. Try and use reflective bat logos or something similar. If you are using a store-bought costume be careful around any open flames, since many of these costumes are cheap and potentially flammable. If you are going to an event with a bonfire, maybe go over stop, drop, and roll.
- Whether it completes the costume or not, don’t let kids, or adults for that matter, carry real weapons. If they are carrying a fake gun, take the opportunity to teach them some basic gun safety. Even a fake gun should not be pointed at anything you do not want to destroy. Act like every gun is loaded, even the fake ones. This mostly applies to older kids, but use your judgement based on your child’s maturity.
- Always ensure that each member of your group is carrying their own flashlight. For children who may wander, consider buying one with a colored bulb so you can spot your child from afar. Another option is to attach a glow stick somewhere on their costume.
- Sidewalks are your friend. On Halloween the streets are full of distracted drivers — pay attention. Whether it is light when you set out or not, never assume a car or bicyclist can see you. Practice correct road safety to the max on such a busy night, check and double check before crossing the road.
- On the same note, if you are the one behind the wheel be especially alert and SLOW DOWN. Try and keep your distractions to a minimum in the car. This is one of the busiest nights of the year for neighborhoods, and a good night to keep the radio off, the cell phone down, and the window cracked so you can hear what is going on around you. Remember that some kids may not be able to see your vehicle through their mask/costume, your kid will be safe if you followed our first tip! Put your headlights on early so that you stand out, and stand no chance of forgetting once it gets dark.
- Eat before you go out, only accept wrapped candy, and don’t allow your kids to sample until you have had chance to look it over.
- For older kids, plan their route and make sure they know not to deviate from it. There are apps that can be used for this purpose available on most cell phones. If your child doesn’t have a cell phone, this is a good night to let them use yours. Involve them in the route planning so that they feel like they are maintaining control over the situation.
- A lesson that was drilled into me as a child — make sure your child knows that is okay to say no to an adult. It is not rude to run from someone if your child is feeling bothered or uncomfortable. Make sure they know to yell and attract as much attention as possible if they feel uncomfortable with an adult, it might even be wise, and get them in the mood for fright night, to practice their screaming before they leave the driveway!
- Teach your children to recognize the tricks that predators use to lure children. These most often include bribes of money, toys, etc., or requests for help, such as help finding a lost pet, or maybe even coming in for the candy that is in the kitchen. Halloween is a night for getting things from people you barely know. There is no point in scaring your children before they go out, but this is a subject that you want to broach, especially if they are being let off the parental leash for the night.
- Take every opportunity to use Halloween as a chance to talk about safety, and not just with fake guns and predators. Does your child know when to call 911? Do they know the number 911? Do they know what information to give 911? Make sure they know to ask a police officer for identification, perhaps take them to your local station so that they can see the real thing, and know how to recognize a fake.
- Before letting them out of the house make sure that your child knows their address, phone number, and your actual names. “Mom and Dad on Main Street” won’t be enough if they need to find you. Don’t assume they won’t drop or lose the cell phone that contains all this information, make sure they know it the old fashioned way as well.
- Understand the risks that necessitate lists such as this. Very often a child is harmed by an adult they know rather than a stranger. You should already be having open discussions about boundaries and safety to reduce your child’s risk of becoming a victim.
Travelers Insurance provided me with some extra tips to help prep the home for Halloween this year:
1. Be smart about decorations placement. When plugging in your scary indoor décor do not overload electrical outlets, especially with older decorations. When it comes to setting up outdoor decorations, follow manufacturer instructions to help avoid unexpected damage to your home or guests.
2. Set up spooky candles cautiously. Use battery-operated candles to help reduce the risk of fires whenever possible. Place candles and Jack-o-lanterns in safe locations away from curtains, trees or combustible decorations. Also keep in mind how easily these spooky candles can be knocked over by a pet, guest or child. Never leave burning candles unattended. It’s always helpful to keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
3.Make sure your doorway is safe for trick-or-treaters. Don’t “trick” Halloween-goers when they knock on your door this year. Check for damage to your roof and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. This is especially important during the fall season to keep leaves from building up in gutters. Also, make sure to clear leaves from your driveway, front steps and walkway to avoid slippery situations.
For more information on Halloween safety, check out these statistics and tips from Safe Kids Worldwide. If you have any useful tips not mentioned here, please post them in the comments section or on our Facebook page and help our online community keep our kids even safer.