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Parent to Parent


How to keep kids safe on a spooky Halloween

By Betsy Flagler
John Rosemond
Betsy Flagler, who lives in Davidson, writes the nationally syndicated Parent to Parent column.

Along with princesses and pirates, ghosts and goblins, Halloween is a night full of no’s and don’ts.

Safe Kids USA is a network of organizations working to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability for children ages 1 to 14. To keep kids safe on Halloween, the group recommends:

• Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Zig-zagging across streets is unsafe.

• Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.

• Walk on direct routes with as few street crossings as possible.

• Each time you cross a street, look left, right and left again.

Until about age 12, a child’s pedestrian skills are limited by size, coordination and developmental stage, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A child’s short stature limits visibility to drivers. Also, children have reduced attention spans, localize sounds poorly and lack impulse control.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also has a Halloween safety checklist:

• Prevent fires and burns: Select flame-retardant materials when buying or making costumes and accessories. Choose battery-operated lights instead of candles.

• See and be seen: Trim costumes and outerwear in reflective tape. Carry flashlights or glow sticks when trick-or-treating.

• Regarding those glow sticks, though, remember that while they’re good for visibility, the liquid in them is hazardous. Don’t let children chew on them or snap them again after they’re glowing.

• Adjust costumes: Long costumes can drag and cause falls. Secure hats, scarves and masks to provide ventilation and visibility. Test a dab of make-up ahead of time to make sure your child is not allergic to it.

• Discreetly attach your child’s home phone number inside the costume.

A factor that’s often overlooked is a child’s developmental stage. Before a new event, whether it’s a Halloween parade at preschool or photos on Santa’s lap, little ones need to know what to expect. Ease them into the new situation. Masks or makeup that covers an adult’s face, such as the white makeup of a clown, can frighten young kids.

Email Betsy Flagler at

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