11 Tips for a Safe,Fun Halloween

Halloween! The very word conjures up images of ghosts and goblins, carved jack-o-lanterns, and children gleefully trick or treating for candy and spider rings. It also brings up issues of health and safety. Parents want to make this special holiday a time of joy and fun and need to remember to give careful consideration to their children's well being. Dr. Roni Leiderman, associate dean of the Family Center at Nova Southeastern University, has these common sense rules to make Halloween a favorite day of the year for everyone-children and adults alike.

Young children need adult supervision when trick or treating. As children go from door to door, it is important to accompany them and to monitor what goes into their goodie bags. For older children, make sure that they are trick or treating with at least two other friends. It is important that you are familiar with the homes they will be visiting. Remind your children never to visit an unapproved home and have them check in regularly to let you know of their whereabouts. Always check the contents of your child's goodie bags, common sense dictates that only wrapped items should be accepted. And even those items should be carefully examined to insure safety.

Consider having a Halloween house or block party. Your child can share in the fun of planning and decorating with friends, family and neighbors, and you can feel comfortable knowing that you are providing a safe place to celebrate the holiday.

Think about making Halloween costumes with your children as an alternative to expensive store bought ones. Homemade costumes are fun to make and promote children's self-expression and creativity.

Costumes need to be flame retardant and masks should not restrict your child's vision or breathing.

Respect your child's fears about the holiday. Not every child is excited to see scary monsters. Read your child's cues. If your child seems uneasy, limit their exposure to costumes, scary music, and even trick or treating to strangers' houses. Instead, take them trick or treating to a mall or a close friend's house where they can feel comfortable and safe. Remember that costumes aren't a necessity. It's all about feeling playful and participating in the festivities to whatever degree they enjoy.

Make sure that you walk in well-lit areas. Consider carrying a flashlight and putting reflectors on your child's costume.

With Halloween comes an abundance of candy and treats. Your children will want to eat more sweets than you might want. Talk with your children before the holiday and agree on some logical rules to limit candy consumption and still allow them to enjoy their day.

Share activities with your children. Read Halloween books, decorate your home, carve a pumpkin, bake special cookies, and share stories of when you where a child and what Halloween meant to you.

Enjoy the holiday! Have fun with your children and cherish the time your family will share. Halloween is a wonderful time that creates lasting memories.

Beyond Trick-or-Treating: Four Halloween Alternatives for Older Kids

As enticing as a harvest of Halloween candy can be, some kids may feel too old to trick-or-treat. Instead of missing out on the fun, try some alternative activities with your kids.

Host a slumber party

Ninety seven percent of kids in America have been to a sleepover or slumber party at least once. Try making this favorite activity in to a night of Halloween fun. Host a party with a fun and frightening theme.

Sorcerer's Magic Party

Send invitations written in invisible ink along with a decoder pen so guests can figure it out. Create a sorcerer's stage by hanging up a sheet and decorating the area with glow-in-the-dark shapes. Have the guests perform magic tricks on the stage. Provide capes, top hats and magic wands. Have the guests reveal their secrets and take turns teaching one another magic tricks.

Midnight Mystery Party

Send invitations in the form of a ransom note. Using letters cut out of magazines, tell your guests, "We're holding your party favor for ransom. Here's how to collect it"

Make your home a mystery mansion by dimming the lights and hanging spooky cobwebs.

Play mystery games like Clue.

Create a haunted house

Along with friends, let your child create a haunted house in the basement or living room. Working in advance, they can create creepy costumes. Choose one teenager to lead neighborhood families through the house. Instant Parties coauthor Luann Grosscup knows how to frighten the socks off of unwitting guests. Write, "Believe in Bloody Mary," on a mirror in red lipstick. Just be sure that your guests aren't too young to handle the scare.

Hand out treats or escort

younger children

Put your older children in charge of distributing treats to neighborhood kids. Or, have them help to make Halloween safe for others by supervising neighbors or younger siblings. Every child should be escorted while trick-or-treating. According to Vicky Lansky, author of Practical Parenting Tips, a flashlight and reflective tape will also keep kids visible and safe.

Host a scary movie night

On a blustery Halloween night, nothing hits the spot like a spooky movie. If your child is too young for horror flicks, try some of these mildly creepy films: Hocus Pocus, This film starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker depicts three old-fashioned witches stuck in the present day. This flick is rated PG. Freaky Friday, the 1976 version of this film is rated G. It tells the tale of a mother and daughter who fall under a magic spell and switch places for the day.

Instead of letting your kids get bored or even mischievous this Halloween, try some of these alternatives to trick-or-treating.

Sugar Busters

Every holiday and celebration in this country seems to revolve around sugar.

Halloween is no exception. This year, offer your kids healthy alternatives to typical Halloween treats.

"With childhood obesity on the rise, parents need to be attentive to their child's diet," says Bridget Swinney, author of Healthy Food for Healthy Kids.

Halloween presents an especially big challenge for health-conscious parents.

"You have to compete with peer pressure and a barrage of commercials for junk food," says Swinney. "And children are quick to notice large Halloween displays at the grocery store."

Swinney offers these tips for taming the sugar monster:

-Take stock of the goodies your child has collected right away and toss any that you don't want her to eat, such as jawbreakers or gum.

-Keep candy in a special place from which your child can occasionally choose one or two.

-Make an agreement with your child to discard old candy when a new holiday rolls around.

-Talk to your child about donating extra candy to the local food shelf.

"Another important step is to replace junk foods with healthy alternatives," Swinney advises. "Healthy eating is not all about deprivation."

For the munchkins in your family, try preparing the following Halloween snacks.

Pumpkin Pudding

Makes six servings.

Combine 2 cups of pre-made pumpkin pie filling with 1 1/3 cups of plain nonfat yogurt or mashed silken tofu. Stir well with a spoon. Ladle pudding into separate cups and garnish with whipped topping and Teddy Grahams. This fat-free 0snack is a great source of protein, vitamin A, riboflavin, magnesium and calcium.

Honey Bear Snack Mix

Makes six servings.

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of honey bear-shaped graham snacks, 1 cup of Honey Nut Cheerios and 1 cup of honey-roasted mixed nuts. Mix well and store in an airtight container. This high-protein snack can be served at parties or divided into small bags for lunchtime snacks. n