This Halloween will be a unique one for kids and parents, with concerns about COVID-19 piled on top of the usual warnings about safety. And with Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, parents may feel under pressure to make this year a Halloween to remember.
But there are some simple things we can do to help kids forget we’re still in a pandemic and have safe and COVID-free fun at the same time.
1. Keep up your good COVID-19 habits: avoiding large gatherings, keeping a distance of six feet from others, wearing medical masks or cloth face coverings and washing hands often must continue as it has for the last six months. Remember: a costume mask is not a substitute for a medical mask or cloth face covering.
2. Virtual costume parties & parades: Outdoor costume parades where you can wear medical or cloth masks and practice good social distancing are perfectly safe. You can also take and share photos with friends and turn them into crafts to do at home.
3. Trick or treating: Kids naturally cluster as they go door to door, which poses the greatest potential exposure to COVID so if you are trick or treating, parents need to strictly enforce social distancing, especially among kids who aren’t normally together. Of course, washing hands or using hand sanitizer before and after trick-or-treating is a must.
4. Handing out candy: If you hand out treats to ghosts and goblins who appear at your door, don’t let kids dig their hands into your bowl of candy, which is another potential contact point for COVID. Instead, pitch individual treats into their bags or line up individually prepacked treat bags on a table outside. Don't forget to wear your own mask and perform regular hand hygiene yourself!
5. What to do with candy that comes home: even if your child collects treats from a few well-known neighbors who haven’t tested positive for COVID, you may still want to wipe the candy down or let it sit for a couple days before your child eats it. One parent I know is even replacing her kids’ candy with bags she is buying herself!
What CAN kids do to keep up the fun this year?
1. Spooky movie night: choose your favorite and create a watch party over Zoom or facetime with family and friends!
2. Backyard candy scavenger hunt: take a page from the Easter Bunny and hide treats around the yard and hunt them down – after dark with flashlights will make it even more challenging and scary!
3. Decorate pumpkins: This is one Halloween tradition that's as safe and fun as ever.
4. Halloween-themed meal: take dinner to the next level by decorating a pizza with Halloween-shaped toppings, making candy apples on a stick, or peeling tangerine pumpkins (stick a thin slice of celery on top to look like a stem). Make sure the treats are not choking hazards if you have children under age 3.
Things to avoid:
1. Indoor events, like haunted houses: Anything indoors and involving groups of people is also a potential exposure to COVID, especially when those events involve shouting and screaming (in fun!) because of a good scare. An outdoor haunted forest or corn maze may be a better option, as long as medical masks or cloth face coverings are used, and physical distancing and one-way walk through are enforced.
2. Sharing/trading candy: This kind of exchange only encourages transmission of germs between people. Especially smart to avoid this year.
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! It's also a great opportunity to model flexibility and a positive spirit. If you're excited and make it fun, your kids will enjoy it, too.
Dr. Christina Johns is Sr. Medical Advisor for PM Pediatrics and a practicing pediatric urgent care physician. Follow her at @drcjohns on twitter.