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Halloween safety tips

The real joy of Halloween has been going on since the turn into October: preschoolers and first-graders picking out pumpkins and debating what Star Wars character or Disney princess they will be.

They are prancing around in their colorful costumes, changing their rapid-fire minds and pretending to their hearts' content.

Now is the time to talk about what to expect - not just the rules of crossing at corners, not entering homes and staying with the group, but about what's real and what's not.

Not all young children like surprises. They count on their parents and teachers to ease them into a comfort zone, child-development experts say.

Easing in means that children age 3 and under may be content with trick-or-treating at three houses, and spending the rest of the time greeting characters at home.

One safety rule should be ingrained in parents and their little goblins and pirates: No eating Halloween candy until it's inspected at home. Homemade goods are out. Factory-wrapped, sealed treats are what should pass inspection.

Costume cautions

A few safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission can protect children who plan to go trick-or-treating this Halloween:

Flame-resistant costumes: When buying a costume, look for the label "flame resistant." To minimize the risk of contact with candles or other sources of ignition, avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts.

For greater visibility during dusk and darkness, decorate or trim costumes and bags with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car's headlights.

Costumes should be short enough to prevent children from tripping and falling.

Apply a natural mask of cosmetics rather than have a child wear a loose-fitting mask that might restrict breathing or obscure vision.

More safety reminders

Either for a Halloween party or trick-or-treaters, remove all potential tripping hazards from your steps, porch and sidewalk.

Don't overload electrical outlets with holiday lighting or special effects.

Teach children their home phone number and discreetly attach their emergency information under their costume.

Common-sense pumpkin-carving tips from the staff of the Mayo Clinic include:

Use markers: Let young children draw faces on pumpkins with washable markers.

Buy pumpkin cutters: With supervision, older children can carve their own pumpkins with special pumpkin cutters equipped with safety bars.

Use candles with care: Place candlelit pumpkins on a sturdy surface away from flammable objects.

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