Touchy Subject: Should trick-or-treating be an all ages event?



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YES by Kristi York

Ah, Halloween night. The air is filled with the sounds of rattling Smarties boxes and crinkling Mars bar wrappers. It doesn’t have to be all about the candy, though. Kids of all ages can partake in the fun, depending on their age and stage.

For babies and toddlers, it’s about the experience. You hardly even need a treat bag, since it is simply a time to show off their super-cute costume and visit a few nearby houses. It’s a valuable opportunity to connect with neighbours that you may rarely see or have never even met. It’s also a chance for little ones to practise interacting with other adults, saying simple things like “hi” and “thank you”. Keep it brief, don’t stray too far from home and you’ll have a successful first outing.

Tweens and teens are veterans of the Halloween scene, and the night can be a significant social event for them. I have fond memories of trick-or-treating with a large group of friends in my Grade 7 year – we sang an off-key rendition of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” to unsuspecting homeowners in an effort to earn our candy. I welcome 13-year-olds at my door, as long as they are polite and they keep their candy total within reason. They also have to be keen enough to dress up for real, not just in regular clothes with an easily removable mask. My personal policy is: if you’re too cool to dress up properly, that’s a signal that you’re too old for trick-or-treating.

So, don’t be a Halloween Grinch. If you’ve lost a bit of your enthusiasm for handing out candy, it’s not hard to get back on track. Just follow the Aeros.

NO by Liz Hastings

Kids of all ages should be able to participate in Halloween but trick-or-treating is not a perfect fit for everyone.

Two months after my daughter Hanna was born, my husband and I dressed her in a lion costume and proudly paraded her around the neighbourhood on Halloween. “Oh, is your son dressed up like a….like a….rabid squirrel?” Um…no.

“Here’s your giant Mars bar,” they would say, handing it to my husband, knowing he would be eating the candy before Hanna ever knew she wasn’t a boy or a sickly rodent.

When Hanna was a toddler, she again wandered streets begging strangers for candy, only she would shriek at the nightmare-inducing costumes worn by the older kids or would angrily stomp when neighbours escorted her out of their homes. Hanna was just too young to enjoy the festivities. Too young to understand the strange ritual of running door-to-door collecting candy, too young to be allowed to eat the treats being dragged behind her in a pillow case and too young to understand her two (and only) teeth would be no match for the treasure trove of goodies.

And then there are the older kids.

Kids chaperoned by parents, ages four to 12 can have fun and enjoy the evening responsibly. They are proud of their costumes and polite during our exchange. It is one hour later when our lights are turned off (the international symbol for please don’t smash our pumpkins) and the baby is asleep that the big kids arrive noisily outside our dark door. Their costumes are either terrifying or non-existent. We Gummy-guards are in a position of total vulnerability. If we don’t hand over the Hersheys, we might end up with toilet paper in our trees.

The bottom line? Big kids can hand out candy at home or attend parties with their peers rather than shoving little ones out of the way to grab the first Twizzler, and tiny squirrels can enjoy the evening from the comfort of their homes.

Please don’t smash our pumpkins.

Psychologist, author, family therapist and ParentsCanada columnist Sara Dimerman, weighs in:

Although there is no hard and fast rule regarding the cut off ages for kids and trick-or-treating, my thinking is that common sense should prevail, along with what works for each family.

It’s true there are many adorable costumes for babies under age one. But consider whether your ten-month-old is better off at home with the parent doling out candy rather than being carried from home to home just to show off his cuteness. If you have no choice but to take him along for the ride with an older sib, or if it’s a nice evening out and you’re going to enjoy the activity as a family, then that would also be taken into consideration. It’s unlikely that a child younger than three or four will truly appreciate the activity, and even then, may have less staying power and greater fear than older children.

For the upper age limit, after children have experienced the thrill of increased independence by going house to house with a group of peers and less parental supervision – around age 14 or 15 – it may be time to retire their candy collecting baskets and find other ways to enjoy Halloween off the streets.

Sara’s newest book, How to Influence Kids for Good, is in bookstores now.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2015.

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