By: Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics, Children’s Minnesota
While some kids are excited to dress up as their favorite movie characters and superheroes, others dread Halloween due to their sensory sensitivities or allergies. How can you best prepare your children for the spooky day? Below are a few tips to keep in mind as you begin trick-or-treating.
Preparing to trick or treat
- Especially for children with sensory sensitivities, it’s important they have a chance to try on their costume before Halloween so they can understand how it will feel when they wear it. Additionally, this will provide time for any adjustments to be made. Parents: know that your child doesn’t need to wear the costume exactly as it’s packaged! You can and should alter it to make them feel most comfortable.
- Practice saying “trick or treat,” “please” and “thank you.” Those at-the-door interactions can be some of the most challenging for someone with sensory sensitivities, so take the time to go through those actions before you go out. Factors like scary decorations, minimal lighting and strangers play a big role in how a child handles each separate exchange.
- Set a timeline and route with your child before heading out to trick-or-treat. Visit houses your children are familiar with, either in your local neighborhood or those of family and friends. This can help lessen stress some children may feel and it will also establish a plan for your kids who would trick-or-treat all night if they could!
- Alert others to your child’s presence by using reflective tape on costumes, as well as flashlights and glow sticks. Also, talk with your child about keeping to the sidewalks. Yards can be dangerous in the dark due to uneven surfaces, unanticipated branches on the ground, and wire fences. Cars and streets can pose a danger, as many costumes can be difficult to see in the dark.
Preparing to have trick or treaters
- Keep in mind that children with developmental or physical disabilities may show up at your door to trick-or-treat. Please show patience and understanding with a child who may be slower to say “please” and “thank you.” Also, consider how you might accommodate children with assistive devices (such as a wheelchair) who come to your house.
- If you can offer allergen-free candies or non-food treats, you’re providing children with severe allergies the chance to trick-or-treat without concern. Some allergen-free candies include Skittles, Smarties, and Starbursts. You can see a list of allergen-free candies here and be sure to check out some non-food treat ideas here. Parents: if your child has a severe allergy, consider calling neighbors, friends and family members and asking them to have allergen-free candy available. You can also provide them with candies/treats that are safe for your child so that they have something to hand to them.
- If you’re handing out allergen-free treats, set out a teal pumpkin to indicate to trick-or-treaters that your house is safe for those with health concerns. Learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project here.
- While real candles aren’t used as frequently in pumpkins as they were years ago, many houses still have open flames included as part of their Halloween décor. Costumes and wigs could ignite if trick or treaters get too close to an open flame, so consider using battery-powered fake flames in your pumpkins and other holiday props on your front porch.
- While your family pet is cute and might even be wearing their very own Halloween costume, consider putting them in a separate and safe place from where the trick-or-treaters will be stopping in your home. Some trick or treaters may have pet allergies. And, the chaos and loud noises that accompany the holiday can be overwhelming to your pets and they may unexpectedly bite, scare, or injure a trick or treater. Every child should have the chance to enjoy Halloween. Have fun, but stay safe too!
Watch Dr. Gigi Chawla discuss Halloween safety on WCCO’s Mid Morning Show here.