700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

6 Alternatives to Trick or Treating This Halloween

Oct 15, 2020
Family of three carving pumpkins

No activity is ever going to be 100% safe, but I feel reassured as a pediatrician that we know enough about COVID-19 to take some reasonable precautions to lessen the risks. In fact, in communities with low COVID-19 rates, the risks may be manageable. It will be up to communities and parents this year, however, to determine each individual’s risk, as some individuals and some communities may have higher levels of COVID-19 than others. Below are some ideas and tips to have fun on the spookiest day of the year!

Trick-or-Treating Drive-Thrus

Physical distancing is an important part of COVID-19 ground rules this year, so it may take some extra creativity on the part of parents and kids to keep everyone extra safe. Consider organizing a drive-thru event for passing out candy, so kids in costumes can remain in cars, masked and socially distanced, rather than clustering around the doorsteps of people’s homes. Look for haunted roads and drive-thru haunted houses, which are starting to pop up this year.

Outdoor Activities

Avoiding large gatherings and maintaining at least six feet from others is an important part of celebrating Halloween safely. This is accomplished fairly easily outdoors, and for that reason it is generally much safer than participating in activities indoors. Avoid indoor and crowded events, such as traditional haunted houses, trunk-or-treats, festivals and live entertainment events. Weather permitting, think about organizing an outdoor costume parade for your neighborhood this year.

Candy Distribution Ideas

Try to put treats in separate areas outside and lay them out, instead of placing them in a large common bowl that trick-or-treaters stick their hands into. Avoid eating homemade candy treats. Candy could be sent down a plastic chute on your porch steps or hung from trees so kids can come up separately and distanced, away from the close contact of treat-givers. Also, try to think about candy alternatives for kids with food allergies. To make this holiday as inclusive as possible, the Teal Pumpkin Project offers some non-food options to hand out to trick-or-treaters, such as stickers, books and toys. Try to use hand sanitizer between houses and clean off the outside of candy wrappers.

Superheroes Encouraged

Many superheroes don’t leave home without a mask! Convincing a child to wear a mask for trick-or-treating may be easier this year, as it can be an important part of the costume. As a word of caution, though, avoid painted masks, which can decrease the effectiveness and cause kids to breathe in toxins from the paint. In addition, cloth masks are not the same as costume masks: make sure the Halloween mask you use is appropriate for COVID-19. Encouraging kids to dress up at other socially distanced outdoor fall events such as pumpkin patches, zoo events and fall outings may take some of the pressure off of trick-or-treat night.

Virtual Ideas

You may be getting tired of Zoom, FaceTime and all the events that have moved online, thanks to COVID-19. However, this year kids might find it fun to wear costumes that don’t require hats and gloves and several layers of clothing to keep them from getting cold. Some ideas for your virtual events are mask decorating contests, pumpkin decorating competitions, celebrity look-alike events and virtual bingo (free printable cards can be found online).  If you feel like giving back, UNICEF is launching a virtual trick-or-treat experience where kids can participate in fun activities and learn to help others at the same time.

Halloween Scavenger Hunt

What kid doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? Hide some spooky items outside or around the house (inside only if your own kids are the only ones participating!) and then hand out a list of items to find. Halloween-themed glow in the dark eggs could be hidden outside. Make sure to remind participants about masks and social distancing when they head out!

Please note, if you have COVID-19 or have been exposed to COVID-19, you should not hand out candy or participate in trick-or-treat events. If you are not sure whether to do “quarantine-o-ween” this year, the best recommendation is to consult your doctor.

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Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Emily Decker, MD
Primary Care Pediatrics

Dr. Emily is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Urgent Care and Primary Care Clinics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She has a strong interest in child advocacy, and serves as the medical director for CAP4Kids Columbus.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.