Halloween can be a happy, fun-filled time. But it can also be dangerous if we're not careful. Here are a few ways to keep your kids safe while they celebrate.

1. Keep their costumes safe

Kids love to dress up — that's the main fun of Halloween. But if they are hurt because of their costume, there goes the fun. When you're outfitting your little ones for their night of trick-or-treating, consider these safeguards:

Make sure the costume doesn't drag on the ground. It can be easily tripped over by themselves or another child. If it's ankle-length, teach them to lift the front as they climb stairs so they won't trip over it there.

Keep their hands free. If they're all boxed in to the point of not being able to reach out and protect themselves, that can be dangerous.

Paint their faces instead of using a mask. A mask can prevent them from seeing clearly. It can also slip down and limit their view even more. If a mask is a major part of the costume, make sure it fits and is secure, allowing plenty of room to see.

Make sure the fabric is fire retardant. If it's not, go here to find out how to make your own inexpensive fire retardant to spray on the fabric. Warn them to keep away from any fire, including lit jack-o'-lantern candles.

Use light reflectors. It's hard for cars to see a black ghoul walking down the street. Buy stick-on light reflectors - less than $2 at major stores - and put a couple in front and back of the costume to keep them safe and visible.

2. Give each child a flashlight

Children can easily trip if they're not shining a light on their path. It also makes them feel safer if they can shine it on objects that might be frightening when not seen clearly. It helps them as they climb stairs to ring doorbells. It also helps you keep track of them. Make sure they keep the light on at all times. You can get adequate ones at dollar stores.

3. Stay with your little ones

It's just fine for you to take the hand of your little princess or prince and walk them to the door. Children under four can be disoriented and frightened if you're not there. To make it the most fun possible for them, stay by their side. If they're a little older, stay by the curb as they walk to the doors of their treat givers.

4. Give exact instructions to the older ones before they go out

If they're older but still young enough to go trick-or-treating - and who's to say when they're not - they need specific instructions. Here are a few:

Tell them exactly where they are allowed to go. You will know the safe neighborhoods.

They are not to do mischief while they're out. Define what mischief means to you so they don't have to wonder. It may include pumpkin bashing on peoples' porches, scaring little children, destroying or messing up anyone's property, etc.

Tell them when they must be back to meet you at a certain location or at home. Make sure they have a watch to keep track of the time. Tell them they can come back any time before that time if they want to, but not after. They must be back at the designated time. If they are not, then go find them. Don't be mean, just firm. If they complain about these instructions, don't give in. You're the parent and have the duty to protect your children, even when they think they don't need it.

5. Check out all their treats

When they get home, have them dump out all their treats where you can examine them. If any appear to be tampered with, throw them out. It's rare for anyone to give a child a dangerous treat, but history tells us that it has happened, so we must be careful. Let them know that they are not to eat anything that is not commercially wrapped. The only exception to this is if they know the person very well; for example, if Aunt Julie or another family member gives them a homemade donut, they can most likely trust that it is safe to eat.

6. Teach them wisdom

Children usually receive far more goodies than they can eat. They can divide and save, enjoying it a little at a time in the weeks to come. Make this plan before they go out. When they come back and look at their loot, temptation takes over. Tummy aches can be alleviated when a bit of wisdom is applied.

7. Teach them to share

Suggest they make a "love pile" where they put a few pieces, maybe even half of their treasure, to give to less fortunate children through your local food bank. Tell them how happy some child may be to receive a treat along with a meal on a day when they are feeling sad and hungry.

8. Feed them before they go out

If they have a full tummy before trick-or-treating, they'll be in a far better mood and will have much more fun. Also, it will lessen the overwhelming temptation to stop and eat from their goodie bag.

9. Have fun with them

Enjoy the whole process with them. Before long they will be all grown up. Don't miss this chance to make memories with your children.

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