Making Up Halloween Fears

Hi rkyashykhy
Readers! Sometimes I think that in our uber-safe society, poor scribes are locked in a room and told they can’t come out until they dream up some new worry — no matter how far-fetched — to caution folks about. (My current fave is the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s apple bobbing cautions, below.) That’s why I love this column from Spiked-Online, a great, British site filled with all sorts of surprising info and opinions. It’s by Nathalie Rothschild, a freelance writer based in New York. Visit her personal website here, and find her on Twitter @n_rothschild.


Americans are really into Halloween….but some are taking the mischievous tradition of scaring the bejesus out of one another a tad too seriously.

ABC News warns that ‘while this is a time for little ones to have fun, parents shouldn’t let the kids’ enthusiasm drown out common sense. There are many hazards associated with Halloween.’ Face paint can trigger allergies, costumes can get caught in car doors or catch fire, masks can slip over the eyes, young children can choke on treats, cut their fingers off while carving pumpkins or be kidnapped by strangers.

Scary, indeed.

Halloween is apparently a highlight not just for candy-crazy, fun-loving kids, but also for every health-and-safety-obsessed organisation in the nation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise parents to ensure their children go trick-or-treating in groups or with a trusted adult, that they carry flashlights and that they walk, not run, between houses. Adults should limit the amount of treats kids eat and check them for choking hazards before the kids start gorging them. Kids should only be allowed factory-wrapped candies and should avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers. Their costumes should be flame-resistant and, to be on the even safer side, kids should not walk near lit candles.

The National Fire Protection Association says each house should have two clearly marked exits in case of an emergency. Battery-powered or electric candles are preferable, but if you do insist on lighting candles, they should be kept at least one foot away from decorations.

The American Academy of Pediatrics believes small children should never carve pumpkins. ‘Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.’ Trick-or-treaters should stay on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, they should ‘walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic’.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology warns of the hidden dangers of buying decorative contact lenses without a prescription. There is apparently no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ contact lens. ‘Lenses that are not properly fitted may scratch the eye or cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea.’

he US Food and Drug Administration says ‘partygoers and partythrowers’ should avoid juice that hasn’t been pasteurised or otherwise processed. Before bobbing apples, a traditional Halloween game, thoroughly rinse the apples under cool, running water to reduce the amount of bacteria that might be on them. ‘As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.’

The American Red Cross has published 13 (nearly) rhyming tips for a safe Halloween. For example, ‘If you visit a house where a stranger resides, accept treats at the door and, please, don’t go inside.’

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission offers this helpful image as guidance for proper costume wear:

The Halloween safety tips lists go on, but you probably get the drift.

Why are these organisations so scared of Halloween? Or, rather, why are they so scared of letting parents use their common sense, of allowing people just to let loose and to have some respite from the worries, rule-making and diet-watching that are already part of their and their children’s everyday life? Whenever the public sees an opportunity to relax and have fun, health-and-safety obsessives see an opportunity to scare them back into submission. It’s not necessarily sinister, though, it’s just their creepy, intuitive reaction to stop people from experiencing fun overload.

Sure, all these dangers are a possibility – decorations can catch fire, apples could be covered in bacteria and masks may temporarily obscure kids’ vision. But pointing out the obvious, over and over, and exaggerating the risks behind these things won’t make people feel safer. It just helps turn what is a harmless holiday into a nightmarish, control-freakish night of health-and-safety horror. – N.R.


129 Responses to Making Up Halloween Fears

  1. opsomath October 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    Hi Lenore, I already sent you an email about this, but I am determined to hand out homemade oatmeal cookies this Halloween. Why should we feed kids crap? I will let y’all free-rangers know how it goes.

  2. Dolly October 27, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    I feel like it is okay to advise people of potential hazards. It could save a life. However a sane parent can listen to the safety warnings, process what needs to be done or not done, and still let their child have a happy healthy fun childhood. It is not an either/or situation. There is a happy medium. Parents that take zero caution are not good and parents that take too much caution are not good. It is the parents that are in the middle that are the good ones.

  3. Dolly October 27, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    oposmath: you might get egged. Kids want the good bad for you candy. Not oatmeal cookies. Plenty of people love oatmeal cookies but if you had given me one when I was a kid it would prompty get traded or thrown away. Just because I would not have wanted to eat it. If you don’t want to hand out bad candy then hand out glow sticks or pencils or stickers or something like that.

    Also keep in mind that a lot of parents will still probably toss homemade goodies me being one of them. Not a fear of poison or razor blades but more from a “I don’t know how clean your house is, what ingredients were used (I have a son with food allergies), or what kind of animals you have in the house (allergies). If I know the person than maybe I could eat homemade goodies, but if I don’t know you probably not going to eat homemade goodies from you.

  4. Kat October 27, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    It’s really true about the colored contacts, though… a lot of people think that non-prescription contacts are like non-prescription glasses, you can just wear them for fun, but anything that fits snugly over your eye like that needs to be fitted by an eye doctor. Our eyes are like every other part of our body, they’re shaped differently in each person and you really can cause serious damage to your eyes by putting those kind of contacts on them.

    Not to be a party pooper, just saying, they aren’t out of left field with that suggestion… I don’t think it’s fear mongering, it’s alerting people to a real risk to a sensitive part of the body (the eyes) that most people probably aren’t aware of.

    With that said, I am pretty sure I was carving my own pumpkin when I was 7 or 8 years old, and I still have all ten fingers! I think pumpkin carving could be a great “teachable moment” to show kids the proper way to hold and use knives, that way they can be trusted with them and you don’t have to worry that every time they get within 10 feet of a sharp object they’re in danger of losing a finger or something else equally important.

  5. Elizabeth October 27, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    I would be delighted if my kids had received oatmeal cookies or old fashioned popcorn balls. I don’t think any of the places they have gone trick or treating are full of crazies ready to kill them with Halloween candy. I think my youngest might still go this year but maybe not; we’ve almost by passed the trick or treating years. Halloween used to be a lot more fun. I still remember sitting in my living room as a child and having the teenagers in town scare the pants off of me by spinning a notched spool on the window. People would call the police and prosecute these days. I’d like to hear more stories about places where people still know how to have fun.

  6. Library Diva October 27, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Hah! I’ve been thinking about this a lot, as I’ve been innundated with press releases for candy buybacks and “safe Halloween” crap here at work. My favorite was for an event co-sponsored by the Red Cross and a local community college. It takes place in the afternoon this weekend, and says that it’s a safe, warm alternative to trick-or-treating. After you trick-or-treat through the halls, there’s a safety interactive zone and chances to learn about first aid. Because kids loooooove that stuff, amirite?

    To me, this Halloween Safety stuff is just lazy content production. It’s all common-sense stuff that people follow the rest of the year. People generally don’t go around leaving candles deliberately unattended near flammable stuff. They generally don’t wander out into the street without looking. Responsible parents don’t hand knives children lacking the fine motor skills to them safely. But it gets repeated over and over due to lack of imagination on the parts of reporters.

    I feel I did my part. I interviewed a local paranormal expert, got him to tell me some lively ghost stories about the community I cover, and downplayed all the “be safe” stuff. Wish other news media would catch on to the fact that this stuff doesn’t need to be replayed every year. Yeah, fear sells, but other things do, too.

  7. Dolly October 27, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    ps oposmath: Was not trying to come off bitchy, just giving you a different perspective on it. It goes without saying no matter what someone gives us we smile and say thank you. I am happy if people just open the door to us since many people don’t even do that in this neighborhood.

  8. Exhausted October 27, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    @opsomath – yeah, but you’re missing one point of the article: “allowing people just to let loose and to have some respite from the worries, rule-making and diet-watching”

  9. Donna October 27, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    Reasonable safety advice is okay, treating people as idiots is not. For example, the colored contact warning is reasonable. That is not readily known information for people who don’t wear contacts.

    However, 99.9% of the “advice” is meaningless fear-mongering or just wanting to say something to get a word in. If you, as a person old enough to be a parent, don’t know that candles can catch things near them on fire, that knives cut, that face masks can obstruct vision, that people walking on a street should walk to the side, and the rest of the idiot “advice” given child services needs to be called because you are clearly incapable of taking care of yourself let alone someone else. So how about if we let parents use their own intelligence rather than constantly assuming that everyone on the planet other than whoever is giving the advice has an IQ requiring constant supervision on order to avoid being a danger to themselves.

  10. Danielle October 27, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    the people writing these safety guidlines would probably be appalled at my homemade costumes… LOL

  11. backroadsem October 27, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    My favorite is the ABC news paragraph: it’s absolutely terrifying.

    Now, technically, I think all of these suggestions are great ideas in and of themselves. Sure, if you feel your child is too young for a knife, modify the jack-o-lanturn carving activities. Some costumes can get a little cumbersome which would potentially mean dangerous and some caution should be used.

    But even as I admit these are all fine ideas, I don’t agree how they are presented. Perhaps I’m overreacting, but these are not presented as the intelligent, common sense tips they are, but almost as “we don’t trust anyone to think of these things themselves.”

    Now I’m sure we all know a parent who sadly needs to be explained each and everyth one of these things in great detail with charts and all, but I think by and large most parents (and kids!) get common-sense Halloween safety.

  12. Meagan October 27, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    I think by the time kids are bobbing for apples, their immune system’s are mature enough to handle a little friendly bacteria.

  13. backroadsem October 27, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    On a happier note, my neighbors whom I consider to be reasonable people in terms of teaching their kids about society, have been encouraging their older boy to “review the neighborhood” this week. He knows a few routes, but since this will be his first year of adult-free trick-or-treat, his parents feel he should explore some of the more unfamiliar areas of the surrounding town before Monday. Though there will be a few slightly older children in the group, this kid is thrilled half to death.

  14. katc October 27, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    These are all a bit much, and I know as a kid I never bothered to adhere to any of them… I also went trick or treating with a small group of friends (2-3 of us) w/o a parent.

    The only ones I see as being important reminders are: the contact one (eyes are sort of important & you don’t want to be putting random contacts in kids eyes – duh), and the HOW TO WALK WHERE THERE IS NO SIDEWALK b/c not everyone thinks that one through and they could use a reminder…. and the keep candles away from decorations, again, DUH, but that should be adhered to year-round anyway.

  15. novofemina October 27, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    These are all advisories. The common sense comes in when you have to turn on the filter for the ones to ignore!

  16. Jenn October 27, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    As an adult, I appreciate the oatmeal cookie. As a kid, if I had gotten an oatmeal cookie, my friends and I would have thrown them at your house and run away. We wanted candy! (My parents never went trick or treating with us, it was something kids did!) And they never examined our treats, but mom did police how much we ate before bedtime, not because she was so worried about our health but because she didn’t feel like dealing with two kids totally amped on sugar all night.

  17. Lollipoplover October 27, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    Back in the ’70s when I grew up, there was a house that gave out homemade carmel apples (beautifully wrapped) to trick or treaters and they were THE house. The house was owned by a widowed German lady who just adored children. Nowadays, those apples and all their hard work would likely be thrown out based on these “regulations”.
    Halloween is old-fashioned fun and does not need to be ruined by modern day safety brigades.

    The worst thing I saw recently for Halloween (by Oriental Trading co) was plastic apples for bobbing for apples. Yes, a mouthful of BPA plastic residue is so much safer than a natural apple that may have dirt or germs on it.

  18. Donna Hutchison Cicero October 27, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    I do walk with my kids (at a distance) because my in-laws go insane if we don’t (they even come over to hand out candy so hubby and I are free to walk).

    I would never let my kids eat home baked treats though. Two have food allergies (one mild, one severe) and I have no idea how you baked them yourself. Even if I knew you personally as a neighbor, my kids aren’t eating them. Sorry! They would say thank you and then toss them in the garbage at home. Better to give pencils or something if you are anti-candy, or simply keep the porch lights off and leave the holiday to the kids and families who embrace the night and all of it’s sugary goodness.

    Oh, and I let them gorge to their contentment that first night.. then it’s doled out for a week or so and then put aside for use on th eventual gingerbread houses we make. Not everything needs limits and the occasional tummy ache is a far better teacher than me saying “You’ll make yourself sick!”.

  19. oncefallendotcom October 28, 2011 at 12:02 am #

    I loved oatmeal cookie sandwiches as a kid, and home made is way better than store-bought. Kids just don’t get it.

  20. JC October 28, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    I love this comment:

    ‘partygoers and partythrowers’ should avoid juice that hasn’t been pasteurised or otherwise processed

    Processed food is bane of our society, and is the cause of all kinds of illnesses in this country. Just read the ingredients on anything. Would you use those ingredients if you made it at home ? It’s disturbing that the FDA, a government organization who’s charter is to protect us from bad stuff in what we consume, is suggesting that processed food is better than unprocessed.

  21. Elizabeth October 28, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    Just to clarify, I’m not opposed to kids cutting loose and enjoying their candy. But I am opposed to people thinking that homemade treats are inferior to mass produced candy from the store. Some home made stuff I got as a kid wasn’t very good so I understand the commenter who said that they would’ve thrown the cookies at the house when they were kids. But there’s no way that anything home made by any of my neighbors could be worse than the bags of loot that kids bring home on Halloween. It’s just silly that we’ve nearly banned all home made treats. I remember homes that made elaborate cupcakes that looked like ghosts & pumpkins and in this day of crazy cake pops that look like all kinds of cute things I’m sure it would be a fun family Halloween project for a family; why shouldn’t they share them with friends & neighbors? I’m not anti-sugar for Halloween; just pro home made fun! 🙂

  22. Cathy October 28, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    As ridiculous and fear monging as these “warnings” are there are those out there who would be quick to file a lawsuit should something happen during one of these activites. It’s part of the dumbing down of America and lack of responsibiliy/common sense that some choose to not exercise. Ok, off my rant, let’s go out there and have some fun this Halloween!

  23. BMS October 28, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    I find myself getting really tired of the ‘candy collection’ things after Halloween. So you’re supposed to somehow feel guilty if your kids don’t turn in their candy for some good cause, or to somehow promote healthy eating, etc. etc. I’m not saying don’t teach your kids to share, and I’m not saying let them eat nothing but crap. But for God’s sake, let the kids enjoy themselves without guilt for once. They won’t drop dead from a few candy induced stomach aches, and if they are otherwise healthy, a couple extra chocolate bars won’t kill them.

  24. kiesha October 28, 2011 at 12:33 am #

    I managed to get a few homemade things in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I distinctly remember at least a few popcorn balls. I ate them and my parents let me.

    Now the guy that handed out toothbrushes… If I had been the kind of kid to smash a pumpkin or egg an house, he definitely would have gotten it.

  25. Neener October 28, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    As much as I know my daughter prefers homemade stuff (she said “the uglier it is, the better it tastes!”), we don’t give those out ourselves because we know most would get thrown away by parents. They still x-ray candy here. *sigh* @opsomath, I am behind you and wish you luck!

    My way around the candy issue is to give a mixture of sugar-free candy and stuff like bouncy balls or glowsticks. We leave a cooler full of mini-bottles of water on ice just outside the door and the kids can all take one…always much appreciated (it’s usually HOT in Texas on Oct 31).

  26. opsomath October 28, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    LOL. I grew up loving oatmeal cookies and didn’t consider that some kids wouldn’t like them! So y’all are saying “go with the chocolate chip,” huh?

    I still remember my child-rage at being given apples or crap like that, I’m not trying to beat a health drum. I’m just annoyed that we’re basically forcing kids to eat mass-produced sweets that aren’t even very good, rather than delicious homemade things.

    But seriously, no one doesn’t like chocolate chip, right?

  27. Virginia October 28, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    For even more depressing news about Halloween:

    Most commercial candy is made with chocolate harvested by child slaves.

    I’m honestly in a quandary about this. I hate to be sanctimonious, and I *really* hate the thought of giving up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. But still — child slavery. Bad. I’m reminded that one of the things that helped end slavery in England (in 1833, more than thirty years before the Emancipation Proclamation in the U.S.) was opposition by people who, among other things, stopped buying sugar, because it was produced by slaves.

    How is this a free-range issue? Well, IMO, as we try to stop over-protecting kids in the U.S. and Europe, it’s worthwhile to give a thought to kids in other countries who are unimaginably underprotected.

    –Virginia, not trying to start a crusade or anything, just putting it out there for folks to think about.

  28. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    Okay but Donna if that advice is SO common sense and EVERYONE knows it, then how come I see people not following those basic rules ALL the time!??????!!! I know several people who started house fires with candles. I have seen many a people dart out in front of cars or walk down the middle of the road or on the wrong side of the road at night even not wearing reflective clothing. So obviously some dummys don’t know this stuff.

  29. Selby October 28, 2011 at 1:05 am #

    I’m shocked they didn’t warn against the potential for salmonella when engaging in or being a victim of egging. “Whenever possible, lob only organic, free-range eggs at your neighbor’s car, and wash hands thoroughly between each missile.”

    And I call dibs on the Mounds bars and all Swedish Fish. Just saying.

  30. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 1:07 am #

    JC: umm never heard of listeria I guess? Look it up. Pregnant woman especially and anyone else with immune compromised systems need to drink pasteurized milk. Sure some additivies are bad for you or not great, but some SAVE LIVES! Let’s not chunk out the good with the bad.

  31. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 1:09 am #

    OH yeah chocolate chip is my favorite for sure! LOL!

    But don’t put down some of the bagged candy either. The hershey stuff is the best! I needs the chocolate!

  32. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    As much as I love kids and all that, I think there is not anything in the world that would make me stop eating chocolate. I have an addiction to it and it is the one thing I cannot live without. So they are going to have to think of a better way besides boycotting it because I am not going to do that! Not unless you want a crazy raving angry woman roaming the streets beating people up and screaming “WHERE IS MY CHOCOLATE!?!!!!!????”

  33. Maya October 28, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    @Donna, “So how about if we let parents use their own intelligence rather than constantly assuming that everyone on the planet other than whoever is giving the advice has an IQ requiring constant supervision on order to avoid being a danger to themselves.”

    Sure. But then what would Dolly do all day?

  34. Lollipoplover October 28, 2011 at 1:17 am #

    @Neener- we give out beverages here too (trick or treating in all types of weather gets kids thirsty!) but we give soda. Yeah, I know, soda is the root of all evils but it’s Halloween and anything goes. Evils should be encouraged. And that forbidden can of root beer or ginger ale can hit the spot.
    We also give out candy of course, because so many parents are with their kids and say no to soda. Some of the parents ask for diet cokes and beers but that’s a different story.
    Long live Halloween and candy. Boo to toothbrushes, though the program offered by many dentist offices to buy back kids unwanted candy and ship it overseas to the troops is actually a good program. The dentist buys unwanted, wrapped treats by the pound. Good way to get rid of the Almond Joys and Hot Tamales and let your kids make money instead of cavities.

  35. Donna October 28, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    Dolly, Just because someone IGNORES common sense doesn’t mean that he doesn’t KNOW this very basic information. Many people choose to take risks. We speed although we know it is more dangerous. We jaywalk knowing it is safer to cross at the crosswalk. We also miscalculate situations. We place candles believing them to be safe. We fall asleep unintentionally while candles burn.

    The assumption that the situations you mention are simply a lack of information is ridiculous. A lack of reasonable care? Possibly. A disregarding of a risk? Possibly. A lack of knowledge that candles burn, knives cut, and cars ride on roads. Definitely not.

  36. Virginia October 28, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    Dolly, don’t worry, you don’t have to give up chocolate to oppose child slavery! It’s not that hard to find chocolate that doesn’t come from slave labor. It’s just a lot more expensive than the mass-produced stuff we usually give away at Halloween. Some fairly easy-to-find brands of fair trade chocolate are Dagoba (although that’s now owned by Hershey’s, so the parent company is not fair trade), Green & Black’s, and Guittard. Just do a google search on “Fair Trade chocolate” and you’ll find lots of information.

  37. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    Thanks Virigina, I will. I am all for no child slavery and would pay more for my chocolate to stop it. I should probably call Hersheys since I am like one of their biggest customers (so is everyone else in our family, our whole bloodline on my father’s side are chocoholics) and tell them they need to cut that crap out.

    I actually did not know that. I found out about the blood diamond thing a couple years ago and now I told my husband to no longer get me any new diamonds. If they are antique or older diamonds than the damage is already done, but I don’t want new diamonds. Lucky him. He was never going to get me any diamonds anyway, but now he can get away with getting off cheaper.

  38. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Donna: Good point. Some people may know what they are doing is stupid or dangerous and do it anyway so the warnings do no good. True. Maybe if they hear it enough though they might rub two brain cells together and change their mind about it.

    I don’t mind safety warnings. I just glance at it, think to myself Yep not doing any of that, and then go about my day. It certainly doesn’t offend me. But that is life, different things offend different people.

  39. Marie October 28, 2011 at 2:05 am #

    Selby, the Mounds bars are mine, leave them alone!

  40. Cheryl W October 28, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    For those of you who toss the homemade goodies, do you let your kids eat birthday cupcakes or such made by parents of kids in their classes? Or treats brought from home for holiday gatherings at school? If so, what is the difference? You most likely have not been in everyone else’s house, so how do you know they are safe?

    Besides, I have three brothers who at various times worked in restaurants. The stories they came home with for unsanitary stuff was horrible. I still eat out, I just try not to think about it.

    As a kid, when ever I got an apple, it would stay at the bottom of the bag until it was bruised and brown, then I would throw it out.

  41. Donna October 28, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Dolly, that is if you are not doing the things in the safety warnings. I frequently DO do things mentioned in the safety warnings, not because I don’t understand that there is a risk but because I’m willing to accept that risk. And that is my choice. I can choose to let my 6 year old carve a pumpkin with a knife if I believe that she is capable of doing so. And I should be able to do so without people sneering or calling child services.

    I’m not offended by safety warnings. The problem with all these safety warnings is that many choose to take them as requirements instead of warnings. Those of us who prefer to use our own common sense instead of relying on whatever advise some organization is giving at that time are then, at best, looked down upon and, at worse, prosecuted.

  42. Cheryl W October 28, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    My kids have a dentist appointment November 1. Not that I actually picked the day, it was just 6 months from the last!

  43. SKL October 28, 2011 at 2:18 am #

    I just got a great idea for a costume. Wrap oneself up in some yellow “caution” tape (the kind they used to cordon off that dangerous hill the other day) and go out as a Consumer Product.

  44. kiesha October 28, 2011 at 2:27 am #

    I’ll take those Hot Tamales.

    My mom used to give out baggies with 10 cents worth of pennies in them (usually in addition to candy, Thank God). I tried to tell her one time that kids today don’t want pennies (adults don’t even want them), but she said, “Oh, they LOOOOOOVE them.”

    I dunno. I guess you could put them in a piggy bank, but I would rather have another mini Kit Kat bar.

  45. Selby October 28, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    (Throws eggs at Marie)

  46. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 3:28 am #

    Cheryl: well since one of my sons has food allergies, no, he often does not eat what other people cook. Only unless they know us well and I know them well enough to trust that if they tell me it is safe for him, I know it is. Otherwise I will ask to look at the food label or ask what store they got the baked goods from. If I don’t feel safe about it, he doesn’t eat it.

    Otherwise I don’t mind them eating cupcakes other kids bring. Most of the time though people just buy that kind of stuff. It is not a rule you have to follow everytime.

  47. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 3:31 am #

    Donna: there is an okay risk and then risks that while you and others may think it is okay, you still should not be taking. We all do it from time to time. The point is that maybe someone drilling into our heads that we probably shouldn’t be doing it is a good thing! Candles being dangerous around small children!? DUh! Yet some mom in Parents magazine had a story in there about how her daughter’s hair caught fire when she got near a candle the mom had lit. Well DUH! Small kids and candles, who would have thought eh? That is just the kinda stupidity I just wanna smack the parent for!

  48. Cheryl W October 28, 2011 at 3:33 am #

    Ok, aside from those with food issues? It is just kind of a double standard that we seem to have in this country. It is ok to eat it if another mom is bringing it for snack, but not ok if we get it while trick or treating. Even though it might be the same mom making it!

    I always liked popcorn balls.

  49. FrancesfromCanada October 28, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    Dairy Milk is free trade!

    Seriously — another thing I can’t get excited about. All these advisories are pretty common sense. Given that where I live pretty much every doorstep has a lit candle in a pumpkin on it, a reminder that costumes are flammable is reasonable (especially the commercial ones — good grief, what are they made of?), as is the advice to use cosmetics instead of masks for running around the streets at night. I’d’ve added advice to add reflector tape to costumes.

    While it’s nice to think no one needs these reminders, sadly common sense isn’t so common. And I don’t think any of these limit the fun of Hallowe’en; it’s the same set of rules I went out by back in the 60s, for heaven’s sake. Life is too short to get offended by seeing advice I don’t need…I just quit reading once I realize that.

    And no, I wouldn’t let my boy eat homemade goodies from a stranger’s house…yuck. Though I do let him do it at daycare. Call me a hypocrite.

  50. SKL October 28, 2011 at 3:56 am #

    I would not hand out home-made food for Halloween, because I know most of it would end up in the garbage. Honestly, I don’t think it’s offensive that people don’t feel like eating what strangers have cooked. To me, cooking for someone is a little more personal than handing out loot to dozens of anonymous kids. Kinda like holding a child’s hand when she doesn’t know you or need your help.

    Personally, if my kids got oatmeal cookies in their loot, I would probably eat them myself (because I don’t eat chocolate, poor me).

  51. SKL October 28, 2011 at 4:03 am #

    I don’t mind the logical safety info being out there. But to me, it’s a balance thing. It seems that 95% of the stuff out there about kids and Halloween is negative. For all the “don’ts,” how many “do’s” do we ever hear? Do be innovative with your costume? Do be friendly and gracious? Do enjoy and complement other kids’ costumes? Do check out the creative ways that all the neighbors decorate? Do bring a gift of your own to give to the neighbors? Do something positive with the pile of loot that you receive? Where is all of that equally beneficial advice?

  52. Donna October 28, 2011 at 4:09 am #

    Dolly, I disagree completely. Unless something is against the law, it is a risk that you are allowed to take and nobody should drill into your head THEIR level of risk. For your candle example – my house has not become a fire-free zone since having a child. If I want a candle I have one. If I had a fireplace, I’d use that too. Yes, there is a slight chance that my daughter could catch her hair on fire, but we can take that risk if we want. Next month we’re going to a bonfire where my daughter will run freely (meaning with the other kids and not with me) and roast marshmellows (something she’s done before). Yes, she could burn herself but again it’s our risk to take.

  53. Stella October 28, 2011 at 5:06 am #

    I would have loved homemade cookies of any flavor when I was a kid. My motto has always been, “If it’s made of sugar, I want it.” I even loved receiving apples. In fact, when the one neighbor who gave out apples stopped, I was devastated. Apples were an integral part of my ‘system’. I’d stuff my face full of candy, then eat the apple last, and it prevented me from getting a chocolate overload stomachache (or so I believed). I was 7 when the apples stopped coming, so I must have been very young when I came up with this theory. I say give out the cookies! Anyway, it’s not like the kids will be deprived of chocolate.

  54. Neener October 28, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    @Lollipoplover: We just give out the water for two reasons…one, it has a screw cap so they can drop the bottle in their candy bag and keep on truckin’, and two, so we can be sure even the littlest kids can have it. (My daughter, 11, hates any and all soda – does not like carbonation – so she knows to take a bottle of water to any party she’s invited to as they rarely offer anything *but* soda. One of those things sorta like food allergies I guess…you don’t think about it until you’re dealing with it…) Now, I’m going to propose a beer cooler, and my husband is going to think that’s the best idea he’s ever heard, until I point out that the beer is not for him and he has to give it away, LOL!

    @SKL: I don’t like chocolate, either…we are a very small population!

    Also, I have never heard of someone giving out toothbrushes! Y’all are killing me! Seriously?!?

  55. SKL October 28, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    Yes, I’d heard of the toothbrushes! Hint hint, anyone? Ha ha! Seriously.

  56. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    My kids have never had soda or any kind of carbonated beverage. They drink strictly water and milk at home and occasionally they will get juice elsewhere. They are 4. I am by no means a health food nut, I just don’t think they need all that liquid sugar or caffeine. The water idea is great though! It is finally chilly here in TN but yeah on a hotter Halloween that is a great idea plus all that candy makes you thirsty! Also giving out beer to the Dads or Moms is a pimp idea!

  57. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    yeah it is a double standard about the homemade goodies in that I would let them eat stuff another mom brought to school (food allergies not a factor), but not the homemade trick or treat stuff. Maybe because the mom is feeding her own kid that stuff too so you can at least assume she would not feed her kid cat hair cookies or something. But yeah my mom took care of a lot of old ladies at her church and she would come to help them out in their homes and they had some nasty kitchens. Then they would cook food and bring it to church dinners… mom knew better to eat anything from their kitchen.

  58. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 5:38 am #

    My friend’s Dad was a dentist. He gave out toothbrushes but with candy too. So I don’t have a problem with that, just you better hand out candy too!

  59. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    There is a difference between letting your kids have fun at a bonfire, which I have also done, well campire, and having a candle sitting out on a coffee table where you kid plays. Which is how the mom described it in the little story. Her daughter leaned over the candle to get something and poof hair on fire!

    That candle served no real purpose but to smell good and look pretty. It was in a hazardous place. I mean come on! Some parents don’t have common sense! If you want to burn candles for smell and looks do it after the kids are in bed or in your bedroom or on a higher shelf or just not at all. I used to burn candles a lot before kids. Now they only get burnt in my room after the kids are in bed. Just seems obvious.

  60. Donna October 28, 2011 at 6:02 am #

    Again, I’ve burned candles in my house after child. In the living room and dining room while the child is awake. If I want something in my house that serves no purpose other than to look pretty and smell good, it’s MY choice. You choose not to. That is YOUR choice. Neither choice is illegal so both are acceptable. The great thing about America is (or at least used to be) that we all get to make those choices for ourselves and should be able to do so without someone treating us like idiots if we make a different choice or trying to drill it into us that we’re wrong with a multitude of pointless safety messages.

    That is the big problem that many people on this blog have with your attitude, Dolly. This belief that your choices are the only ones obvious and reasonable.

  61. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    Donna: Sure you can burn them. This is America right? Should you? Depends on how smart and wild your kids are and what your set up is regarding furniture etc. BUT the reason they give warnings like what the OP is talking about is because many people WILL decide to burn them whether they should or not and the warnings are to maybe make them think twice and I am all for that.

  62. Neener October 28, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    @Dolly – Mine wasn’t allowed soda until she turned 5, and when she finally tasted one she thought it was disgusting. My evil plan worked! Still hates ’em, even a Coke Icee! (I know! What?!? Who doesn’t like Coke Icees?!)

  63. Kim October 28, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    It occurs to me that, in many (if not most) cases, those forbidden “homemade treats” are probably a whole lot safer for kids than factory produced candy crap. At the very least, there would be fewer ingredients in a homemade popcorn ball that even parents can’t pronounce. (Not that I’m against the occasional Snickers bar or Reese’s cup, mind you.)

  64. danan October 28, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    I have never been able to just give out noncandy treats, such as crayons, rubber snakes, and stickers, though little kids like them. The candy goes over better with bigger kids. One advantage of this is that, although I usually eat leftover candy, I can save the other things for next year’s Halloween.

    Perhaps this is a California thing, but they do make tiny wrapped boxes of raisins for Halloween. They can be hard to find some years, though. These also keep well if left over.

  65. Donna October 28, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Exactly Dolly. “Should you” depends on the circumstances and general warnings don’t address circumstances. Mistakes that lead to injury are not generally made in mundane, basic knowledge covered by the advice above. They are generally mistakes in judgment, made while knowing all the facts covered by the warnings.

    Take your hair example. The mother understood the properties of fire. She did not need to be told that hair should be kept away from the flame of a candle. A warning that said “don’t place candle near hair” would not have changed the scenario at all since she never thought that the hair would come in contact with the flame. The mistake was an error in judgment that lead to the hair coming in contact with the flame, not in a lack of knowledge. Who is responsible for that error – mother or child – depends on the circumstances of that particular situation. Was the child a toddler who doesn’t understand fire or old enough to know that reaching over a candle is a really bad idea?

    Advice that does attempt to address circumstances is generally faulty and both over and under inclusive. Advice that says “candles should not be used within 2 feet of a child under 8 with long hair” may apply in the situation that lead to the warning. You are also going to have 8 year olds who shouldn’t be allowed near candles and 7 year olds who are perfectly capable of respecting fire. Some kids with long hair are perfectly safe around candles while others with short hair will not be.

    We used to give people credit for being able to understand basic common sense. We used to allow parents to rely on their own judgment without looking to “experts” for everything. We used to respect parents decisions, even if they turned out badly, unless they were so far out of reasonable caution as to be completely reckless. We used to accept that accidents happen. We used to accept that stupid happens, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is stupid. We used to accept that kids are sometimes responsible for their own errors in judgment and not throw everything at the feet of the parents and seek to hang them for owning candles when their child who knows better decides to reach over a candle, resulting in setting her hair on fire.

  66. ValerieH October 28, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    I love how Lenore said the “experts” are trying to scare us to death. YAY! It’s Halloween! It’s all about fear, right? Look your fears in the face for once.
    I’m watching Charlie Brown while I read this. Let’s give out rocks, like Charlie Brown got. It’s so interesting how these kids in the 60’s had more freedom than our kids do now. We never see the parents on this show. Linus and Sally spent all night in the pumpkin patch. The others trick or treated together with no parents – after dark! Where I live, the city publishes the allowed hours of trick or treating 3-7pm CT. I live on a dead end, so we don’t bother buying candy. If I had kids coming to my door I’d give out pencils or something. I have a thing about excess sugar in the diet. I get very annoyed that no matter where my kids go, there is always someone pushing sugar on them.

  67. Goody October 28, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    They forgot feral dogs. They should carry rocks (or candy apples) to lob at the snarling beasts…just in case. *You never know*
    This old German widow handing out candy apples… she didn’t live in a house made of candy did she?

  68. Taradlion October 28, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    I sent lenore a link of all sorts of halloween safety tips…including an ad for temporary tattoos that have address and phone number on them…oy!

    As for fire…I think it is one of the best examples of how kids actually are LESS safe when they are not taught to be safe around fire (by protecting them and keeping them away from it). We have backyard camp fires at my mom’s and my kids have been taught to add firewood in a safe way. We light candles for religious reasons every friday night. As soon as they were old enough to understand, I didn’t keep the candles up high, but I did teach them about fire (I didn’t just put a candle down within reach when they’d never seen one before. At 10 and 7, they light candles on friday nights. I think being taught about fire will make them less likely to “play” with fire and certainly makes them safer in the long run.

  69. Dolly October 28, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    I believe the little girl in that magazine article about the fire hair incident was 4. So yeah…bad call on the mom’s part. My boys at 4 are so clumsy that even if they can be trusted and taught to respect fire, they would still accidentally knock a candle over and set the house on fire easy.

  70. Buffy October 28, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    @ValerieH, what do you mean by “look your fears in the face for once?” as it relates to this article and Halloween? I’m not convinced that most parents are fearful of all these things

  71. Neener October 28, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    @Taradlion: We did have those tattoos when mine was very small, so I can’t dog those. However, ours did not have addresses on them – what, planning on mailing your kid somewhere? LOL! Ours ONLY had the space for a phone number, and they could be plain or with a choice of messages on them (“I have food allergies” “I am diabetic” “I am autistic” etc)…and we ONLY used them when we went to very crowded places (fairgrounds, concerts). Had them printed with my husband’s work cell as he had to carry it 24/7, and made us feel a little more at ease in crowds until she could learn our phone number and recite it reliably.

  72. Neener October 28, 2011 at 10:30 am #


  73. pentamom October 28, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    You mean if my child is allergic to facepaint, I shouldn’t use it? Or that if I don’t know if they are, and they have a reaction, I should notice it and respond accordingly?

    Wow, thanks for telling me that, ABC News. When you have a minute, can you send along a map from my bed to the bedroom door for tomorrow?

  74. pentamom October 28, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    “Kids should only be allowed factory-wrapped candies and should avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.”

    Why? Give me one good reason that isn’t either completely bogus based on urban legends, or doesn’t assume that every kid in the world has undetected, fatal allergies. Of course parents of kids with severe allergies need to monitor such things, but this doesn’t say that, does it? Just one, stupid, blanket rule.

  75. Cheryl W October 28, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    I never spent money on temp tattoos for my non-speaking son when we went crowded places. I just used a sharpy to write on his arm “Call Mom” with our phone number. I figured it wouldn’t wash off, and one sharpie is cheap. And he could point at it, even if he was upset and more unintelligible than usual.

    I never used it at Halloween though, even though we had about 500 or more kids roaming our block, because most everyone knew him, and he knew how to get home if he got separated. We saved it for places like the boardwalk or the huge county fair.

    For non-speaking or non-intelligible kids, they (tattoos) can be good, but they are kind of a money making thing that can be done in other ways where you don’t spend money and then loose them in a drawer or something because you only use them twice a year.

  76. SKL October 28, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Dolly, I don’t think the warnings are there to prevent stupid people from doing stupid things. They are there because the manufacturer doesn’t want to be sued for the fact that some people are stupid.

    You could write almost every consumer product warning label with the word “duh!” at the end of each sentence. And actually, that would be more appreciated. “Don’t be a dumbass and stick your hand into a moving mower blade” would make more sense, don’t you think?

  77. Taradlion October 28, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    As a speech pathologist, I certainly get that a non-verbal child may need a way to communicate (or very young child)…I agree with cheryl, it wouldn’t require a special “safety product” (but maybe some parents would want it). I guess I just couldn’t imagine it for trick or treating (its not disney world)…its like everything else that reduces (real) risk but then starts to trickle down for daily use in situations that have very little risk (I know, I know halloween isn’t “daily”)…but you know, like when you see a toddler wearing a bike helmet on a tricycle with a push bar? (Maybe that is for establishing good habits, and I am pro helmet, but, really?). Or the many, many other baby proofing and toddler protecting PRODUCTS…

  78. ValerieH October 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    @Buffy, I was being sarcastic. The people sending out the warnings clearly don’t get the irony. They are spreading THEIR fears on a day that celebrates scary stuff. This realization gives me a new take on the holiday. It’s wonderful!

    (I posted this earlier but it didn’t load. I apologize if it showed up twice)

  79. Cheryl W October 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    SKL, I love the idea of the “…D’uh!!” at the end of the warnings!

  80. Ben October 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    The warning from The American Academy of Ophthalmology is actually rather sensible. I’ve worked at a store that sells glasses and lenses and it is true that there is no such thing as one size fits all. Sometimes even people with a prescription need another type of lense because the one they have causes irritation.

  81. Sera October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Some of those are good advice and some are redundant, and some are crazy.

    Saying that children should “walk, not run” between houses is the worst. That’s basically saying that children should never run, or only run under specific conditions because running is inherently unsafe. How ridiculous is that??? I find that children over the age of about… 4-5 are fairly good at being able to tell which situations are safe for them to run in or not – because they’ve fallen over enough times to work that out and want to avoid the pain.

    The thing about the apples, well, it wouldn’t be bacteria I’d worry about (there’s generally not much harmful bacteria on the surface of apples) but, rather, pesticides. Farmers spray pesticides all over the apple trees and the apples themselves and the apples are generally not washed between then and retail sale. The pesticides wouldn’t kill or seriously harm a child, but may well make them temporarily and unpleasantly ill, which is generally best avoided.

    Yes, small children (note that the term “small” is in fact specified. Not “children” or “all children”) should not use sharp knives to carve pumpkins. The thing is, when I was a kid my dad would sometimes express concern at me doing things that I had been doing safely and successfully for years. I’m not entirely sure why, but from time to time he would drastically underestimate my competence (moments that would make my mother and I go “seriously?”). It’s not too much of a stretch to my imagination that there would be some parents out there who do the opposite, and drastically overestimate their child’s competence (come to think of it, he’d do that sometimes too).

    Fire – everyone should always be reminded to be careful around fire. It’s actually surprisingly easy to forget this even as an adult, and lean over a candle with an item of clothing dangling down over it.

    The road safety is basic road safety. If your kids don’t already know road safety, they shouldn’t be out anywhere near roads without an adult escorting them.

    About the homemade treats – that’s a bit of an iffy one and really does require you to make a judgement call. The thing is, manufactured foods are created and stored in environments that are carefully audited and kept up to safe food handling standards. You have a guarantee that the food will have been hygienically prepared and stored before you eat it. With homemade food, you have absolutely nothing of the sort. I’ve certainly been in people’s kitchens where I absolutely would not want to eat anything that had been prepared on the kitchen bench. (The idea that anybody would put razor blades or poison in order to do deliberate harm to random children is crazy. I wouldn’t *entirely* rule out somebody putting, say, laxatives in there as a mean joke, or making pot brownies because they’re stupid and that’s their idea of being generous (or a joke)).

  82. KD October 28, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Our two big ones are road safety and reflective costumes….although I fully admit to having a parenting brain moment while buying my middle daughter’s costume this year. After several hours (or at least it felt like several hours) of shopping with her for the perfect costume that didn’t look like it belonged in a seedy night club (she is 9) she found a witch costume that she loved. I bought it, got it home, and it is all black and I mean ALL black. So, I went out the next day, bought some pink glow lights and pink hair spray that glows and have spent the week placing the lights unbroken onto the costume thus creating the previously unknown Neon Pink Harry Potter witch, my daughter even made a back story. I am also still struggling with her being low vision and might blind as this is the first year she is going out with friends to trick or treat, but my husband is currently working on finding the right type of light for her to use as a spotlight to mitigate this….we are thinking a duel flashlight (which we already have) and putting in a pink lightbulb for one and a strong spotlight for the other.
    I always have issues with businesses putting out safety information because it almost always is something to bring attention to some product being sold or event the business or organization is having so I usually look them over and then the end up in the round file…very rarely have I actually used any of the info, although the new information about colored and novelty contacts is good as both of my teenagers have asked to use them recently and I was able to give them the information as to why we are not okay with it.

  83. Brian October 28, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    Maybe these rules are just trying to scare people as part of the Halloween spirit of haunted houses. This is our fear today much more than ghosts. So its just in the celebration of the holiday. Making everyone scared.

    I for one finally have a child in a suburb old enough to go trick or treating and I am looking forward to finally being in the position to “inspect” his candy. And by “inspect” I mean take the best stuff for myself like my dad used to do. Isn’t that really the only reason this silly “rule” continues?

  84. Uly October 28, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    Why? Give me one good reason that isn’t either completely bogus based on urban legends, or doesn’t assume that every kid in the world has undetected, fatal allergies. Of course parents of kids with severe allergies need to monitor such things, but this doesn’t say that, does it? Just one, stupid, blanket rule.

    Because a lot of people have filthy kitchens, and if the treats have been sitting out unwrapped all night they’ve been sneezed on by everybody else’s adorable little germ factory already.

    (That doesn’t mean I agree, necessarily, but you asked for one good reason and that’s a fairly okay reason, at least for SOME families.)

    Of course, nobody gives out homemade treats to strangers, so it’s not going to come up.

  85. Uly October 28, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    Oh, Brian, absolutely! As a child, carefully looking over all the candy was an integral (if, in retrospect, useless and silly) part of the whole holiday ritual.

  86. kiesha October 28, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    I got boxes of raisins at Halloween. Promptly threw them out. Not a raisin fan.

    I also enjoyed receiving one or two ‘toys’, like little plastic spiders or plastic rings with pumpkins or cats or witches on them. But I definitely wanted at least 90% of my haul to be fun sized chocolate bars, SweeTarts or Pixie Stix.

  87. Robin H October 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Brian, we call it a tax at our house!

    About the chocolate harvested by child labor, there are consequences to just boycotting their products. If the company goes out of business than no one in that region will earn any money. If you want to stop buying their products, fine, but you need to let the company know why you’re doing it. Also some of these companies that use child labor may be better for the kids than what they would be doing to earn money otherwise. It’s not a matter of them playing or working, it’s a matter of what work they will be doing. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not for child labor. But the changes that need to be made in societies that still use the kids as workers will not happen overnight and most of them will need to remove their politicians before anything will change for the kids.

    I’m a baker so I would love to give out cookies, caramel apples or pocorn balls. But I know most of them will get tossed, so I compromise. I will give the neighbor kids that know me one of them and I make sure their parents know it’s from me. Sometimes I do a reverse trick or treat and take my stuff around to the neighbors. Unfortunately, there’s not that many kids left in the neighborhood.

  88. pentamom October 28, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Uly, that’s somewhat reasonable — but if someone sneezes on a wrapped candy, and the kid handles it, it’s no better.

  89. pentamom October 28, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    BTW, I’m not really supporting giving out homemade stuff — it’s pretty impractical and most of the kids probably don’t want it. It’s just the “non-packaged food, Danger Will Robinson” attitude I’m picking on.

  90. wendy October 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    The reality is this.. in this country we have created an agency called the CPSC and we have hired people to ensure that we are safe from dangerous products (and I guess events now). What they do all day is sit around and figure out what is dangerous. Their goal is to find what is dangerous and tell everyone around them so that they continue to have job security.

    If we aren’t at serious danger of harm then their jobs don’t exist. And apparently “we” like what they are doing because we keep giving them more money.

  91. Cj October 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    The contact thing is correct though. Halloween contacts not bought at a doctors office are illegal and not safe. Please don’t lump that with the more ridiculous “safety” tips. Contacts come in many sizes and everyone eyes are different. Poor fitting contacts will lead to loss of vision, most people who abuse their contacts suffer loss of vision in their 30-40’s becuase they mishandled them or wore them longer then they should have. It is not a racket, you really only have one set of eyes and there is reason to toss them after 2 weeks.

  92. bequirox October 28, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    I was listening to the radio today, and the DJ had some SUPER FUN ideas for decorating pumpkins with your kids!

    First you spray paint the pumpkin. Then you give your kids crayons to color on it. Then you can use straight pins to attach beads and junk!

    Doesn’t that sound like the most fun Halloween activity EVER!

    People are ridiculous.

  93. Donna October 28, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    “I believe the little girl in that magazine article about the fire hair incident was 4. So yeah…bad call on the mom’s part. My boys at 4 are so clumsy that even if they can be trusted and taught to respect fire, they would still accidentally knock a candle over and set the house on fire easy.”

    This would then be a bad call on your part since your kids are clumsy. But not every family is yours and not every child is identical to yours. It would not necessarily be a bad call in other situations.

    My child is not remotely clumsy. She’s generally as agile as a cat. She could also be trusted not to reach over a candle because she was kinda scared of them. Not a bad call on my part, although something unexpected certainly could have happened with my child and a candle to cause injury. Unless you want to be a helicopter parent that wraps your kids in bubble wrap, you can’t look at a result and automatically assume that the parent was at fault just because a child got hurt, even if what they were doing is not something you would do because those kids are not identical to yours and their situation is not identical to yours.

  94. Soapbox0916 October 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm #


    Is the sugar-free candy clearly marked sugar free or do you tell the kids that upfront? A few people are allergic/sensitive to the sugar-free stuff (including me) and I hate when well meaning people try to trick kids into eating the so-called “healthier” sugar-free stuff without letting them know. Accidentally getting sugar-free could really mess a kid like me up, although granted if only one piece, I could tolerate it totally fine. Also, I if I could tell that it tasted different from the good stuff, I would have spit it out anyway. OK, worrying about nothing. LOL

    Sugar-free is a great alternative for those with diabetes, but it is really not great for everyone. Sugar-free has it’s own problems too, whether saccharin, NutraSweet, and sucralose–they all give me problems.

    Alright, here I am giving a warning. LOL I feel almost like a hypocrite. I do feel like most of this is common sense and this is paranoia. I think sugar-free is a great thing, no need to fear it, just let people know upfront, so those that want/need to avoid it, can do so.

  95. Cheryl W October 28, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

    Uly, regardless, when my daughter was in Kinder, the teacher asked the kids (in a bored voice) “Do you want to bring your own snacks each day? Or,” (in an excited voice,) “do you want one parent to bring snack for everyone, every day?” Of course, the children chose excited voice.

    And not one of the parents objected to such things. Home made muffins, sandwiches, cut up fruit…all of this came from kitchens not inspected by the health department with no one wearing hairnets. There were no mass stomach aches or colds all at the same time or anything like that. I don’t think because they were kindergarden moms that their kitchens were any cleaner. My neighbor had a daughter a year older. Her kitchen routinely had rotten food in the sink and often maggots. I REALLY preferred that my kids ate at my house, but when they did have stuff there, they never got sick. (Because despite me saying don’t eat the food – sometimes the stuff was really good and being kids, they ate it.

    I am not saying that people should just eat whatever, but in most cases, the food has not been thrown in dog poop or such. Have you checked out the doughnut cases in the summer in the afternoon at stores? Most usually have flies in them. (Even the high end stores. They can’t help it – the doors open and flies come in.) Yet, as a society, we still eat food from these stores.

  96. Neener October 28, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    Yeah, agreed that the tattoos are a money-making thing…but for us, and since they were like $15 for a pack of a bajillion and wiped right off with baby oil, I liked them. My daughter wasn’t one to want to be held all the time and when she could walk, well by God she was *walking* and it didn’t matter whether you were in a crowd of millions or in a hurry to get somewhere or what. Nope, that child was stubborn! 🙂

  97. Neener October 28, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    @Soapbox0916: The candy is individually wrapped and says on the wrapper that it’s sugar-free. I’m not trying to “trick” the trick-or-treaters into eating it…it’s right on the label. 🙂 I figure, if a kid is sensitive to that, like anything else (peanuts, wheat, whatever), the kid and/or parent should read the labels on all their Halloween goodies (their job, not mine) and toss aside or trade with friends the things they shouldn’t have.

    I do only buy the yummy sugar-free candies. We go sugar-free in my house as much as we can for personal reasons and believe me and my waistline, I’ve taste-tested more than my share! You are absolutely right, some taste so terrible I wonder whether they tested it on actual humans before sending it to market!

  98. Soapbox0916 October 29, 2011 at 1:12 am #

    Thanks @ neener. I hope my comment did not come across as aimed at you. I did not even think about that when I wrote it. You just got me to thinking. Sorry I was just having some bad flashbacks, nothing to do with you. Labeling has vastly improved, I am old enough that when I was kid, the sugar-free stuff was often not labeled on the individual wrappers, but the taste was usually more obvious.

    I have just seen the let’s sneak sugar-free stuff done before by people that meant well too often. The idea of let’s sneak the kids something healthy, they won’t even know the difference. A lot of them were my own extended family who were health nuts. LOL

    Sugar-free cough drops are what usually got me into trouble, not candy. Carob is another one of those things that health nuts have tried to sneak pass me like I won’t know the difference, but I am also food sensitive to carob.

    I have met quite a few people that thought that sugar-free was a great safe alternative for all kids with allergies/sensitiveness, they would tell me often while I was eating it, that since they heard I had allergies, they made sure to give me the sugar-free stuff, not realizing that sugar-free stuff is usually one of my allergies. I don’t think warning labels would help these people.

    As an adult, I have also gone gluten-free recently, I really do feel so much better avoiding wheat flour in particular, and I did turn down a bunch of great looking cookies and cake at the Halloween office parties this week. But that is obvious enough for me to avoid, no need for labels.

  99. Marie October 29, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    @Selby (wipes eggs off) It was worth it!

  100. Neener October 29, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    @ Soapbox0916: No worries, I didn’t take it that way at all!

    Off-topic but it makes me think about how I have read a lot on people “sneaking” veggies into other cooked foods so their kid won’t know what they’re eating. Yeah, that doesn’t work in my house, with Little Miss Supertaster. So we just straight-up say, that thing on your plate looks like zucchini because it is zucchini and welcome to eating your veggies – and the more drama you give me, the more veggies I will give you. Works like a charm. 😉

  101. Uly October 29, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    if someone sneezes on a wrapped candy, and the kid handles it, it’s no better.

    Well, at least you’re probably not eating the sneezed on part, though I do realize that in actual terms there’s no real difference. It just seems less squicky!

  102. pentamom October 29, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    Dolly, one day about ten years ago, I did something really stupid. I had a candle burning on my dining room table, and I went to spread a sewing pattern out on the table — right on top of the candle. There’s no justification for what I did — fortunately, sewing pattern paper is one of those things that’s so highly flammable that it burns up before the flames can spread, usually.

    Now the question is, was I too young at 35 to have candles in my house? Am I too stupid ever to be allowed to handle candles again? Or did I just need to be more careful, and like anyone else, once I knew better (which of course I did), take my lumps and deal with the fact that I caused some damage and some risk?

  103. Elizabeth October 29, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    Those are what we used to call “accidents.” That is why we have a burn on our kitchen counter (from my husband putting a too hot pan there even though he knew better) and a flat tire (from me running off the edge of the road even though I am usually a really good driver. They just happen sometime even though we don’t intend for them to!

  104. Robin H October 30, 2011 at 3:31 am #

    Oh Neener! Major pet peeve! Let’s teach kids that eating brownies and mac & cheese is good for you by hiding vegetables in them! Like they’ll understand that when they’re away from home! Teach kids what vegetables are, what they taste like, and to appreciate them for what they are.

  105. Serena Enslow October 30, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    One thing I never understand about halloween costumes and pajamas is that it is recommended they are fire retardant. How come regular clothes don’t carry the same recommendationg? Is there a greater chance of catching fire while sleeping or wearing a costume? Guess I’m out of luck anyway, my younger son won’t wear pajamas and sleeps in his clothes.

  106. Uly October 30, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    Is there a greater chance of catching fire while sleeping or wearing a costume?

    I think so, and yes.

    Costumes are fire retardant because children are clomping up and down on porches with jack-o-lanterns, often wearing ill-fitting costumes that they might easily trip in, and paying little attention to the other children doing the same thing. These costumes are made as cheaply as possible, which might mean highly flammable materials without the regulations. Highly flammable materials + careless children + jack-o-lanterns with candles = potential for disaster.

    For nightwear, although I don’t think your house is more likely to catch fire in the night (unless you’re prone to doing silly things like leaving candles burning while sleepy, or smoking in bed, also while sleepy), I do think that just logically speaking it’s probably going to take you longer to realize you have a problem if it DOES happen. In the daylight, you’ll be awake to see flames or smell smoke and get your children out of there.

    However, it doesn’t really have to be flame resistant to be sold as sleepwear, it could just be snug fitting.

  107. kherbert October 30, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    @Uly I’ve read that the laws about flame resistant nightwear were written in the 70’s after some kids were set on fire when their sleepwear came into contact with radiators.

  108. FrancesfromCanada October 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    @Taradlion: my kid wears on helmet on his tricycle with a push bar. Guess what? Often he rides on his own, down hills, gleefully going “really fast, mommy!”….and I’m not holding the bar. Yes, sometimes you’ll see me pushing him, but probably that’s because he’s gotten too tired to make it home on his own. Don’t judge.

    @Neener: you “sneak” vegetables into the baked goods because some of those recipes taste great (carrot cake, anyone?) and because then your kids eat some. Then you give them the undisguised version too. Then sometimes you throw it out. Drama aside, how exactly do you force a child who doesn’t want to eat something to put it in his mouth?

  109. Karen October 30, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    All this scaremongering is simply a way for the people in these organizations to justify their paychecks. People with common sense will not need to be reminded that knives are sharp, you should not put things in your eyes, fire burns, if you collide with a bus the bus wins. People that do need to be reminded have no common sense and despite the same reminders last year need them again this year, and next year, and the year after that. The people in these organizations like that, because if there are enough idiots the “experts” look smarter and can not only convince you that you need them, but need more experts to legislate every second of your life.

    Fire retardant fabrics are treated with chemicals. Repeated washings remove the chemicals over time and the fabrics become flamable again. Would you rather your child absorb the knowledge that things that are very hot can set other things on fire, things that have flames can set other things on fire and being on fire ranges from unpleasant to game over, or would you rather they absorb fire retardants covering the majority of their skin for several hours at a time or in their mouths, until the chemicals are washed away and they are back at risking being on fire?

    A while back a TV newscast ran a story about a registered nurse who had a severe nut allergy. All nuts. (!) So the nurse goes to the grocery store and buys granola bars with the little red circle with the diagonal line to indicate that the product contained no PEANUTS. The variety purchased was Caramel Nut. This was in great big letters on the front of the box. This nurse felt that the labelling was not clear and should be revised. I think the reality is that nothing can be made idiot proof.

    You cannot protect anyone from their own stupidity. You can, however, teach your child how to think. That is very different from teaching them what to think. If you only teach them what to think, you need to be able to anticipate every possible scenario they may encounter during a lifetime. If you teach them how to think, they will be able to figure it out themselves.

  110. Eleanor (undeadgoat) October 30, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    That one about contact lenses seemed useful. Otherwise . . . total bullshit.

  111. Taradlion October 30, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    FrancesfromCanada – I live in manhattan, where there are no hills and I see it in the park where there is no traffic and sidewalks all the way home…so maybe take your own advice (don’t judge my judging) because those kids are not going down a hill. AND, in fact, I often know their parents and am not talking about kids with helmets for special needs.

    For what its worth, my kid rode a big wheel down a huge hill when at my mom’s often, when he was little (without a helmet) so the hill thing doesn’t even make me say, “oh NOW that makes sense”…perhaps you will judge me as negligent then. My kids wear helmets on their bikes, they are required to wear them ice and roller skating at most rinks. People have different levels of risk tolerance, clearly we do. You explained why you feel your child needs a helmet. Maybe I should accept that some parents risk aversion is so high that they think toddlers should wear helmets while they are pushing the push bar an a tricycle with NO intention of letting go, which is precisely what I was talking about. Fine. But I feel bad for their kids.

    Perhaps I should have said, I hope the temporary phone number tattoos don’t trickle down to being used for trips to the grocery store…

  112. Donna October 31, 2011 at 1:07 am #

    Kids have to wear helmets in skating rinks in NYC? That’s crazy. Nary a helmet at any skating rink here – and the second they become required is the second my kid stops going.

  113. Emily October 31, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    There are parents out there who are taking of the mantle of homemade trick-or-treat goodies!

  114. Taradlion October 31, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    @ Donna, yup…kids under 10 (this is at the Riverbank State park rink)…my kids have skated in other places without them. My son asked to wear one once or twice when it was not required because he fell backwards a few times…My husband fell (fainted) in a parking lot and had a severe head injury a few years ago which makes my son nervous about hitting his head. It was completely a freak accident. Although it has made me more aware of head injuries, I try not to get too crazy about it (we’re not wearing helmets to walk through parking lots). I think it should be left up to the parents when it comes to skating. …

  115. Neener October 31, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    @FrancesfromCanada: I wouldn’t know how to force food down a child’s throat, but I do know that telling my daughter that she must eat x number of drama-free bites of anything she professes to dislike before the meal is over works for our family. It’s always been presented as a matter of basic etiquette and courtesy to whomever prepared the meal (home, restaurant, someone else’s home…). Often, she ends up liking the previously disliked food, or figures out on her own that if she mixes the unwanted peas in with the beloved mashed potatoes, that’s pretty tasty! She can dress it up or put whatever condiment on it, I don’t care, as long as she’s the one doing it after she’s been exposed to the veggie in it’s natural form. I can only speak for my experience with my child. If sneaking squash into the macaroni & cheese without telling the kids works for other families, more power to them; I just don’t understand it myself.

  116. Soapbox0916 October 31, 2011 at 11:54 pm #


    One should not be sneaking “other stuff” into desirable trusted foods because a lot of kids are sensitive to certain foods or even have food allergies. Everyone including kids have a right to know exactly what they are eating. Then if a particular food makes them sick or they don’t feel quite right after eating something, they can more easily pinpoint the offending food and better avoid it in the future.

    As for it seeming like it was rare for kids to have allergies and food sensitivities a few decades ago, I think part of it is that kids were less likely to be recognized as having food sensitivities, and were just seen as being picky eaters. Unless a kid had to be rushed to a hospital for eating something, it was kind of ignored for the most part. (I do think there are actually more allergies nowadays due to all the processed food, antibiotic resistance, too clean environments etc; but part of it was also labeling.)

    I was not labeled as having food sensitivities/allergies until I was adult, but looking back on my childhood, I realize I also had the food sensitivities/allergies as a kid too. People really thought I was just too picky of an eater, and I was treated as such. I felt like I went through some hell of fights with well meaning adults over food. Thank goodness my parents were supportive of me. I knew when certain foods did not make me feel well after eating them and I held my ground on not eating them. There were a few field trips where I wound up eating nothing till I got home later that evening, I did not want to get sick, even if I was hungry. Even as a young child, I knew when it was not worth it. Kids need to be given more credit and more free-range to figure out what they can and cannot eat. I do think kids should try new foods, but if kids don’t feel well after eating specific foods (and they know exactly what the food is because it was not sneaked into something else), then trust the kids instincts.

    I love neener’s idea of making sure that the kids try out vegetables, knowing exactly what each vegetable it is when they receive it. I think it is safe to assume that if one of neener’s kids got sick every time after eating carrots for example, that neener would stop asking the kid to eat carrots. It would be worse to sneak the carrots into a brownie, let the kid think it is just a regular brownie, then the kid is puzzled as to why certain brownies make them sick, when not all brownies make them sick. It is really frustrating to not understand why something only makes one sick part of the time. Unexpected hidden ingredients are the worse.

    For the most part, no one really knew I had multiple food allergies/sensitivities as a kid, not even me. I never expected special treatment. I usually just quietly avoided eating certain foods because I did not feel right after eating certain foods. It only became a problem when very insistent adults who just had to see me eat something while in front of them or when unexpected food was snuck into something and I got sick from it. It was not a big deal unless some else made it a big deal. So no need for paranoia, warning lists, school bans. All that was needed was honest information about the food contents and to let me (and my parents) have enough free range to use some common sense.

    Sneaking stuff into other food items is only asking for frustration. Sneaking stuff into other food items is not consistent with being free range. Sneaking stuff into other foods is sneaky. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to the contents of food.

  117. Uly November 1, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Of course, all this talk about sneaking misses an important distinction – sometimes, you “sneak” the food in simply because nobody objects much to it and it either tastes good or it’s a great way to stretch costlier ingredients while using up something you bought too much of.

    For me, it’s grated carrots. Carrots are cheap and filling as well as moderately nutritious, the nieces switch off between which one will eat them plain at any given moment, and I always seem to have them around.

    So I grate them into everything, from rice (last five minutes of steaming) to chili to pasta sauce to… heck, to pancakes if I’m making my pumpkin pancakes as it is!

    The nieces know I’m doing it, it’s hardly sneaking when I ask them to help me grate the carrots, and they don’t object. (I never, ever add something they actually object to. I learned my lesson the time one of them threw herself into a fit, gagged, threw up, and then spent the next six months paranoid that I might have accidentally added an egg to something, somewhere.) And it uses them up nicely!

    Or, in the “it tastes better” category – black bean brownies. They sound crazy, but they actually taste BETTER than regular ones, and they cut up more neatly as well. I was baffled to discover it. (Of course, if you think that making them with beans instead of flour makes them healthy, you have bigger problems than your views on sneaking or not sneaking.)

  118. Soapbox0916 November 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm #


    I actually encourage people to eat off the norm foods, variety of foods is a good thing. Due to being sensitive to so many foods, off the norm foods are a lot of what I eat myself. I also serve off the norm foods, but I let people know what exactly I am serving, for example I make chocolate chip cookies with potato flour.

    If you let people know that there are carrots or black beans in something that they normally would not expect, that is not being sneaky. You are being honest and that is what I am encouraging. I think you misunderstood me earlier, sorry if I was not clear earlier.

    My issue with people being sneaky with food is that they are purposely sneaky, usually with their own kids, but sometimes other kids too. I have seen it between wives and husbands too sadly. Normally these sneaky people justify their sneakiness with the best of intentions, they want to sneak something past a person that they perceive to be healthy without that person knowing about it. That is not what you are doing in the examples that you gave in your comment. Do you see the difference?

    I really believe that if someone is raising their kids free-range, then honesty needs to be part of free-range. Be honest with kids about the contents of food and have enough confidence in kids that they can eventually determine what they can and cannot eat for themselves, without tricking them. How can kids grow up to make their own decisions, if adults don’t have enough confidence in kids to be honest with them about what they are actually eating.

    I actually encourage carrot brownies or carrot cake as long as there is honesty about the food contents. I was only talking about people that basically lie to kids (or purposely without information) and tell kids that these are regular brownies. Then these same sneaky adults go on to brag to other adults that they got their kids to eat carrots by not letting the kids know that there were carrots in the brownies that they ate. (I wish I was making that example entirely up.)

    I have no problem with carrots, so give me all the carrots that you want to, in anything that you want. However, I did have a friend in elementary school that could not eat carrots because they made her sick, and she always asked no matter what it was, if it had carrots in it. Now, she is the only person that I have ever met that could not eat carrots, but you never know what food someone may be sensitive too. That is why honesty is always the best policy when it comes to the content of food.

    I make a lot of stuff with organic red bean flour, but I had not thought about brownies. Black bean brownies sound really good to me. That does not sound weird to me at all. I am sensitive to wheat. As for healthy, I consider anything that I am not sensitive to, to be better for me, but yeah I get that brownies, no matter if beans or wheat, is still a brownie.

  119. Uly November 1, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    I wasn’t responding specifically to you, actually 🙂

    (And black bean brownies aren’t made with bean flour, but just with beans. Cooked and mashed beans.)

  120. Soapbox0916 November 1, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    I understand Uly 🙂 . I believe we are basically on the same free-range team.

    Good to know about it being cooked and mashed beans. It still sounds great. So just cook black beans like normal, mash them and add to brownies in lieu of the wheat flour? Or should I make my gluten free brownies that I normally make from a store bought gluten free mix, and simply add in the mashed black beans to the rest of the mix?

  121. kiesha November 1, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    My ex-boyfriend told me a story once that may or may not have been true. When he was little, his mom served him broccoli for the first time. He took a bite and said, “I don’t want this.” His mom asked why and he said, “I don’t like it.” She then smacked him in the back of the head and told him to eat it.

    The next time she served him the broccoli, he said he didn’t want to eat it. When she asked him why, he said, “It gives me a headache.”

  122. kiesha November 1, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    My parents’ fondness for bland, soft, overcooked food led to me being a picky eater. I think I subconsciously was craving variety, crunch, flavor, etc., but that was never offered. Many of our veggies were purchased canned and the ones we grew in our garden were often cooked to a pulp and then canned for the winter. When I got to eat a fresh, raw veggie, it was invigorating. I’ve gotten better as an adult, but I have a TON of texture issues with food that I link back to my early days of eating homogenous-textured stuff. I really think introducing children to a variety of flavors and textures at a young age is the way to go.

  123. Uly November 2, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    Pretty much in lieu of flour, though some people find a LITTLE bit of flour improves the texture. You could use any type of flour you want, though, at that point.

    (I never bake anything from a mix, all from scratch. Baking hardly takes any effort at all, really, and if I waited for the money for boxed anything I’d never have cookies or cake to start with.)

  124. Dolly November 3, 2011 at 5:03 am #

    I agree about honesty with kids being a good free range policy as well as a good parenting in general policy. Thus why I got into such a fight about the not trusting teenagers and spying on them debate. It is not honest.

    I want my kids to be honest with me therefore I will be honest with them. I do not lie to my kids about anything, big or small. I might ignore a question or deflect something, but I never straight out lie.

    For food in our house the rule is You get what you get and you don’t get upset. I don’t cook very well so I don’t make crazy recipes that scare kiddies. I make basic stuff that most kids like. Sometimes I might do something more out there. Either way, I will never force you to eat anything. But I also won’t make you something else or let you have dessert if you don’t eat what I gave you the first time. So you can starve and refuse the food. Or you can eat what I give you. Whatever you want. No amount of whining or begging or whatever will change that. We have followed this policy strictly from birth and they accept it. Some nights they might not touch a thing on their plate. Fair enough. I won’t force you. But when they cry for food later I tell them “Go to bed, you had your chance to eat. Breakfast is in the morning and maybe you will eat what I give you then.” Mine are in their proper height/weight percentiles so it obviously is working.

  125. ariel January 27, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    gotta reply to this, though its months old: when i was in fourth grade (1998), for thanksgiving we were learning the whole indians/pilgrims thing, and we were going to make our own thanksgiving feast that year. after a demonstration, my class and the one next door broke into teams of 2, EACH WITH OUR OWN PUMPKIN, and hulled that sucker. here’s the math: 2 teams of 25 kids= 50 kids with 25 pumpkins supervised by 2 teachers. the worst thing that happened was everyone was talking about saving the pumpkins’ “guts” for halloween next year. which i do admit, NOW, was kinda gross. but it was still fu.

  126. ariel January 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    fuN!!! i meant FUN! (and this is my laptop, not my autoincorrect virused ipod.)

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  1. Happy Halloween from the CPSC: Your Costume Can Kill You. Your Candy Can Kill You. Strangers Can Kill You. You Know What? Just Stay Home, OK? - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine - October 28, 2011

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