You can still participate in this Halloween tradition with a bit of extra planning!

By Emily VanSchmus
September 10, 2020
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It’s finally starting to feel like fall, which means Halloween is just around the corner. And in most parts of the country, that also means we’ll likely still be in the midst of the pandemic when it’s time for trick or treating. If you’re not comfortable participating this year, there are plenty of fun alternatives to try instead. But if your neighborhood allows trick-or-treating and you feel comfortable going door-to-door, there are a few safety precautions you should consider before you head out. 

We talked to Sharon Nachman, M.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, about what changes need to be made to the tradition this year. She told us that with a little extra planning, parents can work to make trick-or-treating fun and safe. “It will take some extra preparation and thinking,” she says. “It will look different from past years but that's fine.”

Here are Nachman’s best tips for safely trick-or-treating this year. 

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1

This year, plan to practice social distancing and stay 6 feet away from other children and families while walking and going from home to home. When necessary, you may need to stop on the sidewalk or in the driveway to let other children and families pass before you go up to the door. 

2

It might be tempting to gather a large group of friends if that’s what you’ve done in years past, but you’ll need to stick to a small number of people this year. Ideally, you’ll trick-or-treat with only the people who live in your home. If you do go with another family, make sure each child has their own candy bucket (try making one of these DIY trick-or-treat bags) to cut down on contact between the kids. 

3

"Parents and kids should always wear their masks while walking in the neighborhood, as well as when you open the door to hand out candy," Nachman says. Incorporate your mask into your Halloween costume, or order one of these festive Halloween-theme face masks. Plan to supervise your children at all times to make sure masks are worn properly: That means that this year, older kids should not go out unsupervised, even if they’re been allowed to do so in years past.

4

Even if trick-or-treating is allowed in your neighborhood, know that many families may choose not to participate. "Talk to friends and neighbors and have a preset signal," Nachman recommends. "For example, outside lights means kids know this is a home you can stop at for trick-or-treating." Then, plan your route ahead of time, so you’re not wandering the neighborhood looking for homes that have the lights on. Going straight from point A to point B on an established route can also cut down on interactions with others. 

5

This is good advice for those who are going door-to-door as well as those staying home handing out candy. Oftentimes, kids are so eager to collect their candy bars that everyone comes up to the door at once—which isn’t a great idea when you’re trying to social distance. If you’re going door-to-door with kids, be sure to let others leave the porch before approaching. If you’re handing out candy and families aren’t already doing this, it’s totally appropriate to ask them to wait until the porch has cleared before coming to the door (also, use hand sanitizer frequently if you’re handing out candy). If you’re uncomfortable with the amount of people at the door, you can always leave the candy bucket on the front porch instead of physically giving it out. "Some families may elect to leave a few treats on their outside stoop of their home," Nachman says. "If that is the case, then remind kids to only take one!"

If you're handing out candy at your home, you can also incorporate stickers on the ground or use sidewalk chalk markings to help trick-or-treaters keep their distance. Consider having multiple candy stations that help distribute the bottleneck of candy lovers.

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