ONCE the sun has set, the creatures of the night venture out.
This is the time for raccoons, skunks, coyotes, bats and owls to forage and travel through our forests and also through our neighbourhoods.
To celebrate Halloween, there are all sorts of activities and adventures. One that caught my attention is the Halloween train at Stanley Park. In addition, they have a 30-minute candlelight walk through the forest. Going for a walk after dark is an awesome adventure for our kids. They will think you are cool for even thinking of it and they will also learn about nocturnal animals.
As well as any organized activities you may want to explore with your children, remember that they want to be nocturnal on this special night.
Being out after dark is what the holiday is all about for our kids.
The costumes are cool and interesting and often creative but the real adventure is being out at night. The streets and houses are so different after dark and the houses that are decorated are even more exciting.
For kids it's a great holiday, but for some parents it has become a frightening ritual. We hate to let our kids out of our sight during the day and letting them go at night just seems impossible.
So start to prepare now.
If your kids are young, it's easy. They are happy to have their parents with them and the toddlers and preschoolers will be thrilled to visit only the closest neighbours. For them the excitement is going up to the door, receiving the oohs and ahs that accompany their costume and getting candy. Wow!
Once they are in elementary school, they'll still need you with them but prefer that you stay back a short distance. By about ten or eleven they'll be ready to head out alone with a few friends. If at all possible, talk to the friends' parents so you can co-ordinate your rules and expectations. It's always helpful when all the kids in a group know that their parents have talked to each other and the rules are set for all of them. Have at least one of the kids carry a cell phone so they can reach you if need be. But don't call them; trust them.
So, if your kids are going to head out alone, how do you prepare? Choose a safe walking route for the kids to follow and go on that walk a few times with them. Wait until dark and head out so they will experience the route in the evening.
On the big night, light up the kids. A flashlight and anything fluorescent goes a long way to handle the problem. Pick up a roll of reflective tape to add to the costume. Kids also like the glow in the dark stickers and necklaces. These are fun for the kids and make them safer. White pillowcases make good loot bags, as they are also visible.
Make sure they understand to only go to houses that are well lit. A dark house is a sign that the owners are either out or don't want to participate.
Plan a route that makes home the middle of the trek. That way when they check in, they can empty their bags if they wish and either continue or call it a night. You will have instructed your trick or treaters not to eat anything until you've had a chance to check it out.
And here's a neat trick. The younger the child, the more the candy. The cute little kids really do get a lot of loot. So, recycle. Save the favourites and because a youngster is likely finished earlier than the bigger kids, just check the stuff for safety, then hand it out to other kids at your door.
Halloween masks are simply a bad idea. They can prevent a child from seeing well so unless they're going to an indoor party, use makeup. Costumes need to be short enough so that a child will not trip and they need to be loose enough to take a nice warm jacket underneath. Depending on the weather, mittens and hats may be in order.
Fireworks and firecrackers are another serious concern. Children don't understand that these items can burn, so they treat them as toys. Make sure your children are aware of the dangers. Many neighbourhoods have organized fireworks so you can arrange with the kids that they go out trick-or-treating and then return home and head off with you to watch the fireworks. This also sets a time limit on how long they are out trick-or-treating because they will want to be home in time to see the light show.
Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at www.parentingtoday.ca.