The excitement of Halloween from a kids’ point of view is a no-brainer: it’s the night when kids rule the streets (at least until 8:30 pm), even grown-ups get in on the costumes, there are spooky decorations everywhere, and you come home with piles and piles of candy. What’s not to love? But for parents, the scariest part about Halloween may be keeping kids safe and within eyesight as it begins to get dark—which is around 5:30 or 6 pm in most of Canada.

Following are some important guidelines for a safe and happy Halloween.

Dress for the weather.

Weather at the end of October is unpredictable and can be downright wintry here in Canada, so outfitting a child in a fun costume can be a challenge, even for the seasoned parent. There is no shame in putting a costume over a snowsuit, rather than hiding it underneath. And…layers, layers, layers. If your child won’t wear a hat, mitts, coat, when you start out, pack it anyway—they may need it later.

Get the right fit.

However you choose to tackle the seasonal dilemma, it is important to make sure that the costume fits well. Long, dragging costumes can be a tripping hazard. You do not have to know how to sew or even own a needle and thread to come up with a fix. Use no-sew hem tape (basically iron-on strips of glue) or even duct tape or packing tape to hem up a costume.

Think twice about masks.

While masks can be quite effective in completing a look, it is important to make sure that the mask is suitable for the person wearing it. An improper fit can impair vision and restrict the ability to breathe.  It is important to make sure kids have a full range of vision (including peripheral) and that the mask allows proper airflow. Quite often, face makeup is a better option, especially for younger children.

Consider costume visibility.

Dark-coloured costumes are a popular choice, but this makes you less visible when outdoors in the evening. Opt for a brightly coloured costume if possible. But if dark is the choice of the year, you can still remain visible by using a bright treat bag, adding a glow-stick necklace, or by incorporating reflective tape into a costume, to ensure that passersby can see your child.

Bring a flashlight.

Everything is harder to see at night, especially with so many kids underfoot. Walkways and steps up to houses can be unpredictable, rickety, and downright dangerous. Give your child a flashlight so s/he can see where they are walking. Carry one yourself, too.

Remind kids about stranger safety.

This is a topic that we often hammer in on at the beginning of each school year. Halloween is a perfect time to have a refresher. If you haven’t already, discuss “tricky people” with kids, which is the modern-day version of stranger danger and creates a distinction between talking to grown-ups who make kids feel uncomfortable versus practicing conversing with well-meaning adults and saying please and thank-you for the Smarties and Crunchie bars.

Agree to the rules in advance.

In the excitement of running from house to house, things can get chaotic. Discuss the rules in advance: depending on your child’s age and how busy the street is, you may want kids to hold your hand while on the sidewalk or check in with you between each house, or check in at the end of each block. Come up with a meeting point and a plan if you and your child get separated.

Make a plan with older kids.

Tweens and teens are often in on the Halloween action as well. Know what their plans are. Be involved in planning a costume. Discuss expectations ahead of time. Can they go out with their friends? Do they need a chaperone? Is there a route you expect them to follow? What time do they need to be home? The more you have in place ahead of time, the more smoothly your night will go.

Consider comfort.

You and your kids should have a good meal before you set out. Bring a warm drink for yourself, bundle up, and wear comfy shoes.

Finally, don’t forget your camera and, most important, have fun and Happy Halloween!

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