| For the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
Halloween is a favorite time of the year for most children, and some grown-ups, but this year, the holiday may look a little different as celebrations are planned amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But, don’t fret. There are options.
Some trusted sources have offered ideas that can help keep everyone safe while enjoying the costumes, decorated pumpkins, general spookiness and giant bags of candy this season.
First, there are a few recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the top of the list are: 1) Wear a mask, 2) Social distance, and 3) Wash your hands.
These things are certainly part of most people’s daily routines by now.
Regarding masks, the CDC warns, “a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. Wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask can make breathing more difficult, and masks should not be worn by children under the age of 2, or by anyone who has trouble breathing.”
The CDC stresses that people should stay 6 feet away from others who don’t live with them. And, when it comes to hands, “Bring with you, and use, hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol). Supervise young children in its use. And, lastly, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home, and before you eat any treats.”
To make trick-or-treating safer, CDC says, “avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters. Give out treats outdoors, if possible. Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take. And, of course, wash your hands and wear a mask.”
For those who like to be on the move, the CDC also recommends some safe activities, like visiting (and using safe social distancing guidelines) a pumpkin patch or orchard, a haunted forest, or corn maze. If people feel safer staying in, hide Halloween treats in and around the house. Hunt for treats with household members. Or, hold an outdoor event, maybe a costume parade or contest or a movie night.
Being outside makes social distancing easier.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also weighed-in with some ideas on “having fun while staying safe.”
Their information also stresses the importance of social distancing, hand washing and masks.
They recommend a virtual costume party, saying, “use video chats for an online party with friends and family. Show off costumes and play games. Have fun with it.”
They provide a warning as well.
“If children plan to use their cloth face coverings as part of their costumes, they should not paint them, since some paints contain toxins,” the academy said.
Other ideas are in line with the CDC’s suggestions: a parade or a spooky movie night.
They elaborate on that idea, saying, “dress as your favorite characters. Do this as a family at home, or consider letting your children watch, and video chat with their friends, who are simultaneously watching the same movie from the safety of their home”
Decorating pumpkins is a favorite Halloween tradition that is safe and fun. Just be sure to assist the older kids with carving, and let the younger ones decorate with a variety of colored markers. Battery-operated lights rather than open flames make things safer as well.
Making Halloween-themed treats is always fun, too.
Try decorating a pizza in the shape of a jack-o-lantern, or search online for other countless ideas on how to make funny or spooky treats using candy, chocolate, fruit, pretzels, etc. Check out the Halloween cookies on a stick, yummy mummy cookies and pumpkin spiders, to name a few.
Lastly, the site recommends checking for outdoor community events hosted by local Parks & Rec, the zoo or other outdoor venues. Again, “just stay away from crowds and clustering, and follow safe distance rules.”
Proper social distancing will also be the key to trick-or-treating in the community.
Sadly, many neighborhoods have canceled trick-or-treating this year, but for those that haven’t, it’s important for everyone to follow the safety rules.
Finally, a little information from Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Though COVID-19 is a primary concern this Halloween, we cannot forget the general rules of pedestrian safety, and costume safety, that must always be followed.
Be sure to remind your kids to watch out for cars, use sidewalks when available, make themselves visible to drivers, trick-or-treat with groups of friends or family and stay off the phone.
This year, COVID-19 has brought many unexpected challenges, but with a little research and creativity, Halloween 2020 can be a great memory for us all.
For more information, go to www.childrenshospitalvanderbilt.org, www.aap.org, or www.cdc.gov.