Kids of all ages love Halloween. Young children begin prompting their parents for costumes as early as August. Some of them have been planning which superhero or princess they want to be months prior while others can’t wait to visit the pumpkin patches and eat candy corn till their hearts are content. Many celebrate with Halloween parties and decorated houses and a few skip the festivities altogether preferring to curl up on the couch watching a scary movie. However you choose to acknowledge the holiday, parents and children alike should take a moment to review our essential Halloween etiquette tips on how to survive the night of fright!

Trick-or-Treating. 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! Begin trick or treating at dusk while there is still some light for safety. Try not to crowd or stampede the doorways or lean on doorbells. Teach your children to be patient and polite and to remember the all important “please” when they ask for a treat and “thank you” when they receive it. There is nothing like seeing a ghost or goblin at your front door with impeccable manners. 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. 

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. 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. Older teens and adults may choose to let their wild imagination get the best of them, however, etiquette dictates that whatever they choose, they should try to be considerate of others and their environment. 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 alternate choice. 

Candy.  It’s amazing how much power is packed into this 5-letter word.  The mere mention of candy sends kids into a feeding frenzy. They will do anything for it!!  The number one rule with Halloween candy is to make sure parents have checked it before it is eaten. Children should also stay away from candy that is handmade or specially prepared unless you know the family. As far as managing their intake and what to do with all of their leftover loot, my daughters’ school had some fabulous suggestions for young children:  (1) Allow small children to choose 3 treats as they’re trick-or-treating and save the rest. Then suggest they select 5 more pieces to keep and leave the remainder out for the Sugar Witch who picks up the candy while they’re sleeping and leaves a small gift behind.  (2) Set up a Halloween shop where your child can “buy” small items: toys, books, hair-clips, cool pens, etc. for every 6 oz or 4 bars of candy they use as currency.  (3) Let them choose to keep the candy at the rate of one piece every two days or opt to swap it in for any toy $10 or less at Toys R Us they want. For other alternatives and candy donations, check out for a variety of ways to contribute your unwanted treats. 

Halloween Parties. Anyone with a birthday in October knows how much fun it can be to have a Halloween party. Encourage everyone to come dressed in costume to help set the tone for the party. Create a festive atmosphere by throwing on a scary movie in the background along with a soundtrack of spooky music.  Remember if you are hosting the party, be a gracious host and provide plenty of treats for your guests.  To cater to everyone, try to include a few health conscious options.  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.

Pranks and Tricks. Halloween is meant to be fun, 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.

Safety First. 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.

Guidelines for Older Children. Before the evening begins, parents should lay down a few ground rules with regard to expected behavior, general safety and curfew.  With regard to trick-or-treating, a child who has reached the age of sixteen or seventeen should retire their pumpkin candy bag for good.  When it comes to costumes, older children and teens should not let their wild imagination get the best of them. They can still wear something creative that is not disrespectful or offensive to others.  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. Curfew times should be age appropriate and explained before anyone leaves the house.

Any other Halloween etiquette tips you’d like to share that have worked for you and your family?  Please share with us.  We’d love to hear from you!