Make Halloween Safe for Your Toddler

by Jovanna Acevedo Quesada

pumpkin in a treeToddlers love investigating new things. It's time to decorate for Halloween and bring a sparkle to your tot's eye. Heads-up -- you might develop a whole new appreciation for the word "No!" before you "spook up" your halls this year! Run down our list of safety tips to keep your curious wee one out of trouble!

Keep Creepy to a Minimum

Children, especially toddlers, have a limited ability to discern reality from make-believe. Halloween and its sometimes frightening décor can become a world of terror for your little one. As you're going all out on your home, keep in mind how your toddler could react to the scary items. Instead of realistic rats and skeletons, opt for the more family-friendly versions. Plush rats might not be as fun, but it's worth thinking about the big picture. If your kids can handle the dark and mysterious, this shouldn't be an issue.

Grinning pumpkins and cats wearing hats bring smiles where fog machines and black lights might make them scream! Try some colorful spider webs and a string of purple lights instead. Exchange your Halloween "spooky" soundtrack for a fun sing-along. For our littler ghosts and goblins, less really can be more.

We've put together this list of simple tips to keep the fun and the decorations in place. We can't guarantee your toddler won't find ways around these ideas, but we hope they'll help! Share your tips with other parents in the comments!

  • Hang all décor ABOVE your child's reach. If they can't touch it, they can't cause harm or be harmed. Hang those especially dazzling items far away from curious climbers and fingers!
  • Decorate as late as possible. Halloween is only one night of fright! If you can hold off on decorating until the last week or so, you'll automatically eliminate your toddler's access to the taunting tricks and make the holiday a little more magical!
  • Keep the candy in the cupboards and out of dishes. Pretty ceramics with shiny wrappers are like toddler-fly traps! Out of sight, out of mind! You CAN win the candy wars.

Choose Safe Spooks

Aside from Christmas, Halloween is the most decorated day of the year. Out come the spider webs, giant plastic skeletons and gently glowing pumpkins. All might seem harmless at first glance but these goodies can harbor hidden dangers. Do you know which pieces of eye candy could be a toddler-hazard? Scan our checklist for the most dangerous décor and see where your house stands!

Pumpkins: Those big orange balls of fun can become a choking hazard if your child decides to "chomp down" on one, or a piece of one! When you carve your pumpkins keep all sharp tools and pumpkin bits away from your little artists. Seeds are especially menacing so clean up those pumpkin guts before your toddler can grab a scoop! Never leave your child unattended near a pumpkin lit by a candle. For a safer alternative, try the battery-operated pumpkin lamps or the new led-tealights.

Spider webs: Nothing says Halloween like a giant web strewn across the front of your house. What's the problem? They're created to be incredibly strong and stretchy. Kids, being kids, are less likely to see the web and more likely to walk into it and get tangled. For a toddler, this experience can be not only dangerous but frightening. We suggest you keep the webs, but keep them up and out of the way!

Styrofoam™ everything: The medium of choice for many decorations (like tombstones) is styrofoam™. This lightweight and easily placed item creates total disaster if your "goblin" figures out how easily it's broken! Not only is Styrofoam™ a mess when shredded, it's a chemical-infused nightmare that shouldn't be eaten. Check your décor for cracks or tears. If you see your child "picking" at it, move the object out of their reach as soon as you can.

Small Halloween favors: Those tiny little plastic toys that inevitably end up in your home provide 30 seconds worth of fun for the kid, and a nightmare for the vacuum cleaner. Spider rings, puzzles, bracelets and all the other trinkets can be a problem for the "swallow-it-all" toddler! Combat by double-checking gift bags and older children's pockets at the door!

Candy: Oh the gobs and oodles of candy! Candy of every shape, every flavor, and every threat overflows in your home on Halloween. Even the most diligent parents won't be able to stop the sugar monsters from eating more than their share! When you have a toddler running around, keep the worst offending candy out of their hands. Candy bars top the list of trouble thanks to their sticky insides and hidden nuts. Taffy-like candies (like Starburst and Skittles) seem okay at first, but since they don't melt quickly your tot could choke on the pieces. Bubble gums is an absolute no-no! Hard candies are simply too slippery for a little one to negotiate, so avoid those altogether. If you want to share some sweets, offer smaller sized suckers and nut/caramel-free chocolates. As always, stay near your child while they eat to be sure nothing goes awry!

Costumes: Do you measure Halloween success by how adorable your baby is in that costume? It's easy to go overboard when reaching ultimate cuteness! Bottom line: Keep costumes as simple as possible. Face masks and head pieces can shift which can block your toddler's breathing or vision. Accessories like swords or wands are a ton of fun, but can be loaded weapons in the hands of a sugar-jacked toddler! Opt for soft versions of these props. Need ideas? Try these quick and easy Halloween costumes.

Make up: Your tiny guy or gal will more than likely rub make-up because it itches, smearing into either eyes and mouth. Let your kids' own personality shine through instead of covering it up! There are safe make-up alternatives available.

Quantity and Quality

Halloween is a billion dollar industry. Each year companies mass-produce their product to meet the insane demand. While there's plenty to go around, a certain amount of quality could be sacrificed. We've collated a group of tips to encourage both fun and safety:

Small and sharp bits: Before you hand over anything to your children, inspect any item thoroughly and stay watchful as they play with or eat their treats.

Concerns over chemicals: Many plastic Halloween items aren't regulated and could contain unfriendly chemicals, such as BPA's. Be discerning about what you allow your child to put in or near his mouth.

Make it or bake it: Make your own as an alternative to mass-produced goodies. Your kids will love to help you cook and craft, and be proud of their own creations!

Embrace the Fun!

Now that you've read our list, it's time to put up some decorations, don your costumes, take tons of pictures, and celebrate this creepiest of all days together! Share your memories and new traditions in our comment section. We'd love to hear and see what you've all created!

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