Get Spooky, Stay Safe
It's officially October! That means it's time to start thinking about getting spooky … and also time to start thinking about keeping the little ones safe. We went to the experts from the Executive Advisory Board of the Goddard School for tips.
Jack Maypole, an advisor to The Goddard School and a pediatrician, suggests that you not let kids sample foods whose wrappings do not appear intact, or perchance, tampered with. Unless you are with a family you know well, be wary of foods that are homemade. Given food safety and allergy issues, it is better to be safe than sorry, and to find swag elsewhere.
For the parents of kids who have allergies, it may be time to think outside of the box. Dr. Maypole has been impressed by neighborhoods that band together and ban certain foods from the trick-or-treat bowls so children can make their rounds safely. And for those children who venture into realms where they don't necessarily know what they are going to get, keep that Epi-Pen handy and cull the potentially allergenic foods from the pile when you're done making the rounds.
Reflective clothing is nice, but you can maximize your visibility with a flashlight like this little one from Atomic Beam that is brighter than average and can handle being dropped. Think about costumes with reasonable visibility so children can navigate front walks and cross the street without bumping their noggin or taking risks with passing traffic. Parents can also consider making themselves viable with bags like the Casual Buggy Bag Reflective from Lassig.
Lee Scott, Chair of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School, has some advice as well.
For outings with older children, team up in small groups that will help children stay together and make it easier for parents to monitor them.
With little ones, don't try to do too much. Visit just 3-4 homes, or better yet, visit an organized program that many local schools and clubs provide. Your little one can still dress up but not get overwhelmed by the event.
When you do go out with little ones, go out early. It is often less chaotic and you and your child can see better in the early evening light. Let kids carry a special kid-sized lantern like the Kid'Sleep My Lantern by Claessens' Kids that will give them a sense of control if they see anything scary and provide a little more light.
For little ones, you may also want to consider carrying some supplies, like glowsticks for later in the night, some healthy snacks like granola bars, and baby wipes in case the kids get into chocolate early. A bag like the Bugaboo Organizer can be a lifesaver because it can attach to the handlebars of a stroller then snap off to be a shoulder bag if you decide to continue on without the stroller or if your littlest one goes home early.
Think about the costume. Make sure the superhero cape doesn't become a tripping hazard or the princess crown a real headache. Look for costumes designed with safety in mind like HABA's Henry HABA Strong Knight or Fairy Fina that are high quality, safe, and durable and come with all the detailed accessories to withstand your child's imagination (and abuse!) for years to come.
When you get home, stay dressed up and continue the fun at home! Let your kids answer the door and say, “BOO!” to the visitors. You can be standing by while your child enjoys taking charge.
Jennifer Jipson, advisor to The Goddard School and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Child Development at California Polytechnic State University, also encourages parents to think about their children's emotional safety. She urges parents to watch children's reactions to costumes. Watch reactions not just to the obviously the scary ones, but be aware that young children can even feel anxiety when a familiar person puts on a mask.
This is a great opportunity to practice talking about emotions, gain emotion regulation skills, and to talk about differences between appearance and reality.
Keep in mind a physiological study that tested three- to six-year-olds by placing a ferocious dog mask on a cat. 3-year-olds believed the cat was now a dog and were scared, 6-year-olds knew the cat only looked like a scary dog and were fine. Children of different ages will react differently to costumes!
Consider the Candy Witch or the Switch Witch! The origin of the Candy Witch comes from a well-known study by Jacqueline Woolley. She focuses on preschoolers' use of evidence to generate belief in fantastical entities. Some families use it for the big Halloween swap. How it works is that the kids go trick-or-treating, then they decide whether or not to leave a note for the Candy Witch that night. If they invite her, she will take their candy and leave a toy instead. If they do not invite her, she doesn't visit and they keep the candy. In fact, a study showed that children are just as likely to choose toys as candy! It's a chance for them to think about nutrition, reflect on their desires, and consider that others' may have different desires than they do.
Another use for the Switch Witch is for kids with allergies. Audrey Kinsman came up with a website and book to help her son who cannot eat much of the candy often given out on Halloween because of his allergies. The Switch Witch can also be used to help promote healthy eating habits.
While not technically a safety tip, Halloween is an informal learning opportunity.
- Use Halloween as a time to motivate children's thinking about STEM! How does glow in the dark/reflective material work? How can we equally divide the candy among family members? Children can even learn to make their own candy with kits like the Gummy Candy Lab or Candy Chemistry from Thames &Kosmos.
- Use Halloween costume choices as a time to talk about stereotypes about race and gender. Many costumes are traditionally gender-typed (femininity depicted as princesses and masculinity depicted as heroes) and also forms of cultural appropriation.
For more Halloween safety tips check out these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
However you celebrate, have a Happy Halloween!