As we head into the latter half of October, kids of all ages start to really gear up for Halloween.
Halloween has a rich history that spans back thousands of years, with today’s traditions originating from the Celtic festival of Samhain, whose name meant “summer’s end” and marked the end of the harvest season. The Celts believed the “veil between the worlds of the living and dead was thinnest at this time and so the dead could return and walk where they had before,” according to the World History Encyclopedia.
Today it’s a fun time for costumes and decorations around the house and at school, scary stories and horror movies, haunted attractions and, of course, trick-or-treating for goodies on the night of Oct. 31. For adults, it’s a great time to be with their kids and remember their own childhood Halloween adventures.
But this spooky time also needs to be safe, and parents will want to take precautions when their children go trick-or-treating.
Safety Tips for Kids
“When it comes to safety, preparedness is key, so before families take to the streets, the Canadian Red Cross recommends everyone knows the risks,” says Jamie Hofing, a spokesperson with the Canadian Red Cross.
- Traffic safety. Neighbourhoods see an increase in pedestrian traffic on Halloween night, and in the darkness there is reduced visibility for drivers. Costumes should be light-coloured, with reflective strips so drivers can see the kids. Have children work the one side of the street first, then cross at a crosswalk or traffic light to cover the other side. Give them a flashlight so they’re even more visible to vehicles.
- Stranger danger. Halloween is generally a safe time for kids, but they still need to show caution when it comes to strangers or walking up to unfamiliar homes. Only visit homes that have the outside lights on.
- Costume safety. Costumes need to be comfortable, so kids can safely move around. Masks can impede a child’s vision, especially at night, when they are crossing streets to go from home to home. One option is to use face paint rather than masks, after ensuring that the paint or makeup is non-toxic and won’t cause an allergic reaction. Costumes need to be short enough so the kids don’t trip. Costumes with flowing skirts, capes or baggy sleeves, or costumes with accessories like beards and wigs are at risk of catching fire if the child stands too close to candles or other ignition sources. “Evening temperatures can drop significantly, so be sure to dress in layers, wear warm footwear and bring an umbrella,” Hofing says.
- Route planning. Have your kids plan their trick-or-treating route and know what it is if they are not being accompanied by a parent. This is also a good time to make sure they have a cellphone handy in case of emergency. “And bring water for the evening,” Hofing adds.
- Candy inspection. After the kids get back home and before they dive into their loot bags, a parent should go through it. Halloween candy can contain ingredients such as nuts, which some children are allergic to. Keep an eye out for unwrapped candy, or anything that looks suspicious (and if it does look tampered with, contact the police). Be careful when giving young children any candy that they could potentially choke on, such as chewy sweets, peanuts and hard candies.
- Strength in numbers. Young children should be accompanied by an adult and if older children venture out without a parent, it’s best to go in groups.
“By being mindful of these safety measures, Halloween can be an enjoyable and safe celebration for everyone,” Hofing says.
Making Halloween More Accessible To All
Children who have mobility issues shouldn’t miss out on the fun of Halloween. And a program that began as a grassroots movement in 2017 is addressing that. Treat Accessibly is a program that has spread across the country, with 150,000 homes in Canada participating in 2022, and has homeowners move their trick-or-treat stations to the end of their driveways so children with mobility issues can participate too.
The program is sponsored by RE/MAX Canada, Canadian Tire and Kinder Canada. Homeowners let their neighbours know with a Treat Accessibly lawn sign in advance of the big night that trick-or-treating there is accessible to everyone. Those signs are free and available at local RE/MAX offices, or can be printed from the Treat Accessibly website.
There are also a number of Treat Accessibly Halloween Villages across Canada, in which communities come together to transform the entire street into an accessible, curbside, trick-or-treat event.
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