How to Trick-or-Treat With Your Child for the First Time

trick or treating

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, many parents have been cautious about having their children around too many people at once, especially strangers. Or maybe you had a baby during the pandemic who is just now comfortable walking on their own. Whatever your reason, this year may be the first Halloween—or the first in a while—that you’re going trick-or-treating with your child.

While Halloween poses a ton of fun opportunities, like any new experience, it could feel stressful too. Ahead, learn more about how and when to pick a costume, how to stay safe while out and about on Halloween night, how to manage the inevitable candy mountain that will invade your house, and how to keep your child’s teeth clean and healthy after the sugar-filled holiday.

Making or Buying a Costume

As far as costumes are concerned, think ahead. A super-trendy or popular costume may sell out weeks in advance, so plan accordingly if your child wants to be Mirabel or Luisa from “Encanto.”

“Children love to plan for Halloween,” says Suzanne Barchers, PhD, who has a doctorate in Education and is the chair of Lingokids Advisory Board. “There is something magical about dressing up and getting free candy!”

If you plan on making a homemade costume, ask your child—and yourself—a few questions. “We brainstormed what they wanted and negotiated how elaborate the costume would be,” says Dr. Barchers about her own experiences. “Not all parents sew or have the resources to spend a lot of money on a costume that is worn once and then discarded. Parents should set some ground rules about expectations, what is acceptable for their community (rural, urban, suburban), and what is practical.”

If a new costume isn’t in your budget, try a hand-me-down from a friend, a gently used costume on Poshmark, or your local "Buy Nothing" group on Facebook.

You can also create something amazing from something as mundane as a cardboard box. “There are homemade costumes that children can help decorate, keeping them busy while building skills of creativity,” says Dr. Barchers. “For example, a robot costume can utilize decorated cardboard boxes that the child helps create.”

Dr. Barchers adds that, since advertising and in-store displays start months before Halloween itself, try to be mindful of your child’s expectations. “I didn’t mind deciding well in advance about the costumes,” she reflects. “However, once the decision was made, the topic of Halloween had to be set aside until it was imminent. Children can be so over-stimulated by the ramp-up to Halloween, that the reality can be disappointing.”

Planning Your Trick-or-Treating Route

Before you think about going trick-or-treating, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you'll want to prioritize picking a safe neighborhood route. Perhaps it’s your immediate neighbors, who you know and trust. If it’s another area, be sure that you’re familiar before you bring your child, and make sure you have a flashlight if you’re going after dark.

If you live in a city, explore the available options. For example, in some urban areas, kids can often trick-or-treat at apartments within their own building, or can collect candy from local businesses within a shopping center.

Additionally, consider bringing a stroller or a wagon—especially if you have multiple kids. Even the most energetic of kids could wind up tired and asking to be carried at the end of a long night.

On Halloween Night

2022 will be a year unlike previous ones, due to a few factors.  

“With people worried about contaminated 'treats'...coupled with the risks of COVID-19 during the past two years, Halloween has seen some changes,” points out Dr. Barchers.

Instead of allowing children to go out on their own, many parents choose to accompany their kids, visit a stationary "trunk or treat," or attend a party with close friends instead of going house to house.

If you’re going out after dark, try to incorporate reflective tape on your child’s costume, and/or have them carry a light in their pumpkin bucket.

“Take the same precautions that you adapted during [the pandemic]: masks, hand sanitizer, and minimizing prolonged contact with any one person," advises Dr. Barchers. "Once home, a parent should check that the packages of candy are intact."

As for things to bring along with you, it's never a bad idea to have bottles of water to keep your child hydrated, along with a stash of bandages—just in case.

After Trick-or-Treating

After going out on Halloween, it’s likely your child has more candy than they have ever seen before.

“There is no issue with allowing little ones to consume candy, as long as we’re conscientious,” says Jeremy Dixon, MD, pediatric dentist and MAM Baby expert. “Sugary treats are safer if eaten as a dessert with a meal and it is also better for your child's teeth to eat their sweets in one sitting, rather than grazing on them throughout the day. Avoid candies that slowly dissolve or are very sticky as these can linger, exposing your toddler's teeth to prolonged acid attacks.”

If your child needs a boundary, consider setting a candy limit and allowing them a certain amount of pieces per day. To prevent cavities, it’s important to practice good brushing habits.

“After eating candy, I would recommend that you brush your child’s teeth, but not right away,” says Dr. Dixon. “Sugary treats increase acidity on tooth enamel which weakens it, so it is crucial to wait at least 30 minutes for the minerals to redeposit on the enamel before brushing."

Dr. Dixon also emphasizes the importance of selecting a toothbrush that is specifically designed for small mouths. "Look for toothbrushes with a small head, soft bristles, and a large handle that’s easy for your little one to hold,” he explains, adding that you don't need a ton of toothpaste, either. Kids only need to use between a grain of rice and a green pea-sized amount.

“If you want to enhance Halloween, consider a philanthropic venture. Treats for Troops is another way to dispose of extra candy,” suggests Dr. Barchers. Usually, you can exchange candy for a small prize at a local business or dentist’s office, and they will ship the candy to deployed soldiers and veterans.

Alternative Ways to Celebrate Halloween

If your child is too young to go house to house, or you’re not comfortable because of COVID-19 or another reason, there are other ways to make Halloween a fun family memory.

“Consider a movie marathon: scary movies that are age-appropriate, plus homemade popcorn balls,” suggests Dr. Barchers. “While I was homeschooling my grandkids during [the pandemic], we had a party that included being blindfolded and guessing the witch’s 'body parts.' Olives for eyes, spaghetti for veins, yarn for hair, etc.”

Decorating and crafting can be fun for the whole family, and there are endless options available on Pinterest.

A Word From Verywell

Trick-or-treating might look a little different post-pandemic, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Stay safe with the same tips we’ve used for the past couple of years: wear a mask, disinfect hands throughout the night and before eating, and stay outside for optimal air flow.

Remember to plan your route and bring a flashlight after dark, and make sure your kids brush their teeth thoroughly after eating candy.

Set a candy-eating schedule, or consider donating extra candy to the troops or kids in need.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Skafida V, Chambers S. Positive association between sugar consumption and dental decay prevalence independent of oral hygiene in pre-school children: a longitudinal prospective studyJ Public Health. 2018;40(3):e275-e283. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdx184

By Dory Zayas
Dory Zayas is a freelance beauty, fashion, and parenting writer. She spent over a decade writing for celebrity publications and since having her daughter in 2019, has been published on sites including INSIDER and Well+Good.