Planning on going trick-or-treating with your kids this month? A police officer tells us how to keep our kids safe for Halloween.
"The main thing is to consider the age of the child," says Kathy Macdonald, acting sergeant with the Calgary Police Service.
The following tips will help keep your little ghouls, princesses and superheroes safe for Halloween.
Make a plan
"Are you going to go trick-or-treating with your kids? If not, then take the time to plan out the route," says Macdonald. "Walk the area, look for any risky, dark or hidden spots."
Young children should always be accompanied by an adult when trick-or-treating, while older children can go out in groups.
Parents should also "set parameters on the amount of time the kids are gone," asserts Macdonald. "Have a pre-established meeting place if you're picking them up. Know the other kids they're going with and their parents' contacts to make sure everyone is on the same page."
Think good visibility and fit with Halloween costumes
Costumes play a big part in Halloween, but they can also present hazards.
• Choose bright-colour costumes so your kids can be easily spotted by vehicles in the dark. Add reflective tape for good measure.
• Make sure your kids' costumes fit properly. If they're too big, they can be a tripping hazard. If they're too small, they can be constrictive and make it difficult to breathe. Remember, too, that you may need to fit a warm jacket under the costume.
• Look for flame-resistant materials.
• Consider makeup instead of masks. Masks often shift out of place and can obstruct vision. They can also make it hard to breathe.
• Avoid props if possible. Props prevent kids from having their hands free, and they can easily trip or poke themselves or others with them. If props are necessary, use ones made of soft, flexible materials without sharp edges.
Macdonald also recommends that both kids and parents carry lights: "There's all sorts of illuminated tools, even neat apps, such as the torch on an iPhone, that can provide light," she says.
Road rules still apply
In all the excitement, trick-or-treaters can forget about pedestrian rules when rushing from house to house.
Macdonald notes that kids "often don't think about the traffic. Cross at crosswalks. Don't just cross because friends are crossing. Cross as a group when you know it's safe or cross by yourself where you know it's safe," she says. "It's also dark at night, so they have to make sure they are seen by any cars before they cross."
The best approach is to work up one side of a street before crossing to the other side to limit the amount of street crossings. Never criss-cross.
Macdonald also reminds kids not to "approach animals they don't know and don't enter any homes they don't know."
It's also best to stay away from dark houses. "If the lights are out, that usually means the end of candy anyhow," she says.
Make your home safe for trick-or-treaters on Halloween
Making sure your own kids are safe is of utmost importance, but making your property safe for other kids is also essential.
"Shovel the snow; move statues and pots that could trip kids away from the path; keep pets away from the front door; and have the light on so kids can see the steps," says Macdonald.
Don't forget about the jack-o'-lanterns either. Lit candles can pose a fire hazard.
Stay in touch
Safety is all about checking in with your kids. "Give your kids a cellphone and make sure they know your number," says Macdonald. "Call or text throughout the night. And make sure phones are password-protected in case they lose them."
She also recommends using apps for tracking your kids, as well as noise-making and illumination apps.
And of course, tell your kids not to eat anything until they get home, so you have the chance to thoroughly check that everything is properly wrapped. After all, Mom and Dad want to have first crack at the Halloween goodies!
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