Kids of all ages love Halloween. Some of them know exactly which superhero or princess they want to be months prior. Others look forward to visiting pumpkin patches and eating candy corn till their hearts are content. Many celebrate with Halloween parties and decorated houses and a few skip the festivities altogether. Regardless of how you choose to acknowledge the holiday, before October 31st, parents and children alike should take a moment to review our essential Halloween etiquette tips to ensure survival on the most frightful night of the year.

Trick-or-Treating. This is truly a tradition reserved for younger children who look forward each year to dressing up in their favorite costumes and going door-to-door to receive unlimited amounts of sugary treats. Begin trick-or-treating at dusk while there is still some light for safety. Try not to crowd or stampede the doorways. Teach children to be patient and polite, to limit themselves to one piece of candy unless more is offered, and to remember to say “please” when they ask for a treat and “thank you” when they receive it. There is nothing like seeing a ghost or goblin at a front door with impeccable manners.

Neighborhoods. It is perfectly acceptable to travel outside one’s own neighborhood, particularly, for children who live in a hillside neighborhood without sidewalks or for children who may be living in a neighborhood that is less than child-friendly. However, if you do decide to leave your neighborhood, the next best thing is to trick-or-treat in a neighborhood that you are familiar with or that is the neighborhood of a friend. Be respectful of lawns and gardens and use the sidewalks or pathways leading up to the front door. If a house is dark and all the lights are turned off, this is the unwritten signal that the family is not participating in the ritual or may not even be at home.

Costumes. As far as costumes for children, the general rule is that they be kid-friendly. Politically incorrect outfits or very scary horror costumes are not considered appropriate. Ask yourself one simple question, “Is my costume disrespectful or would it offend or scare another person at the party?” If the answer is yes, then find an alternative choice. Consider purchasing or making a couple of costumes, one for school and other festivities prior to Halloween and the other for Halloween night.

Halloween Parties. Anyone with a birthday in October knows how much fun it can be to have a Halloween party. Remember if you are hosting the party, be sure to be a gracious host and provide ample treats and entertainment for your guests. Encourage everyone to come dressed in costume to help set the tone for the party. A little spooky music adds to the fun. Make sure to be a good ghoul guest as well. Don’t forget to bring a birthday gift or host gift for the party-giver as a thank you for including you in the celebration.

Be Safe, Not Sorry. It is best to have ample supplies on hand for emergencies. Sidewalks can be treacherous and lawns lined with electrical cords can be dangerous. Come prepared with flashlights to use to make sure you do not trip or fall. Keep a couple of Band Aids and some Neosporin on hand should minor accidents occur. Make sure to look both ways before crossing the streets. Although, there are more pedestrians out than usual, it is still dark and drivers may not be able to see clearly. Adults and children should stick together at all times. There is nothing more difficult than trying to track down a small child in the pitch black of night.

General Halloween Etiquette Tips. Halloween is a perfect “training” time to teach children how to mind their “P’s” & “Q’s.” After just a few house visits, your two year old will be an expert! At least one parent should accompany all children up to the age of twelve. Trick-or-treating should generally end around 9pm as most families with children and older adults are preparing for bed by that time. Parents should check the treats of the younger children before they eat them. Children should never eat anything that is handmade or specially prepared unless you know the family.

Guidelines for Older Children. When it comes to costumes, older children and teens have a tendency to let their wild imagination get the best of them. Etiquette dictates that whatever they choose, they should make sure it is not disrespectful or offensive to others. As this age group is old enough to trick-or-treat on their own, parents should lay down a few ground rules with regard to general safety and curfew. If they are attending a Halloween party, check to make sure there is a chaperon in attendance and that no alcoholic beverages are being served. If in doubt, offer to chaperon yourself.

Pranks and Tricks. Halloween is meant to be fun, to use your imagination, but not at the expense of others. Contrary to what we might see on television or in the movies, it is not an opportunity to toilet paper an individuals front yard or throw eggs at their front door. It also does not give one free reign to steal or damage pumpkins or other decorations. It is wise to stay away from anything that could potentially cause property damage as these types of pranks are not only dangerous, but illegal. If pranks and tricks are a must, try creating an imaginative fun house or haunted house for your friends and other guests to experience.