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Lisa Black

Choosing costumes, decorating pumpkins, and receiving special treats brings joy to many children at Halloween. While Halloween may be different this year because of the COVID pandemic, there are ways to celebrate some of these favorite traditions, while being careful to keep everyone safe.

Virtual costume parties – or physically distant, outdoor costume parades – Halloween-themed crafts, movie nights at home, and making favorite treats are some ways families can safely celebrate the holiday this year.

“Many kids look forward to Halloween all year, and it’s typical to feel some disappointment as we see how the pandemic has affected our milestone events,” said pediatrician Shelly Vaziri Flais, MD, FAAP, an AAP spokesperson. “But we can be flexible and creative, and model this for our kids, too. Halloween is not always the same. In Chicago, for instance, there was a blizzard last year, which canceled trick-or-treating for a lot of kids. If parents model a positive and creative spirit this year, children are more likely pick up on those emotional cues.”

Experts advise that this Halloween, children and adults should avoid large gatherings, maintain a distance of six feet from others, wear cloth face coverings (think Superhero!) and wash hands frequently. Meeting outdoors is safer than indoors, but it is still important to follow safety precautions.

Trick-or-treating may be discouraged in some communities this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If trick-or-treating occurs in a community, families should be careful to avoid groups or clustering at doorsteps or at any other place. Residents who wish to hand out treats may consider sitting outdoors and they should wear cloth face coverings.  They may also consider handing out individually prepacked treat bags. The role of touching objects in the spread of COVID-19 is not yet clear at this point, but to be on the safe side, if your child collects treats from a few, socially distanced neighbors, you may want to wipe the packages with a sanitizing cloth or let them sit for a couple of days before the child can access them.

And of course, good hand hygiene like washing hands or using hand sanitizer before and after trick-or-treating is always a good idea. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers additional tips to help children enjoy a healthy, safe Halloween:

  • Meet with friends virtually and show off costumes. Have fun with it! In cold climates, this may be the first time your child can wear a costume that isn’t buried under a parka.
  • When planning a costume, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats. If children plan to use their cloth face coverings as part of their costume, they should not paint them, as some paints contain toxins.
  • Celebrate with a movie night and dress as your favorite characters. Do this as a family at home or consider letting your child watch with their friends while video chatting, with everyone starting the movie at the same time.
  • Look for community events focused on safe ways to have fun, such as programs offered by a park district, arboretum, pumpkin patch, zoo or other outdoor venue in your area. Avoid indoor events such as haunted houses. Avoid crowds and clustering and follow safe distance rules even when outdoors.
  • Decorate pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.
  • If children are outdoors, consider marking their costumes with reflective tape. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flame. Remind children to be careful around cars, as drivers may not see them. Remind them also to wash hands really well when you return home.
  • Consider offering non-edible goodies to friends and family.Halloween is one of the trickiest days of the year for children with food allergies. Food Allergy Research & Education's Teal Pumpkin Project, promotes safe trick-or-treating options for food-allergic children and suggests handing out non-food items. Make sure the items do not pose choking hazards for young children.

“This is a good time to teach children the importance of protecting not just ourselves but each other,” Dr. Flais said. “The decisions we make on this one day can have a ripple effect on our family members. We can find safe ways to celebrate and create magical memories.”

For more Halloween tips, go to here.

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