I consider myself an expert on autumn festivities and Halloween traditions. After all, I grew up in the Midwest where the leaves change each year and costumed children dash from door to door in search of treats. My most impressive credential, however, is probably the fact that I entered this world between midnight and one a.m. on October 31st.
Take a moment to imagine the perks of being born on Halloween: waddling up to a neighbor’s door and having your father exclaim, “And it’s also her birthday!” My treat bag bulged. Add the birthday cake, fun costumes, and happy friends, and life just didn’t get any sweeter. Literally.
Birthday or not, this can be a magical time of year for all. But some seriously scary statistics go hand-in-hand with its fairy-tale fun. According to the National Safety Council, children are twice as likely to be fatally hit by a car on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Also, children with food allergies face a life-and-death decision with each piece of candy that falls into their buckets.
My desire is for each child in our community to have a healthy and happy Halloween, like the ones I enjoyed when I was little. Thankfully, there are simple precautions we can take to prevent accidents and creative ways we can provide safe treats.
First, let’s talk costume and traffic safety. Children need to see and be seen. Costumes should not obscure a child’s vision, so choose makeup instead of masks that cover the eyes. Test the makeup on a small area of skin before the big day to check for potential irritation.
To increase trick-or-treaters’ visibility, have them wear glow sticks or attach reflective tape to costumes. Young children should be accompanied along their route by a responsible adult. Older kids should put away cell phones and pay attention to traffic. Everyone should always walk and never run across driveways and streets.
As for us motorists, we should refrain from driving during designated trick-or-treat hours. If we must get behind the wheel, we should be extra alert for folks walking on roadways, curbs, alleys, and driveways. We should also discourage inexperienced drivers (think sugar-filled teenagers) from being on the road at this time.
Next, let’s cover food safety. All children should wait to eat their treats until they return home and can have an adult inspect their stash. Hopefully, none of us will find any tricks, but in these germ-conscious times, we should throw away anything with an open wrapper or that appears unsafe.
For the 1-in-13 children with food allergies in our community, trick-or-treating and even trunk-or-treating can be especially scary. Most single-serving candies do not have ingredient listings. To reduce parent stress and protect kids from dangerous reactions, we can participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project. We can display a bright, teal-colored pumpkin to communicate to families with allergies that we have non-food treats like stickers or small toys available. For more safe treat ideas, visit www.foodallergy.org.
This year, the YMCA’s Camp Eberhardt in Three Rivers, Michigan is putting on a free Trunk-or-Treat event on Saturday, October 30th from 1 to 3 p.m. We can drive our costumed kids through the beautiful
campground, enjoy the magnificent colors of autumn and let the candy come right up to our car windows. However, we choose to participate in the season, let’s all do our part to make autumn festivities healthy and happy for each and every child. You never know – today might be her birthday!