So, we’ve read our favourite Hallowe’en books, watched some Hallowe’en movies, and made our Hallowe’en costumes. As we prepare for the big night itself, I thought I’d share some of our top tips for keeping everyone safe this Hallowe’en, whether you are planning to go trick or treating, welcome trick or treaters to your house, or maybe even host a party.
Dress for the Occasion
By this I don’t mean dress up, I think that’s a given! But don’t just get carried away with costume planning, think about what your child will be wearing their costume for. As fun as it is to create elaborate costumes, you don’t want your child feeling uncomfortable. Consider whether you will be indoors or outdoors, and what activities there will be. For example, is the costume for a party where there will be lots of games or dancing? Choose a costume your child won’t overheat in or end up choking themselves on any cords or ribbons. Is it for school? Check what’s allowed (e.g. ours does not allow masks) so they don’t end up upset if they are asked to remove their costume. Will you be going trick or treating (or guising, as we call it in Scotland)? Choose a costume that will keep them warm!
Wrap Up Warm
Most Hallowe’en costumes are not designed for keeping children warm when they’re out trick or treating, and the last thing you want is to ruin the enjoyment of Hallowe’en by having your kids come down with a nasty cold the day after, so choose a costume they can wear over their outdoor clothes. For example, Mr Fox, my 3 year old, wants to be a skeleton this year. He will be wearing some skeleton PJs to his nursery Hallowe’en party. You can’t actually tell they are PJs, they look just like a skeleton costume, but they are cotton rather than flimsy nylon, so nice and breathable for running around in AND we can use them as PJs afterwards so haven’t wasted money on a costume he will have grown out of by next year. We also bought them one size up, so when we go round the houses he will be able to wearing some tights, leggings and a fleece jacket underneath to keep nice and cosy! Oskar, my 7 year old, wanted to be a bat this year (you might have seen my DIY tutorial for his costume), but the costume won’t fit over his outdoor clothes. So he’s using the full bat costume for the various Hallowe’en parties he’s going to, but when we go round the houses he will just wear the bat mask with a black beanie hat to keep his head warm, along with some vampire teeth and a black cape he can fit over his winter jacket. And voila, we have a vampire bat! These are just two ways you can adapt your costumes for different occasions. And there’s always the solution an old white sheet with some holes cut in to create a ghost costume, to wear over your outdoor clothes – one of the simplest and easiest ways to dress up but still stay warm outside.
Only Visit Decorated Houses
One thing that is new since I went guising as a kid (at least in Scotland), is that people have started decorating their houses more for Hallowe’en, and leaving a lit pumpkin outside as a sign to welcome revelers. This makes trick or treating a LOT easier, because it shows you exactly which houses you can go to without running the risk of being chases away by a grumpy neighbour. There are many reasons why people may not want folk knocking at their door on Hallowe’en night – maybe they are working shifts, maybe they have young kids that are already asleep, maybe they just don’t like Hallowe’en. All of these are perfectly valid reasons, so to make things easier on yourself and everyone else in your community, respect your neighbours and only visit those houses that signal you are welcome.
Go as a Group
This maybe goes without saying, but even in a close-knit community bad things can happen, especially at night when it’s dark, and when you are going around knocking on the doors of strangers regardless of whether they have a welcoming lit pumpkin outside or not. So be sensible and don’t let your kids go out alone. Even if they are going with a group of friends, make sure there is at least one adult with them. At the same time, keep your group to a manageable size – we have found a maximum of 6 to 8 kids, with at least 2 adults, works well. Smaller groups are easier to keep together without losing anyone in the dark, and it’s also nicer for the people whose doors you are knocking on if they are not faced with too big a mob!
Look Out for Teal Pumpkins
I first heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project® this year, from a friend whose daughter has some very sever allergies, but they have actually been around for a couple of year. Teal apparently s the colour of food allergy awareness, and the idea behind it is that you leave a teal coloured pumpkin outside your door to signal that you have treats suitable for children with food allergies. If you don’t want to paint a whole pumpkin teal, you could print of or draw a sign to hang up instead. Non food treats could include things like stickers, glow sticks, pens or pencils, bookmarks etc. If you have a bargain store near you, you can pick up lots of these kinds of treats at great prices, e.g. I’ve got some mini bubble wands to hand out this year, which cost me just a pound for a pack of ten, so just 10p per treat. Be aware though that some non food items can still contain allergies, e.g. play dough can contain wheat which is unsuitable for children with a gluten allergy, and also avoid any non food treats made from latex. Also remember to keep the alternative treats in a separate bowl from any food items, as just being in the same bowl can trigger a reaction in children with severe allergies. In my days of guising we’d also often get handed fruit or monkey nuts instead of sweeties, but considering how common nut allergies are these days it’s probably best to miss out on those altogether.
Use LED Lights
Nothing says Hallowe’en quite like the smell of burning root vegetables. But what’s not so great is burning children! There was a big story that hit the news in the UK in 2014, when the Hallowe’en costume of TV star Claudia Winkleman’s daughter caught fire while they were out trick or treating, leaving her badly burnt. As authentic as real candles may look, a lot of Hallowe’en costumes are highly flammable so it’s not the best combination, especially with kids around. Whether you are taking your pumpkin (or turnip!) lantern out with you when you go round the houses, or have lit up Jack O’Lanterns displays at your front door to welcome Hallowe’en revelers, or maybe even inside for a Hallowe’en party, please consider using LED tealights instead of real ones. It’s just not worth the risk! Most shops selling Hallowe’en décor will have LED lights for sale too, or you can easily order them online.
Check Your Kids’ Treats
Finally, I know it may sound a little paranoid, but double check what treats your kids are getting. You just can’t be too careful these days. If you allow your kids to eat treats during trick or treating, you should do this as you are going round, otherwise you can wait until you are home. Although the story of nasty neighbours hiding razor blades in apples may just be a rumour, it’s safest to just accept sweeties and chocolates that are individually sealed so they can’t have been tampered with (unless of course you are visiting neighbours you know very well, in which case it’s probably safe to accept other edible treats too). Also, it’s not just a question of making sure food hasn’t been tampered with, but also checking the treats are age appropriate. Some sweeties are not suitable for younger kids, e.g. lollipops, boiled sweets for sucking, or sweets that are really hard to chew, so you may either want to steer younger kids towards softer sweeties and chocolate, or have some alternatives at home that they can swap for to avoid any tears.
So, those were my top tips for keeping everyone safe at Hallowe’en. I hope you all have a great night – and don’t forget, in Scotland you have to tell a joke, sing a song or recite a poem in return for your sweeties, so if it’s you are celebrating Scottish Hallowe’en for the first time, you still have a couple days left to prepare your performance!