Today’s Halloween activities often reach beyond exploring the neighborhood cul-de-sac two streets over. Many families now spend October 31st visiting other venues, such as local haunted houses, theme park events, carnivals, church festivals, zoos, and corn mazes.
For everyone figuring out how they will spend this year’s holiday, here are some tips to make your evening go as smoothly and safely as possible. Take some of that effort reserved for planning costumes and put it into paying attention to rules designed to keep little ones from harm.
Curfews & Laws
Certain cities and states have curfews, age limits, and other laws related to trick-or-treating. Whenever you take your children out trick-or-treating for the first time or you move to a new city, find out the expectations for that location.
There may be laws regarding the day and time of day you can trick-or-treat. Many neighborhoods, complexes and housing communities recommend time slots for residents. While some cities suggest alternative trick-or-treating days – depending on when the holiday falls—others can be much more stringent in enforcing a city ordinance. A few places, like Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, prohibit trick-or-treating on Sunday in favor of celebrating the day before.
Other city and state laws put an age cap on trick-or-treating. Cities such as Chesapeake, Virginia, Meridian, Mississippi, Bishopville, South Carolina, and Boonsboro, Maryland set the age limit to 12-years-old.
North Carolina and Virginia have laws prohibiting anyone over age 16 from wearing masks or hoods that conceal identity. These laws provide exceptions for traditional holiday costumes. However, for Halloween that exception would only apply to October 31st and not the weekend parties or other events that surround the actual holiday.
With precise laws like this, it helps to pay attention to the specifics.
Neighborhood Traffic Hazards
An estimated 41.1 million trick-or-treaters set out on a candy hunting adventure each year, according to the Census.gov’s 2017 data. This group consists of children ages 5 to 14-years-old. With everyone travelling door-to-door, the number of pedestrians out at night is as at an all-time high.
The National Safety Council reports that children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than any other day of the year.
To help prevent traffic-related injuries and accidents, choose costumes in bright colors that stand out. You can also add reflective tape to costumes and trick or treating bags. Adults may want to wear headlamps and carry flashlights, especially in areas with dim street lighting.
Skipping Door-to-Door Fun for Local Attractions
Attractions can be a great alternative for your Halloween festivities, as businesses must meet safety standards before opening to guests. You avoid pedestrian traffic risks, candy and goodies are regulated, and the rules for activities are posted and enforced.
Fire hazards in neighborhoods are also higher, as backyard décor doesn’t have to undergo the same level of testing as a theme park haunted house. Your local amusement park, zoo, or other organization hosting a Halloween event must obtain permits, and meet fire and building codes before opening doors.
Venues are required to have precautions in place, such as heat detectors, back-up lighting, sprinkler systems, fire-proof set materials, fire extinguishers, clear emergency exits and more. Places with mazes, mirrors and confusing paths should have directional signage to clarify exits in case of emergency.
Avoiding Scary Situations
Read “scare guidelines” to make sure the intensity is appropriate to the age level that you will accompany. Not every child is prepared for all that goes with Halloween amusements. Children and adults may be sensitive to strobe lights, fog, and loud noises used to create a spooky environment.
Parents should stay close to children when navigating through large crowds. Getting overwhelmed, lost or injured can take a turn from playful fun and to terrifying, when children are not sure who to turn to.
It is helpful if parents can quickly identify employees in case of emergencies. Many attractions require employees to wear themed costumes, STAFF shirts, hanging name badges, or name tags. Event badges may include large print text and recognizable symbols to designate those who are medical or security personnel. Some venues require staff to wear photo IDs to help build trust between guests and employees.
For younger children, make sure they have a parent and buddy with them at all time. Ensure that adults know which children are under their supervision. With large groups and entertainment all around, it can be easy to get distracted and rely on other childcare helpers without first communicating who is responsible for who.
Following Costume Guidelines When Attending Events
Before packing up the family van to set off for your event, review any costume rules. Major attractions can be strict about only letting in guests that follow these rules. Many theme parks provide the following types of guidelines:
- No costumes that touch the ground. Avoid costumes that restrain movement. This helps prevent trip and fall incidents and accidents with interactive games.
- No masks that completely cover the face. Make sure masks do not impair vision. Sometimes masks are not allowed for teens over a certain age.
- For costumes that include wigs and more elaborate add-ons, make sure all materials are non-flammable.
- Make sure children can easily contact parents. Have older kids carry a cell phone with them. For younger kids, attach a name tag to costumes with your name and phone number.
- Make sure props are not harmful. Often objects that appear to be weapons are prohibited, however younger children may be allowed to bring play swords and knives that are short, soft and flexible.
- Use non-toxic make-up and face paint. Test paint before to make sure allergic reactions do not occur.
- Make sure costumes are not violent or offensive. Many venues reserve the right to limit entry for costumes that are not considered appropriate.
Once your children’s costumes are finalized and costume guidelines met, all you have to do is pick out which spooky celebration to attend. You may also want to make sure your child’s favorite costume still fits. It’s a sad day when the Spiderman jumpsuit is officially too small.