Halloween and COVID-19: Have fun while staying safe
Choosing costumes, decorating pumpkins, and getting special treats brings joy to many children at Halloween. Some Halloween traditions may look different this year to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, there are still plenty of ways families can have fun while avoiding the scare of being exposed to or spreading the virus.
Most importantly, keep doing what you have been doing: avoid large gatherings, keep a 6-foot distance from others, wear cloth face coverings (think superhero!), and wash hands often.
Many kids look forward to Halloween all year and may feel some disappointment depending on how the pandemic affects this milestone event. However, we can be flexible and creative, and model this for our kids, too. Past Halloweens have not always been the same. In Chicago, for instance, there was a blizzard last year, which canceled trick-or-treating for many kids. If parents model a positive and creative spirit this year, children are more likely pick up on those emotional cues.
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.
Families might consider creative alternatives this year, such as holding virtual costume parties and parades to show off costumes and play games. Have fun with it! In Chicago, this may be the first time your child can wear a costume that isn't buried under a parka!
Outdoor costume parades are another option, if it is possible for everyone to stay at least 6 feet apart and wear cloth face coverings.
If children plan to use their cloth face coverings as part of their costumes, they should not paint them because some paints contain toxins.
Another idea is to hold a spooky 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.
Decorating pumpkins is one Halloween tradition that is as safe and fun as ever. Just be careful to avoid pumpkin carving injuries. Let parents do the cutting, and children can draw a face with markers. When the carving is done, consider putting a battery-operated light rather than an open-flame candle inside. Roast the seeds from the pumpkin for a healthy snack.
Your community may also sponsor events focused on safe ways to have fun. These may include programs offered by a park district, arboretum, zoo or other outdoor venues in your area. Stay away from crowds and clustering and follow safe distance rules even when outdoors.
Avoid indoor events such as haunted houses. A local haunted forest or corn maze may be a better option, as long as cloth face covering are in use, physical distancing and one-way walk through is enforced. If you think there may be screaming, leave extra distance to lower the risk of spreading respiratory virus. If you go to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard, also use hand sanitizer before and after touching what you pick.
If your children will be outside, mark their costumes with reflective tape. Remind them to be careful around cars, as drivers may not see them. Make sure shoes fit well and costumes are short enough to prevent tripping or contact with flames.
A family scavenger hunt for treats in your home or yard can be a fun alternative to trick-or-treating.
Remember Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic is a chance for you and your children to get creative, and maybe even invent some new traditions for your family.
More importantly, this is a good time to teach children the importance of protecting not just themselves but others, as well. The decisions we make on this one day can have a ripple effect beyond our own families. Finding safe ways to celebrate can create magical memories.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information, visit HealthyChildren.org.