It's that time of year again: The sidewalks are filled with ghosts and ghouls -- or, at least, plastic renditions of random celebrities, children's TV show characters, and teenagers seeking candy. Here are some common-sense tips for maximizing the treats and minimizing the tricks on Halloween.
- Plan your route. Sure, it's easy to hit plan to every house in your neighborhood. But are the Smith's away for the weekend? Are the Howell's on a three-hour cruise? Are the Saunders' still renovating? Stick the houses of people you know -- and the ones you know are home.
- Bring a flashlight. It seems so obvious, but how many times have you walked out the door at twilight and stumbled home in the dark? Tuck a small flashlight in the treat bag. You might not need it, but if you do, you'll be glad to have it.
Make sure your kids can be seen easily. If that means adding a little reflective tape, a glow stick, or an armfull of glow-in-the-dark silly bands to the costume, so be it.
- Don't go out alone (and be suspicious of people who do). Even if you're a teenager who is waaaay too cool to dress up for Halloween, go with at least one or two other people. Younger kids should be in a pack as well, and that pack should include at least one parent (who can stay on the sidewalk while the kids ring the bell).
- Test-drive your costume before the big night. Costumes and masks should be comfortable and well-fitting in order to avoid tripping, obstructed vision, or falls.
- That includes your makeup. Make sure any face paint won't cause an allergic reaction by testing it on an inconspicuous spot (like the inside of your wrist) before Halloween.
- Wear the right shoes. Does your outfit require a crazy high heel? Fine... but wear comfortable, sturdy shoes as you walk from house to house, and slip on the crazy shoes just before you shout "Trick or Treat!" Blisters are definitely not a treat.
- Take care when carving. If you're going to carve actual pumpkins, The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests that adults wield the knives -- and that you use special pumpkin-carving tools, rather than utility knives or kitchen knives, to do the job.
- Beware of dog. If you have one, keep him or her indoors during the Trick-or-Treating hours; be aware of other pets in your neighborhood, and remember that, if you or your kids are dressed up, they may think you're a threat.
- Check your treats. Don't let kids raid their goodie bags until parents have had a chance to inspect the haul first. You're not looking for anything as obvious as razor blades in apples these days; be on the lookout for ripped wrappers, ingredients that may aggravate allergies, or homemade treats from cooks your don't know well.