The costumes, the pumpkins, the candy… so much about Halloween is fun and exciting for kids. The down side to the holiday, however, is the potential for harm or injury. When hundreds of kids in costume roam the neighborhoods asking strangers for candy, vigilance is of utmost importance.
Whether your child is trick-or-treating for the first time or the fifteenth time, it’s important to talk as a family about safety guidelines. According to Troy Williams, chief of police for the Portage Police Department, trick-or-treaters are advised to:
-Abide by neighborhoods’ scheduled trick-or-treating times.
-Stick to neighborhoods you know well.
-Have a reflective device with you (either carry a flashlight or wear reflective tape somewhere on your costume).
-Look both ways when crossing the street.
-Have parents check your candy before you eat it.
Williams also points out the importance of parents or older siblings accompanying children. If parents are wondering at what age their child can go trick-or-treating by him or herself, Williams said to base your decision on what you know about your kids. “Know their maturity level, their level of responsibility,” he said. “Ask yourself if they would know what to do if someone approaches them.” (By the way, kids, if a stranger does approach you and you feel threatened, it’s okay to make some noise. “Kick, scream, yell for help,” Williams said.)
Williams also advised motorists to be extra cautious on trick-or-treating nights. “Drive slower than the speed limit because you never know when a kid is going to dart out in front of you.”
To lessen the risk of danger, many families are opting to participate in “Trunk-or-Treat” events rather than traditional trick-or-treating. Trunk-or-Treat typically is hosted by local churches or community organizations. At Trunk-or-Treat, those passing out candy do so in a parking lot. The trunk of each vehicle is decorated and contains candy for costumed little ones.
Faith Church’s Hammond location has been hosting Trunk-or-Treat at Kenwood Elementary School for three years, in conjunction with the school’s annual Harvest Festival. “We find it's a wonderful opportunity to offer a safe, family event for kids to go trick-or-treating from trunk to trunk versus door to door,” said Breanne Mitchell, organizer of Faith Hammond’s Trunk-or-Treat, which is open to students of Kenwood and attendees of Faith. “This allows the kids to still get dressed up and enjoy Halloween without the dangers of crossing the street, and enjoy the fun decorations of the trunks as well.”
Indeed, viewing the trunks is always a highlight at any Trunk-or-Treat. Decorations range from basic Halloween trimmings to “something as extravagant as decorating their car like a children's story book such as Charlotte's Web and dressing up as Fern or other characters,” said Mitchell. “Since it is a family event, we do ask that all decorations not be scary, but rather kid-friendly.”
Amy Citlau, mother of four boys in Crown Point, has attended Faith’s Trunk or Treat for the past few years. “We like going because it's a great way to be involved with the community and it's a lot of fun to see how people decorate their trunks,” Citlau said. “That and the candy is the kids' favorite part!”
Halloween doesn’t have to be scary for parents. Whether you choose to celebrate in your neighborhood or at a Trunk or Treat, be sure to take all of the necessary precautions so your kids can enjoy the holiday the way it’s meant to be enjoyed.