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SALT LAKE CITY — Recent events remind us again and again that the world is less safe for our kids than it once was. With the comming of All Hallow’s Eve and the annual migration of little spooks and goblins through our neighborhoods, what are the best ways to keep your little ghouls safe?
Many of the following precautions will sound a great deal like common sense, and in essence that is what they are. However, the recommendations may also sound like taking the fun out of the Halloween we all remember. There is some truth in that as well, but the exposure to potential danger that our kids face is much different than it was for us.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has a section devoted to the issues of a safe Halloween for our kids. Among the tips:
- Never trick-or-treat alone (have an adult along).
- Trick-or-treat only at lighted houses.
- Never enter the house of someone you do not know well.
- Use reflective tape as a part of the costume to improve the ability of drivers to see kids.
- Carry a flashlight and avoid candles and open flame.
- Consider the use of make-up rather than masks, which can limit vision.
- Avoid loose-fitting costumes and oversized shoes that may be a trip hazard.
Traffic safety is one of the major concerns for both parents and kids. Large numbers of kids walking through the neighborhoods after dark, all hurrying to the next house in the race to amass as much candy as possible, pose a concern for drivers. The website halloweensafety.com has a list of tips that, in addition to increasing the little ghosts' visibility, addresses pedestrian safety:
- Walk, do not run.
- Walk on sidewalks and driveways.
- Cross the street at the corner or in a crosswalk, don't jaywalk.
A new alternative: trunk-or-treat
All of these apply for the standard trick-or-treat experience, but churches, neighborhood groups and community organizations are increasingly opting for a more controlled (and thereby safer) Halloween activity: the themed party with a trunk-or-treat.
While themed costume parties have a long been a staple at Halloween, trunk-or-treat parties are a relatively new phenomenon. It is a bit uncertain just where and when the practice started, but it is certain that churches, schools, neighborhood groups and lately even business are involved in offering this as a safer alternative to the traditional trick-or-treat experience.
Trunk-or-treat has been described as a tailgate party for kids. At its simplest, trunk-or-treat requires a parking lot, preferably well-lit. A group of volunteers then park their cars in the lot, open their trunks and hand out candy as the little spooks move from car to car. Decoration of the cars is optional but encouraged.
Beginning or ending the trunk-or-treat with a party that includes games geared to a variety of age groups and food and you have an enjoyable experience for both young and old. This activity maintains the spirit of Halloween, provides a much safer and more controlled environment, and allows for adult supervision at all parts of the activity.
Inspecting Halloween goodies
Whatever your choice for the upcoming 31st of October — whether a traditional trick-or-treat or a trunk-or-treat event — check your kids' haul of sweets. Look for factory-sealed packages, and homemade sweets should be allowed only from people you know well.
While it may seem like a lot to think about, it only takes a few minutes to discuss safety practices and check costumes before you let the little gremlins out the door, and to check their haul when they come home, and you'll be sure to have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.
Guy Bliesner is a longtime educator, having taught and coached tennis and swimming. He is school safety and security administrator for the Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Guy has been married for 26 years and has three children.