Ensuring children’s safety while trick-or-treating

Illustration by Shelsey Braswell

During the spooky season, traditions such as pumpkin carving, dressing up in costumes, drinking fall-themed lattes and trick-or-treating are evident in cities all over the United States, including Flagstaff.

Trick-or-treating is a tradition where people dress up as characters or celebrities from pop culture and roam around neighborhoods with baskets or pillowcases in hand, knocking on doors to collect candied goods from strangers. The potential fear of stranger danger urges parents to encourage children to be wary of entering strangers’ homes, be well-seen by parents and carry a cellphone while trick-or-treating.

Many parents wonder how they can allow their children to participate in this popular Halloween festivity without the lingering fear of sketchy strangers and their intentions.

Cheryl Anderson, Flagstaff local since 1998, gave advice regarding how parents and children can stay safe on Halloween. For parents, Anderson suggested always maintaining supervision, especially for children under 13.

“The advice I would give would just be to have an adult there to keep eyes on your kids so that they remain safe,” Anderson said.

However, for children, Anderson went more in depth regarding how kids can protect their safety while roaming around on a dark Halloween night.

“Don’t go to the houses that are completely dark, and make sure you know where your safe person is in your group,” Anderson said.

Anderson defined a safe person as the parent, guardian or adult supervisor who watches children while they trick or treat.

Additionally, many parents make alterations to their children’s costumes to increase their safety throughout the night. These alterations may include, but are not limited to, incorporating glow sticks and flashlights to ensure a child can easily be seen at night.

“We had little flashlights when we went — when I took the kids trick-or-treating — and lighter colored costumes or reflective strips so they wouldn’t get run over,” Anderson said.

Alternative solutions to guarantee a fun and safe experience trick-or-treating could be the location chosen, such as visiting trustworthy neighborhoods. Many families prefer to take their children to neighborhoods with larger homes, because there the candy is normally larger and more plentiful.

Frank Forbes, Flagstaff resident since 1999, discussed his upcoming plans for Halloween and being the supervisor of two twins, 9, while they trick or treat.

“I’d take them to a specific area to trick or treat, make sure they stay within those boundaries and then kind of stand back and loosely supervise,” Forbes said. “That way, they can have fun.”

Forbes offered advice to parents who will take their children to participate in this Halloween activity, and he also gave instructions to the children themselves.

Forbes said that when children are separated from their parents, they should be mindful about going into strangers’ houses. This way, they can be more aware and have control over their own safety.

“Have somebody with an adult capacity keep an eye on [the kids], at least from afar, to make sure nothing’s happening,” Forbes said. “You can’t say, ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’ because they’re going to be knocking on strangers’ houses. But tell them to be careful: don’t ever go into a home, and don’t eat any of the candy until we can go home and check it.”

Daniel Ledford, a sophomore at Northland Preparatory Academy, explained his past experiences while trick-or-treating with his younger brother in local neighborhoods.

Similar to Forbes, Ledford mentioned how his parents would sometimes watch the trick-or-treating from afar. This technique grants kids some independence, while also maintaining adult supervision.

“Sometimes, one parent would take us around the neighborhood to the big houses, and they’d wait for us at the end of the driveway, and we’d go to the door to get the candy,” Ledford said.

However, Ledford said that his parents would not chaperone him and his brother the entire night, granting them further freedom.

“Sometimes we would see people like our friends, and we would go with them, and our parents would go a different way, and we would meet up at a certain place in the same neighborhood,” Ledford said.

Unlike Anderson, no physical alterations were made to Ledford’s costume. Rather, his parents ensured there was a method to contact their children while they trick-or-treated. Ledford said on Halloween night, he keeps his phone fully charged with the ringtone on.

When allowing children to trick or treat, it is important to weigh every possible factor and consider safety precautions to prevent any harm from happening. There is no technical right or wrong way to maintain the safety of participants, but using this advice from Flagstaff locals may assist in ensuring a fun, safe and memorable experience for everyone involved.