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Safety First: Tips For a Safe and Happy Halloween

Halloween is fun. It's a time where we can don a mask, be a bit goofy or creepy, and in the name of fun revel a bit in some spirited silliness of the creepies and ghoulish. For children it's right up there with Christmas morning as far as holidays, and it's a time where much effort and energy is put into just the right costume, carving pumpkins and planning out the perfect plan of attack to yield the most bounty in the form of sweet treats from their neighbors.

Children descending onto as many city blocks, cloaked in costumes they are unfamiliar with (and in the dark!) is often a perfect recipe for trouble. We listed below some tips and advice to help kids and their parents include something else in their plans this October 31st: safety. Check out the tips below and please have a safe and happy Halloween!

1.) Go Out When It's Safe Trick or Treat Times

It doesn't have to be fully dark to go out trick or treating. In Converse County, doorbell rings are usually completed well before 7:30 pm, especially if Halloween falls on a school night, as it does this year. In addition to going out earlier both towns of Glenrock and Douglas host community trick or treat events which are either enclosed or happen well within the daylight hours.

Tip: If starting out before 6:00 pm is a near impossible feat due to work or conflicting activity schedules, see if you can buddy up with extended family or other moms or dads you know in order to have your child go out in a larger group before it gets too dark.

2.) Try To Not Use Masks

Many of us fondly remember those molded plastic masks of our childhood. They were the kind with the single thin piece of elastic, the tiny sliver for breathing, and the two pin-sized eye holes from which you took in your Halloween experience. As much as we have nostalgia for that Strawberry Shortcake or Hulk mask of our youth, masks aren't the epitome of safety. Masks severely cut down on our children's visibility and peripheral vision. And at night especially a child should have as much of their vision available to them as possible. This goes further than just keeping them from walking out into the street but even applies to something as simple as climbing or descending porch stairs. To have impeded vision in near total darkness can increase the possibility of injury.

Tip: Instead of masks, try to use makeup or choose costumes where a mask is not needed. There are many YouTube tutorial videos you can watch on how to face paint, avoid the use of masks, and increase your skills!

3.) Fit Your Costume Properly

Along with not wearing masks, make sure your child's costume is well fit to their height. Costumes that drag the ground can be a tripping or snag hazard. Not to mention if they are not fire resistant and will be passing by many pumpkins or candles all alit for Halloween the chances of an errant injury is increased. Also, make sure the costume you purchase or make is well fit to the child wearing it by taking it in or letting it out.

Since we live in Wyoming, make sure they have ample layers or covering as once the sun goes down the temperatures plus wind can mean it gets cold in a matter of minutes. Many costumes that are purchased are made of flimsier materials like thin nylons, polyesters, or rayons and do not provide ample protection for children's skin which can be exposed even if covered to colder temperatures. If possible buy a size up and put them in warmer layers underneath!

Tip: Long underwear to protect the core goes a long way to helping the body retain its heat. If your child can wear layers on their core, the upper body right above the hip line, and a warm head covering this helps them innately keep their body heat for longer periods of time when out in the elements on Halloween night.

4.) Stay Visible

In Douglas and Glenrock, we have a lot of vehicles parked on streets from block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood. Further complicating visibility being in rural communities, some of our streets may not have quite the level of ambient light or streetlight cover needed to navigate in near darkness. As you package your kids up for Halloween make them as visible as possible. In production since the mid-80s are reflective strips that you can peel and stick to the back, side, and front of your child's costume. You can also buy reflective trick or treat bags to further help your child's visibility. Flashlights, whether from smartphones or the real thing, also help alert motorists they are coming upon a group of trick or treaters.

Tip To Motorists: While trick or treaters take safety measures, those who drive on Halloween or around that time should take extra precautions behind the wheel. Since there are so many people expected on this night, engage your senses as much as possible: turn any music in the cabin of your vehicle down, refrain from driving in costume or with anything around your face or eyes to maximize your visibility, go slow and obey posted speed limit signs in order to improve your response time should you have to stop quickly, and especially pay considerable attention as you enter neighborhoods or areas where families and children are out walking.

5.) Never Go Alone

We live in fairly safe communities, areas where we usually know our neighbors well and can send our kids out without a great deal of worry of them crossing paths with a stranger. It's a great part of living in such tight-knit communities. However, we still live in the larger world where we have visitors to our area, people our kids may not know, or those who are passing through. That being said a good offense is the best defense and helping your child to understand certain common-sense strategies for walking outside at night can help them in the long run of life. When going out to trick or treat in neighborhoods, have your child pair up in larger groups of 2 or more trick or treaters if you aren't going with them. It's also part of the fun to go in groups of friends or neighborhood kids to compare treats, costumes, and share in memory making.

Tip: Employ check-ins even if your child is going out with a group; scheduled times where they call and tell you where they are. Chances are they have a phone or will be with someone in the group who has one. If your child has a smartphone there is a share location feature they can use so that as they go out on Halloween you can see which neighborhood they are in or geo-locationally where they are in reference to you.

6.) Use Walking Safety

Along with increased visibility, walking in a group, and making sure that your child's costume is fit appropriately, using safe walking measures is a big step to helping our kids have a safe Halloween. This means paying attention. Mind uneven sidewalks, or even places where the sidewalk runs out. Try not to walk in the street, on the street side of parked vehicles, and watch for cars backing out of drives or turning if you are crossing. Give the right of way to motor vehicles and do not run or dart out to cross but do so in a safe manner. Also be sure to cross at intersections, not in the middle of the block and employ a trick or treat strategy to take blocks side by side not a zigzag pattern.

Tip: Tell your children to not take rides from people they don't know. Encourage your children to say no, and that it's okay to say no if offered a ride. If it's a person your family knows (because we live in small towns where most of us know the other parents in our area) have a plan where your child can call and check to make sure it's okay before proceeding.

7.) Knock on Doors You Know or Are Well Lit With a Porch-light

It's an age-old signal: the porch-light on Halloween. A lit porch tells trick or treaters, "Hello! Yes, we're home and we are ready to receive you with candy!" It's an innate idea that our kids know to scout for those houses first. But occasionally in the pursuit of candy a kid or two in a larger group will make the suggestion to ring the doorbells of homes without a light on. Discourage them from doing so. If a porch is not lit, or the house lights aren't on, it's best to avoid as this sends a clear signal that either they aren't home or don't wish for any number of reasons to participate in the festivities.

Tip: Right before your kids leave to trick or treat remind them to only go to homes they know or are well lit. Sometimes in the excitement of going to gather candy or spend time with their friends they can forget this custom. As they prepare to leave restating this rule will replant it in their minds and can go a long way to help them pay attention to the houses they approach.

8.) Don't Go Inside

Unless it's Grandma's, another family member or close friend's home it is always a rule of safety to stay on the porch when out trick or treating. Not only relegated to the safety of our children, but also manners to not barge into people's homes on any occasion and to respect our neighbor's space. Usually, kids are met at the door, but an open door with a tempting bowl of goodies can be enough to incite a child to break boundaries and step over a threshold. This is another item to remind your children right before they head out the door, and if walking with them on Halloween night to re-emphasize from time to time.

Tip: Even if your children are invited in it's a good measure of safety to have them remain on the porch. Our neighbors may have the best of intentions but to keep things from moving into a gray area for our kids in the realm of decision making, the hard and fast rule is "stay on the porch". Also, if you are receiving trick or treaters try to move out to the porch when the doorbell rings so all candy transactions stay outside of your home and in plain view of all.

9.) Plan Your Route In Advance

Work with your kids to look at online maps to plan a route for trick or treating well in advance. Try to drive it before so you know which areas of your neighborhood are well lit and which intersections your children need to pay particular mind to. If your children are going out with a larger group this also helps you know just about where and when they should be especially if they are checking in routinely or you are sharing locations. It helps to outline which blocks your children know friends or family so they can routinely be spotted throughout the evening and also be sure to say hello since Halloween is a highly social occasion.

Tip: You can take a screenshot of your planned route and if your child has a smartphone put it as their background or in their photos so they can routinely check it. You can also put within their Maps as a 'Route on Foot' directions request so they know the basic layout of where they agreed to go.

10.) Patience Is A Virtue

Encourage your child to wait until they return home to begin to enjoy their sweets. This gives you an opportunity to not only inspect the candy they've received throughout the evening but also relegate consumption! On Halloween night, in particular, it's amazingly difficult to get a child to sleep, let alone under the influence of copious amounts of sugar from eating as they go all evening. Also inspecting their candy gives you as parent time to throw out any pieces that have compromised wrappers and maybe aren't as hygienic as they need to be before consuming.

Tip: Have your children agree to a set amount of their Halloween treasure each day and keep the rest in reserve. Halloween candy has an amazing shelf life. This strategy also keeps from sore tummies, nausea, and gastrointestinal discomfort from kids going through their stash all too quickly.

Final note, if you want to have as inclusive a Halloween as possible join the Teal Pumpkin movement! Teal Pumpkins placed on a porch at Halloween signify that you have treats inside that are perfect for kids who have food allergies: nut, wheat, or certain additives like dyes. You can stock up on small toys, candy products made in factories without cross-contamination worry, or other items for children. The movement has been growing in recent years, especially as more and more children face mild to life-threatening food allergies. It helps them be a part of Halloween without the constant worry of a reaction from handling candy. Also, it's kind of a bummer to just walk with your friends or rake in all kinds of candy only to not be able to enjoy your hard-earned sweets!

Have other safety tips? Let us know on our Facebook Page!