Posted by: Chris | October 16, 2010

Halloween is Coming!

I just listened to the latest podcast on Paranoid Parenting , and realized that it is that most paranoid parent time of the year: Halloween. The CDC has a pretty decent page of safety tips that I am repeating here, with some elaboration.

Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.

Which is very good advice because kids tend to swing those things around. I usually avoided giving my children umbrellas at anytime because I knew they would be turned into weapons. Though another criteria for accessories should be weight. Guess who gets to carry it around when the child with a bag full of goodies gets tired? Cardboard tubes and foam board are very handy, and light.

Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.

Which is nice for safety, but it is also lots more fun. I remember trick or treating alone when we moved to a new assignment, and it was lonely (I was an Army brat, moving to a new town usually starting with the word “Fort” pretty much defined my elementary days). I am also the parent who loved tromping around the neighborhood with kids, and seeing what the other kids were wearing.

Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you

Fabric stores sell reflective ribbons, more often at this time of year. Stores that cater to outdoor sewing sell a wide variety of reflective ribbons. I have made wrist bands with the reflective grosgrain ribbon using sticky hook and loop tape, also known as “Velcro” (it was my “activity” for daughter’s second grade Harvest Party, most of her class went home with a pair). I also sewed it on the outside of the candy tote bags (fabric bags hold more loot without breaking!).

Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.

Well, yeah. The bigger risk would be the younger sibling toddler choking on a hard candy more than finding a needle or razor blade. Another thing to consider is to be aware of where your child stores his/her loot, and its refuse. Every so often when a child’s room is purged (kids grow up, things need to go away) a bag of candy of indeterminate vintage will be found in the back of the closet. I also tended to remove chewing gum, not because of the choking hazard, but because I would find it stuck on walls and furniture.

Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you.

Make sure that the flashlights are available and have batteries before 6pm on Halloween. Many times we have been have been rushing around trying to find the things. Also, get them back and put them somewhere handy. During power outages the flashlights were missing because kids took them to their rooms after Trick-or-Treating putting them in that alternative time/space continuum known as the back of a closet or deep under a bed.

Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent skin and eye irritation.

I never did that, so maybe we were lucky. Though, in reality, it is usually the second time for an allergic reaction to happen. My daughter reacted to hair dye after about the fifth time, so we tested a new brand before dying her hair again (and will continue to test before dying). My problem was to either make sure that the testing (playing around with) the make-up did not get all used up, or trying to find it when it was time for Halloween. Then there was the issue of finding it on the bathroom mirror, walls and hallway carpeting.

Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.

Probably the most dangerous hazards of Trick-or-Treating are cars. Look both ways, and don’t run across, stay on sidewalks, and don’t walk down the middle of the road (so that is why we have not had any kids on our street… we have no sidewalks!).

Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.

This is a new thing, possibly brought on by the “anime eyes” fad. The kids (usually less than fourteen years old) who go Trick-or-Treating are not really the ones wearing large uncomfortable contact lenses. It is mostly an issue with older children and adults who like cosplay and can be seen at Dragon*Con, Comic-Con and Sakura-Con.

Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.

These costume hints are fairly basic, mostly to avoid tripping. Some additional points:

1: I don’t think there is such thing as a well-fitting mask, so I have tried to avoid them. I actually made a well fitting mask for a Zorro costume, but found that it also caused blind spots (make-up is better, if not messier). One year my husband bought my oldest an alien costume which consisted of a rubber type head with a cape attached. Not only could the boy barely see, he had to take it off every few minutes because it was so hot.

2: Box costumes are the worst. Our neighbor wanted to be a robot made of boxes and dryer ducting, and he lasted only two blocks before turning into a whiny crying mess.

3: The movie “The Incredibles” had a very good message about capes: they are hazardous! My younger son loved wearing capes in preschool, but it turned out that one of his classmates also loved pulling on his cape. So I cut the ties off and replaced them with sew-on hook and loop tape.

Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats unless you know the cook well.

A reiteration of making sure treats are safe.

Enter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult. Otherwise, stay outside.

Okay. I guess I would be wary of anyone who was willing to let a gang of kids with hands sticky from trying the treats and/or muddy feet into their house. Though I don’t think I have ever encountered that situation in all my years as a kid, the grown up sister going with my little sisters or as a parent.

Never walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

Always look out for flames. Fortunately there has been a trend towards small battery powered lights. As far as flame resistant costumes, natural fabrics are usually better than synthetic. The Linguist did fabric flame tests for a science project. We learned that cotton, silk and wool do not burn very well, but that felt is very good tinder! The problem is that fun, inexpensive and shiny fabrics burn hot and fast. Also if you buy costumes or get used clothing from a discount store the fabric will be unknown. So use them with caution, avoid open flames, and watch for flowing skirts, capes and accessories.

An example of Halloween past:

There is the not so great Zorro mask.  But the cheap velvet with cotton lining cape has hook and loop fasteners.  The Zorro hat and demented wedding dress (two nightgowns) were from a Salvation Army thrift shop.  The Roman gladiator’s costume is made of marine vinyl, with red cotton trim.  The spear is a cardboard tube (which I ended up carrying).  The shield is made from very light plastic sign from a school levy campaign, a kind of plastic cardboard.  It is covered with ironing board fabric (I bought a large circle of it at a rummage sale for only a dollar, someone thought it would make a nice table cloth, but it turns out when it is new it stinks to high heaven!).

In addition, costumes are not just for Halloween. Thrift shops and costume discount sales are good for filling up the costume box. It feeds imaginative play, and sometimes you get surprises. When it was time for dinner for one of daughter’s birthday sleep-overs I found myself serving a couple of princesses, a demented bride, a bat, a witch and one strange alien.

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Responses

  1. Every Halloween I think it should be mandatory for skeptic parents to link to this Snopes.
    http://www.snopes.com/horrors/poison/halloween.asp

    And considering the ongoing breakdown of the American regulatory system, I’m not sure “factory wrapped treats” is any guarantee of safety anymore.

  2. I thought about adding snopes, but I figure it is worth to just check the bag.

    If anything to get some of the stuff the kids don’t like, or can’t eat. Though chewing gum was the bane of my existence for a while.

  3. My favorite Halloween stuff was anything with peanuts because my brothers and sisters wouldn’t eat them. Now I hoard all the Peanut M&M’s myself. Good point on the gum, although since I chew gum in place of smoking/shooting people, I’m on the verge of introducing it on a trial basis with the 5&1/2 year old.

    • Learn how to get it out of fabric, rugs, hair, pets, sink pipes and a few other places I can’t remember!


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