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Frightfully Fun

When parents think of dangers associated with Halloween, their thoughts go to candy tainted with poison or razor blades hidden in apples. But according to Snopes.com, the Internet urban-legend buster, many of the tampered candy reports are either myths or hysteria over injuries caused by something other than poison or sharp objects hidden in candy by strangers.

The real dangers are unsafe costumes, accidents with vehicles, and open flames--things we often overlook when imagining Halloween horrors.

According to Safe Kids USA, part of a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental injury in children, Oct. 31 is the most dangerous day of the year for child pedestrians. Children are four times more likely to be killed while walking on Halloween than any other night of the year.

This year, with Daylight Saving Time extended, our clocks won't be set back until Nov. 4, giving trick-or-treaters more time before dark. Older kids don't want to go out until after dark, so teaching your child pedestrian safety becomes even more important.

Costumes, which children are usually unaccustomed to wearing, can pose hazards, either by trailing edges that might come in contact with open flames, or by loose-fitting masks or head coverings that limit vision. Look for "flame resistant" labeling when buying costumes, masks, beards and wigs. Trim or shorten costumes with long, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts and robes as they are more likely to brush near the candle in a jack o' lantern or cause your child to trip. Try applying face paint or makeup directly to your child's face rather than using a mask that is ill-fitting or can slide over the eyes.

Make your own home is safe and welcoming for trick-or-treaters with a well-lit porch or walkway. Keep lit candles in pumpkins out of reach or simply replace them with glow sticks or flameless candles. Keep traffic areas clear of obstructions and remove or move aside lawn ornaments, flower pots or other things that are hard to see in the dark.

Although candy tampering is rare, look over your child's trick-or-treat candy before eating. Watch for opened wrappers, and other signs of tampering. Avoid choking by not giving hard candy or small round items to children under age 6.

Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating
  • Plan a Halloween party at home or in the neighborhood. Make crafts, serve healthy homemade snacks and have a costume parade. Parents can hand out treats and candy as the costume paraders go by. Don't forget "haunted house" music and gross out the kids with bowls of brains (cold cooked pasta) and eyeballs (grapes).
  • Host a pumpkin-carving party with other families bringing uncarved pumpkins and sitting outside before dusk to outline jack o' lantern designs. Adults get to do the major cutting and children get the yucky but enjoyable task of scooping out the seeds. Serve a potluck of sweets and treats.
  • Host a Halloween movie night, complete with an age-appropriate scary movie, homemade popcorn balls, and lemon soda with a few drops of green food coloring as "witches' brew."
  • Visit planned activities at shopping malls or schools with your child's friends. There's plenty of candy to be had, but hanging out with friends is more rewarding. Remember to turn off the porch light after guests have arrived so that trick-or-treaters will know you're not giving out candy. Or hold your party out in the front yard so that passing kids can stop by for a treat.
  • If you plan an alternative to trick-or-treating, inform your child well in advance and prepare her for the day by talking up the fun she is going to have. Keep the spirit of Halloween with costumes you can assemble at home with items you have around the house. Often even simple face painting can make the holiday a treat.

  • Check out the local thrift store for great--and inexpensive--costume ideas. Let your imagination run wild as you transform that granny dress or leisure suit into an original creation. This Halloween, don't buy in to hysteria or overreact to retail pressures. Stick to the basics: staying healthy and keeping things simple.

    Avoiding Halloween Hazards
  • Children should carry flashlights so they can see and be seen.Costumes and goody bags should be marked with reflective tape.
  • An adult should accompany children under 12.
  • Avoid masks that can inhibit a child's ability to see hazards, such as an uneven sidewalk.
  • Teach children to cross streets safely and never dart in front of vehicles.
  • Trick-or-treaters should walk on sidewalks or paths. If there is no sidewalk, they should walk next to the street facing traffic.
  • Trick-or-treaters and adults should watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Make sure drivers can see you and try to make eye contact with drivers, if possible, rather than just assume they can see you.
  • Teach children to walk, not run, while trick-or-treating, and to stay in groups for safety and visibility

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York