Outrage of the Week: Today Show’s Crazy Halloween Advice

Readers — It is time to howl at the moon, or, better yet, NBC. Its Today Show “panel shtndkhykb
of experts”
declared to the world the precise age at which parents can safely let their children start trick or treating without an older chaperon:


That’s right. Exactly the age when kids start thinking about whether they should be trick or treating at all. And the Today Show’s  rationale? Oh, it is priceless. In “gated communities,” one of the experts said, maybe kids as young as 10 could go out without an older person.  “But generally speaking you don’t want to go any earlier than 13 because people put on masks, they put on disguises, and there still are people who do bad things.”

Huh? The holiday is dangerous because of “masks” and “disguises”? Is this expert scared of the ghosts and goblins? Is she aware that these are NOT REAL? And that, “generally speaking” people do not automatically BECOME evil just because they have dressed up like vampires and witches?

Imagine if the Today Show guidelines had been in place when Charles Schulz wrote, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” The Peanuts gang would be inside at a “safe” party organized by grown-ups, with various adults warning them about eating too much candy, wearing loose costumes (these can make you trip!) and wearing tight costumes (these can cut off your air supply before you know it and God knows how many kids have died of tight-costumitis!), and everything else, including running, skipping, laughing (you could choke!) and wearing costumes that scare the other kids. Because nothing even the teensiest bit frightening should ever happen to kids at all. Even on Halloween.

The age that kids can really start trick or treating on their own, in my opinion? Well, considering the world has NOT dramatically changed in 20 years (except that crime has gone down), a good rule of thumb is: the same age as you did. Teach your kids to cross streets safely. Teach them never to go off with anyone. Teach them to save you some candy. (Not just the Mary Janes!) And put some reflective tape on their costumes. Why? Because, as you know, I believe in safety.

Just not that ghosts and goblins are out to get our kids. — Lenore

P.S. And yes, when I say, “Go out without a chaperon,” I am advocating groups of kids, not just one lonely skeleton.


Don't wait here, Linus! Come inside to our Super Safe & Fun Plastic Pumpkin Party!


77 Responses to Outrage of the Week: Today Show’s Crazy Halloween Advice

  1. Rich Wilson October 12, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    I know, old news, but the biggest danger on Halloween is all the big trucks and SUVs driven by the parents who want to follow the kids, but are too damned lazy to get out and walk. The exhaust alone is seriously annoying.

    In the community where I grew up, 12 was the unspoken last year of trick-or-treating. At 13 it was just tricks. Any 13 year old caught asking for candy would have faced serious bullying.

  2. Meagan October 12, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    Well… I never did go trick-or-treating “on my own.” I’m pretty sure that’s not what you’re advocating though… I DID go trick-or-treating with friends sans adult supervision from about the age of 8. We even went out *gasp* AFTER DARK, because what’s the point of Halloween if it’s not a little spooky? And as I remember our parents never seemed overly concerned about us when we did come back. If we stayed out too late they might be angry that we were going to be tired in school the next day… because in those days we went trick-or-treating… On Halloween. Even if Halloween was a school night. And suddenly I feel old.

  3. Cara October 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    Lenore’s advice isn’t going to work for me because 13 was the first year that my parents let me go trick or treating without them. It was also the one and only time I did because at that point I was too old to be trick or treating.

    My kids are 2 and 8 months now, so I know they are too young to go trick or treating by themselves. But what is old enough? I feel like I’m flying blind here with this whole free range parenting thing, as my mom was one of the original helicopter parents.

  4. kymlee October 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    I didn’t get to go trick-or-treating until I was about 13 and that was really so I could take my younger siblings. Before that, I always attended church events, organized by adults, always indoors…no trick-or-treating for me.

  5. Katy October 12, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    We were never allowed to go trick or treating alone, but we if we had a friend it was fine. I think I was in first or second grade the first time that happened. And I’m pretty sure that the buddy system was just to protect us from cars or getting lost. By the time I was in middle school, my mom let me take my younger brother with me (she took my baby sister who didn’t have any friends in the neighborhood or the endurance to keep up with the older kids).

  6. Crystal October 12, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    I think I stopped trick or treating at like 10 or 11. But we went alone at 8…maybe younger.

  7. se7en October 12, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Sometimes I don’t even feel like Charlie Brown when I read this!!! Good grief does not begin to express this!!! Laugh out loud hysterically at the thought of all the mad safety precautions that could abound regarding costumes… Why one costume conglomerate hasn’t yet pushed for only their costumes to be allowed at Halloween because they are the only safe costumes on the market… It’s coming folks – cotton wool straight jackets for everyone!!! Pick your major clothing company and buy some shares!!! Or for that matter… absolutely no candy, cold pumpkin soup for everyone – no burns, no chokey bits… it’s ideal!!!

  8. Christine October 12, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    Honestly? I don’t remember ever going trick or treating without my Dad. My Mom stayed home and passed out candy, and my Dad walked with us. )Me, my older brother,and sister) We definitely were allowed to go run and play during the day, all over the small town we lived in. But my Dad came with us for Trick or Treat.

    We lived in a small town with a very active volunteer fire department. All of the volunteer firemen were out during trick or treat, and everyone participated. My Dad kept an eye on us, and every other kid on that street.

    I enjoy taking my kid trick or treating. I like seeing all the costumes, the decorations, I like meeting more neighbors, and I like chatting with the other Moms, then coming home to a glass of wine. If he asked to go without me, I’d consider it. But I guess I don’t see taking kids trick or treating as ‘helicoptering’, I just see Trick or Treating as a family event.

  9. Tameson October 12, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    We live in a rural are, and pretty much have to drive our kids which I am loathe to do. Our town sets up a “tail-gate trick or treat” wherein all participants show up at the town hall parking lot and the kids go from car to car. then we all go down the pumpkin lined path to dance to some monster mash music at the gazebo. Nobody over 5 walks around with a parent, and the parking lot is pretty big and people without kids come just to hand out candy. I’m not saying this is the greatest free-range practice ever, because I think logisticaly free-ranging in the country is just harder, ’cause there’s seriously like 8 houses in a mile and though your parents pretty much let you go where ever you want, you can’t actually get anywhere. So the Tail-gate trick or treat and wrist band day at the fair and Old Home days are pretty much the best free-range opportunities our kids have.

  10. Amy October 12, 2010 at 7:10 pm #

    We only have one other house on our street so we have to walk our kids across a main road to the other side of our development. My kids are 5 and 8 and I let them go “alone”…meaning together and with whichever friends they find along the way (It would be nice if they didn’t pick up their friend’s parents along the way too.) We have a meetup point where I watch for them to walk them back across the major road (that is even worse on Halloween) while trying to get other mothers to hang out and drink some warm cider instead of going door to door. So far no luck…maybe this year!

  11. Kate October 12, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    Ugh…to think that people look to the Today Show for a specific age to do anything!!?? Who watches this crap?

  12. Jennifer October 12, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    Geez, my son asked if he and his sister (both age 7) could go trick or treating by themselves this year, and I’m considering letting them. They’ll wear lights and look crossing streets, and there are about a million kids and grownups out in the neighborhood if they run into any trouble. If they’re not ready this year, I’m sure they will be next year. I remember trick or treating without a parent when I was 9 and my sister 7. By age 13 you’re pretty much too old for trick or treating anyway!

  13. Sara October 12, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    It all depends on the neighborhood of course with busy neighborhoods being safer than those that don’t have a lot of kids. If there are lots of parents around with their smaller children then the kids will be fine “by themselves” provided that they are responsible enough to cross the street by themselves. Either way I see no reason why a group of fourth or fifth graders wouldn’t be fine going out themselves.

  14. Kim October 12, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    I went by myself around 7 or 8. By the time I was 11 I was out with the shaving cream and eggs. 🙂 Hey, my town was pretty cool about that sort of thing. As long as we stayed in the park, they didn’t hassle us. If we left the park, we were fair game for the cops to stop us and take all our supplies.

  15. Elfir October 12, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    If parents all tag along, who’s gonna be home to hand out candy?! In my neighborhood it was generally small hordes of children wandering together. Parents herded the preschool kids around but by age 7 I think everybody was free from parental supervision.

    These days my mom gets maybe four groups of kids and at least two of those are from the nearby apartments instead of from the neighborhood.

  16. Vickie October 12, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    Wow–I hadn’t even considered the fact that my daughter and son are old enough to go on their own, because my husband and I have gone with with them so WE can dress up! But, that meant that we had to leave a bowl of candy on the driveway, with no attendant. (We live in an extremely safe suburban neighborhood on a cul-de-sac.)

    I just asked my 10 yr old daughter if she wanted to escort her 8 yr old brother trick or treating this year–her eyes lit up, and she said, “Can I??” Wow. I’d forgotten the thrill of going trick or treating with MY big brother–no grown ups to tell us not to eat candy while we walked from house to house!

    Thanks for reminding us that we can “let go” in little ways that mean so much to our kids.

  17. Matthew E October 12, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    At some school or day care my kids attend or have attended (I forget which exactly), it isn’t even Hallowe’en.

    It’s “Orange and Black Day”.

  18. Meggles October 12, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    Kate, I was thinking the exact same thing. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are going to take their parenting advice from “experts” on the Today Show. “But I saw it on the Today Show! I can’t let 10-year-old Johnny roam with his friends on Halloween!” I feel the same way about experts on the Today Show as I do about all the parenting magazines out there. I’ve just stopped reading them. I’m tired of the prescriptive formulas they offer and the anxiety they instill. And I find my own parenting philosophy to be more and more at odds with the general trends. My own parents did a wonderful job with me and my siblings, so I have plenty of knowledge to draw off of, as well as my own religious beliefs to guide me.

    Bottom line: I’m sick and tired of the “experts” telling parents what to do. Form an opinion, parents, and stop being such sheep!

  19. DFW October 12, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    I go out with my kids primarily because it is fun for me. It is one of the few, if not the only, times when we get to meet all our neighbors. I am pretty poor at the chaperoning part, as I don’t really pay attention to the kids, mainly just chatting with the other parents.

  20. nchulka October 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    My kids are 7 & 8 I guess the time has come to let them try trick or treating alone (together). This will be sad for me, last year I dressed up and had the kids call me a made up name instead of mom. I trick or treated with them pretending to be their teenage sister. I got tons of candy and didn’t have to steal theirs. It was so much fun! I guess I am getting too old though, and so are they 🙂

  21. Lihtox October 12, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    @RichWilson: The community we moved to last year shuts down the streets on Halloween night specifically to prevent parents from following their children around in cars. Doesn’t hurt the turnout at all; I have never seen so many trick-or-treaters in my life (total) as we did last year.

    The choice of 13 as the appropriate age for trick-or-treating is silly; there are just too many variables– and I can’t go by my own experience because I grew up in a different neighborhood than where I live now. When my daughter is older, I’ll probably start with the question “Would I let her roam the neighborhood by herself/with friends at the same time of day any other night?” (Since she’s 3 right now, it’s fun to picture her old enough to do so.)

  22. dmd October 12, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    I don’t have a problem with whatever age parents do or don’t let their kids go trick-or-treating alone. It depends on too many factors: your neighborhood, your child, what the other kids are doing, etc. What bothers me is the Today show setting limits of this kind. This should be a parent-by-parent, neighborhood by neighborhood thing.

    My son is 8. He doesn’t have friends who live close by so sending him off on his own would not be a lot of fun for him. As a family, we have a lot of fun with it (as with Mardi Gras). I do think that there’s more to consider than whether they can cross the street, however. This is a night that older kids do play tricks…and sometimes teenage tricks are too much for for little ones. I’d like to think that all the neighborhood teens understand the boundaries, but the fact is that they don’t (and didn’t when I was a kid, too). So I do think more caution could be warranted on Halloween, just so your child is not in a position where they are unnecessarily uncomfortable or embarrassed.

  23. Laura October 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    My across the street neighbor was asking me if I was going to take my 3 and 6 year old trick or treating. When I told him of course, and then looked at him like he was crazy, he explained that a few of the neighborhood moms wanted to have a party instead. Apparently last year someone scared one of the little kids and she didn’t want her child to go through that trauma again so she wanted to have a party and get all the parents of little ones to come. Keep in mind that in our neighborhood the custom is to have the little kids go out when it is dusk so they can be in earlier.

    Seriously? Really? All I could do was shake my head and reiterate that we were taking our kids trick or treating.

  24. SKL October 12, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    Somebody has been watching too many horror flicks . . ..

  25. pentamom October 12, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    Okay, so if a guy is going to grab a child off the street and do unspeakable things to him, it matters whether or not he’s wearing a mask? Like unmasked people don’t do it most of the time? Like people do it in their own neighborhoods where they’re going to be recognized? Like they do it in front of witnesses for easy identification, like bank robbers, so the mask is necessary?

    Do these people even THINK before they say things?????

  26. AlanaM October 12, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    My boys just turned 11 and 8 and I am letting them so w/o a parent this year for the first time. Dh will be gone and I’d rather stay home anyway.

    14 will be their last year of TOTing.

  27. Alexicographer October 12, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    Hmmm. I was certainly trick-or-treating “alone” (meaning with the other neighborhood kids) by the time I was 7 or 8, and maybe younger. Of course we knew most of the grownups in the neighborhood and they knew us, so we were rarely (if ever) more than 1 house away from someone we knew.

    There was a wonderful institution in our neighborhood; we kids all convened in a particular family’s basement at the end of the trick-or-treating and swapped candies. A good basic lesson in markets … Mary Janes were never worth much, but I never have liked Snicker’s bars and could get good stuff in exchange for them. I’m sure the parents supported this (or it wouldn’t have happened), but my basic perception as a kid was that it was kid-operated, and certainly that was true of the nuts-and-bolts aspects of the operation.

    Last year in our neighborhood there was a potluck supper at one family’s home and then a large group of kids + some of the parents went and did the trick-or-treating thing. As a bunch of the kids in the group are quite little (3 or 4) and none are over, say, 8, this seemed to me a good setup; our son (then 2) chose not to trick or treat at all because he was too scared (one of our neighbors had set up a very, very scary lawn display and it was more than he was up for). But he enjoyed seeing the other kids come to our house. I’m hoping he’ll want to go with the group this year (though I’m sure he won’t unless one of us, his parents, goes with him) and that the group (of kids) will be allowed more independence as they grow up, though our neighborhood lacks sidewalks, which worries me a bit (perhaps ironic as the same was true of the neighborhood where I grew up!).

  28. malia October 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    Those poor people on the Today Show, they’re scared of everything, bless their hearts.

    I swear the best thing I ever saw on the Today Show was a Fourth of July safety segment a couple of years ago. In order to demonstrate just how incredibly dangerous firecrackers are, they stuck a bunch of them in a watermelon, stood WAY back, and then somehow lit the fuses remotely. KABOOM! The firecrackers did their thing and the watermelon exploded quite dramatically, as you would expect. Then they showed the explosion again, and again in slow motion.

    My girls and I were in the kitchen when the segment ran. We all stared, and started laughing. One daughter said, “I don’t think they accomplished what they set out to do,” The other said, “No, now every redneck in the country is calling his wife to say, Hey Darleen? We’re gonna need another watermelon for the 4th.–a BIG one!”

  29. Krista October 12, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    The Hallowe’en scare tactics (forgive the pun) drive me insane. When did we all forget what an incredible event Hallowe’en is? This is the ONE day of the year where complete strangers all silently work together. Neighbours, who on other days might bicker about lawns all band together for the sole purpose of giving kids a good time. It reminds me of the impromptu Christmas day ceasefires that took place in WWII. In all seriousness, Hallowe’en is the one event that makes me faintly believe that we are capable of setting aside our differences and getting along.

    I hope the fear mongers realize what they’re taking away.

  30. Dot Khan October 12, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    My mom pulled the 2 to 3 year olds in a little red wagon while us older kids ran to each house for Trick or Treating. The young ones were facing the street so they never knew (or cared) that they were only taken to every third door. When they reached about 4, mom wasn’t needed and all of the kids went together.

  31. KarenW October 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    Dang, this makes me want to send my kids (10 and 8) out trick or treating on their own, just to stand up against this hysterical nonsense. The only problem is, I really like trick or treating! Passing out candy is boring – I like walking through the neighborhood with them. And by next year, they might be embarrassed to be seen with me, so I’m going to tag along for as long as I still can.

  32. KarenW October 12, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    Where the hell did that smiley face come from? That’s supposed to be an 8.

  33. JeninCanada October 12, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    I think I remember trick or treating with friends when I was about 8 and that kept up until I was probably 12 or so. Before that my mom or dad would take me out and the other would stay home to do the candy thing. I don’t remember going with my sister; she’s 3 years older than I am and was probably out with her friends. We were well aware of where we were to trick-or-treat, to stay with our friends, to never go into anyone’s house and to watch out for cars (we lived on a four-lane that frequently had transports).

    This year my son is 4 and we’re looking forward to going out with him as a family, all dressed up together.

  34. Rachel Federman October 12, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

    I laughed (howled) all the way through this. Thank you. Absolutely hysterical. (Was just writing about plastic pumpkins today as well.) BTW, we have a babysitter for our toddler sometimes who is always running off, changing or canceling b/c of her other job baby-sitting a 12 year old and 15 year old, siblings, together. I can’t tell if I’m supposed to laugh or take it seriously or what the appropriate reaction is. It’s good for her (babysitter) but seems dreadful for the teens. I was baby sitting infants at 12 (which doesn’t seem too bright to me, but it worked out fine).

  35. Virginia October 12, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

    I’ll be out trick-or-treating with my 11-year-old daughter this year because her friends’ parents wouldn’t be comfortable with her going alone. Truthfully I don’t mind–it’s a nice evening’s walk and a chance to see all the little kids in cute costumes. I’ll hang out on the sidewalk and let the girls ring doorbells on their own. But, yes, it’s entirely possible that my kids will never get to go trick-or-treating without an adult chaperone; my son is 14 this year and hasn’t decided yet what he’s going to do, but he’s definitely a little old for trick-or-treat.

  36. Virginia October 12, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    Whoops! I meant to say “her friends’ parents wouldn’t be comfortable with *their* going alone”!

  37. Rich Wilson October 12, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    This was in Canada, and grades 1-7 were elementary school, while grades 8-12 were high school. So there was an adult imposed division of some kind that was just as silly as the driving age or voting age.

    Turning it into ‘the trick-or-treating ends’ was purely a construct of the kids that evolved long before I got there.

  38. Donna October 13, 2010 at 1:34 am #

    I think I went trick or treating with friends for the first time around 9 or 10. My last year of trick or treating was 12 or 13, well except for that time when I was in college. Since my neighborhood is not trick or treat friendly and we have to drive to another one, I guess my daughter is stuck with me until she makes friends in a better trick or treating neighborhood.

  39. Lori Walsh October 13, 2010 at 1:37 am #

    The Today Show has it backwards. 13 is the age at which you need to start keeping your kids at home because by then they are the ones CAUSING the trouble, lol!

    (And as the mother of teens I have to add that I’m kidding…mostly.)

  40. tommynomad October 13, 2010 at 1:41 am #

    1st year Trick-or-treating alone: 6yo (with friends)
    1st year cutting a jack-o-lantern with a knife: 6yo
    1st year tricking houses that didn’t treat: 9yo
    Last year trick-or-treating ’cause it just wasn’t cool: 12.

    People who get their parenting advice from the Today Show scare me, because they also get to vote.

    Kim alluded to a Hallowe’en tradition that I wondered even more about: who ever tricks anymore? I bet there are some stories out there of ridiculous killjoys charging 9-year-olds with vandalism or some such, for throwing eggs or TP.

  41. Greg October 13, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    The destruction of Halloween by crazy adults really annoys me. And as usual there is a profit motive behind it as well as the irrational “safety” issues. Now kids are expected to go to malls where they can be “safe” rather than door to door in the neighborhood. In my opinion there is no more obvious example of how we have ruined childhood.

    Worse yet, when the US Congress decided to lengthen daylight saving time a proud Congressman exclaimed that all the kids would be happy because by extending the daylight hours on Halloween the kids would have more time for trick or treating…. before dark. When I was a kid we went out after dark. That was the whole point!

    This is one more example of how the safer we get, the more paranoid we become. And as Lenore suggests it is the “media fear complex” that is to blame. It’s time we turn off the local TV and cable news networks once and for all!

  42. culdescahero October 13, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    I think those people are on crack, because, the only place that their thinking makes sense is a crack neighbourhood. Seriously, it isn’t safe for someone to cross the road by themselves before they’re 13? True, only if there’s a crack dealer on the other side.

  43. BrianJ October 13, 2010 at 2:09 am #

    I think that 13 is about the age where I get nervous about letting my kids be alone after dark with their friends. But that’s a whole different conversation.

  44. Adriana October 13, 2010 at 2:29 am #

    “The age that kids can really start trick or treating on their own, in my opinion? …a good rule of thumb is: the same age as you did. ”
    I was never allowed to go out alone trick-or-treating. It was a family affair and my parents always walked with us. I enjoy going out trick or treating with my kids. Not out of fear but out of fun. 🙂

  45. Christina October 13, 2010 at 2:55 am #

    My mom let my brother and I go off by ourselves (in a group with friends) when I was 8 and my brother was 4. Something the parents who go with their kids for “fun” – sure, we enjoyed it when our mom had come along previously, but it didn’t hold a candle to going off “alone” in the dark by ourselves!

    Trick or treating with my boys was fun last year, because it was the first time they were old enough to “get” it. However, I know myself well enough to realize that by the time they are 7 or 8, I will be sick of trudging from house to house with them. I would far rather dress up, decorate the house, and pass out candy. I stopped trick or treating at 13 specifically so I could do that. Knowing my little guys, they will get a huge kick out of trick or treating “alone” when the time comes. And while it may be self-serving, I honestly can’t imagine depriving them of that experience.

  46. Rachel Federman October 13, 2010 at 3:03 am #

    I hope this isn’t too off topic, but I was writing today about a little Halloween get-together my friend invited me too up in the “back country” of NH. (We often joke about our city mouse (I’m in NY)/country mouse divide.) It’s true this sounds the parents are all hovering around to some degree, but it still sounded so simple and lovely to me.

    “They are doing a costume parade/snacks for little ones at the school in town in the late afternoon and then a hayride to the farm next door where there is a corn maze. The students from the theater group at the local college dress up and hand out candy in the maze and then you walk down Main Street a little bit back to the school and trick or treat at those houses if you want on the way back to the car.”

    And the trick, for me anyway, is to sieze on things like this that affect me, and take what I can from them. Even if it’s only imagining this scene to be something it’s not or won’t be. What is it that appeals? The idea of simple, homemade and handed-down costumes, the moderation in time and expense, the mix of ages playing together, the willingness to call it a night without wondering “What else is out there? What am I missing?”. The smallness that’s big. Having something little and feeling fulfilled by it. There are ways to live like this in New York, it’s just not as natural sometimes.

  47. Betsy Strohmaier October 13, 2010 at 4:18 am #

    This is atrocious! I trick or treated starting in 7th or 8th grade with my friends growing up. We lived in an upper middle class suburb of LA.

    When I was 13, a fluke thing happened, my girlfriend and I were held up at gunpoint for our candy. It was at the edge of town, and we had seen a suspicious vehicle and didn’t heed caution to a strange man on a corner. We were totally okay, went and called the police at a neighbors. Very scared, but went trick or treating every year until I was 18. (guy who took it ended up with just the hard candies and a bunch of snotty kleenex to serve him right, since I was older, I had been “inspecting” and eating the good stuff along the way!)

  48. EricS October 13, 2010 at 4:33 am #

    @ Cara: rule of thumb, when your kids feel comfortable and are ready. I was around 7 or 8 when I first went trick or treating with no supervision. Just my, my younger brother (by 2 years), older sister (by 1 year), and her friend (same age as her). But again, by that age, our parents had already taught us how to be self sufficient, and we knew our neighborhood already (by way of going out and playing and exploring using the common sense tools that our parents taught us. ie. don’t talk to strangers, stick together, obey the traffic lights and look both ways, etc…).

    Some parents may never be ready, but that doesn’t mean their children won’t be either. Remember, it’s their pace, not yours. I was actually talking to my sister yesterday about taking my nephew out for his first Halloween (at 4 years). She’s a little apprehensive, but has been adopting how we grew up, and she’s made the conscious effort that if my nephew asks about it then she will let him. If not, then he’ll have to wait till next year. She’s learned that when he’s curious about things, she encourages him to learn about it, and then let him decide if he wants to pursue or move on to something else. It’s all about the learning and experience.

  49. Serena October 13, 2010 at 4:56 am #

    I think I was about 10 or 11 when I started Trick or Treating alone. I’ve always been with my kids because my older one is just turning 11 this year a week before Halloween and my little one is almost 6 so we all just go together. I wouldn’t have a problem if my older son wanted to go with friends, also because usually in my village kids start Trick or Treating while it’s still light out. What really bothered me the most was living in Tennessee, or the south in general, where so many people where against Halloween because they thought it was the devil’s birthday or some other garbage that they don’t research to know about but they like to make false claims about.

  50. Jennifer October 13, 2010 at 5:12 am #

    Where I live, Trick or Treating has been replaced with church “Trunk or Treats”, shopping mall/centers Trick or Treats, and various “Fall Festivals” marketed as an alternative to Trick or Treating (costumes welcome, but no scary ones- Princess or Superman ok, vampires and ghosts not ok) You can even go to the local grocery store and “Trick or Treat”, with parents in tow, of course. All advertised as “safe” alternatives to actual real Trick or Treating. It seems every year we get fewer and fewer kids coming to our door and fewer homes with porch lights on. I remember ranging around the neighborhoods for hours with friends as a 8 year old (no parents with us, and I was in charge of my younger brother!) and everyone was out and every home had candy, but those days are gone.

  51. shortylion October 13, 2010 at 5:21 am #

    I wish I remember what age my parents allowed us to go by ourselves trick or treating. Not alone, of course but with a group of kids, or at least my brother and cousins (4 in all). I do remember thinking to myself at 13 I was getting a little old for this. Maybe 10? That’s just a guess. Last year my daughter was just shy of 18 months and she LOVED going trick or treating. We must have spent an hour walking door to door, she loved walking up to people’s homes, taking a piece of candy and putting it in her pumpkin. But she didn’t have any idea there was anything IN the stuff she was getting, so Mommy got all the fruits of her labor. 🙂 This year I don’t think I”m going to be so lucky…She knows about candy now!

  52. spacefall October 13, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    I think I only ever went out alone when I was 11, the last year I really trick-or-treated. I don’t think it was a safety concern, though, so much as the fact that both my mother and my best friend’s mother really enjoyed the walk. They usually lingered a few houses behind us and chatted with each other, though. And the first year we were allowed to go out in the dark was a right of passage.

    Part of the problem might be that there just aren’t packs of kids wandering around on Halloween anymore. When I was a kid we’d get nearly 200 kids on a typical halloween. Now, just over a decade later, numbers have dwindled to a grand total of 5. Keep in mind this is a newish suburban neighbourhood popular with new families — the kids are still there, they just get their “scary” fun wrapped up in a mall-shaped package. Obviously that’s partly due to paranoia, but it’s really a bummer to think that so many kids are spending their halloween in a boring old mall. Just like any other day, but with more candy.

  53. Momof4 October 13, 2010 at 7:22 am #

    I never did go trick or treating with my parents as I has older siblings to take me proir to age 7. After that, it was me and a gang of kids from the neighborhood.

    It’s sad to say that I truly do belive that we may be telling our children’s children the spooky stories of how people actually let kids go door to door to beg for candy from strangers . . . after dark at that! It eventually will be just a horror story of our unlightened past as every generation of parent must love their kid even more than the last not to have submitted their littleJohnny or Suzie to such peril.

    Just a little FYI – How many apples have been thrown out thinking that some wingnut may have put pins or razors? Historically, there has never been an actual reported case of anything even remotely similar happening . . . EVER!

  54. Stephanie - Home with the Kids October 13, 2010 at 7:26 am #

    This is making me glad I had 3 sisters to go trick or treating with. We were often some of the last kids in, and never a problem.

    My oldest is 8, and my husband will be going with the kids, but once the 20 month old has had her fill of costumed people (just a few houses, I suspect), he’ll drop her with my and the two older kids will pretty much have to go to the doors on their own. Great lesson for my shy 5 year old. He finds every Halloween difficult at first, then gets into the spirit of it all, or maybe just hyper from the mere thought of all that sugar, and has a blast.

  55. decemberbaby October 13, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    We don’t celebrate Halloween (religious/philosophical reasons), but I’m appalled that what is a fun celebration for so many kids is being eclipsed by the well-meaning but misguided media/concerned citizens/parents. Let the kids be kids!

  56. Nicola October 13, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    Honestly – I don’t know why people put a limit on the age you “must” stop TOT’ing anyway. I remember as a teen you get dressed up, you go out TOT’ing for a little bit to get some candy (that is no longer the ultimate goal, mind you), then you hang out with your friends like normal, just dressed up in costume. Eventually, you start going to parties like adults do – and eventually, you make an ass of yourself when you’ve had one too many.

    But limiting the age at all seems ridiculous to me, since the age when one is limited is the very age they can decide if they want to dress up and go for themselves regardless.

    And I agree with one of the above posters – TOT’ing has always been fun for all of us. The difference is not telling your kids what to do or worrying over them, but just enjoying and talking and being together. I don’t know – doesn’t sound like a big deal to me.

  57. Library Diva October 13, 2010 at 10:13 am #

    I live in a densely populated urban area (but mostly single-family homes with a couple of duplexes or old mansions that have been converted into 4-6 apartments) . I’m here to tell you that in my own neighborhood, TOT is a live and well. I bought a pound and a half of candy for last year. By 4:30 p.m., it was clear that it would be woefully inadequate and I ran out and bought more. I barely sat down again until 8 p.m. and it wasn’t because the kids stopped coming, but because all the candy was gone.

    It was all combinations, ages and races of kids. From parents of infants out during daylight (I hope the ‘infants’ enjoyed the Snickers bars!) to entire families with moms, aunts, older kids and younger, to groups of kids unsupervised, if it’s out there, it stopped at my house last year. Really looking forward to this year.

    I wanted to tell a story from my own childhood as a way to show how we can all be on the frontlines of this fight. My neighbor spent much of one Halloween lurking in his own bushes dressed in a gorilla costume to scare all the kids. It worked!

    So if you want to keep the spooky in Halloween, there are a million ways you can keep it from being a bland “fall day”. This year, make that scary mix CD to blast, get that fog machine, splurge on that witch costume and but on a display that the kids you hand out candy to will remember for the rest of their lives!

  58. Jen Connelly October 13, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    I’m pretty sure as soon as my mom said I was old enough to trick or treat without her was the year I stopped trick or treating, lol. I always hated it. I went because my mom and brother went but when I didn’t have to any more I stayed home to pass out candy. I’m sure that was by age 11.
    My 10yo asked me if she could go out with her friends this year instead of with me and her younger siblings. I said I’d think about it. Depending on who is going and how far they plan to roam I’ll probably let her and would have no problem with my 9yo and 8yo tagging along with them. We’re new to the neighborhood so I’m not sure how they do trick or treating here. Most of the kids are pretty free-range just roaming around the neighborhood so it wouldn’t surprise me to see a large group of kids without any adults.
    I probably wouldn’t allow it back in Chicago. People drive like idiots on Halloween and there are few houses on each block that give out candy so you really have to walk a huge distance to get any decent amount. And then there’s this moron that lives a few blocks down the street from us.
    I was out with my kids, my friend and her kids a couple years ago and this guy had on a really scary mask. The older kids were kind of freaked but took the candy and ran. My friend’s 2yo was TERRIFIED of this guy. So what does he do? Does he take his mask off to reassure a scared little girl? No he follows her down the street menacingly while she screamed and cried and tried to run into some strangers house just to get away from him. We couldn’t get her calmed down and then he just stood a good 10 feet away and stared at her. I’ve never seen a kid so scared. She was clutching onto her mother and it completely ruined the night for her. She refused to go to any other houses and cried the rest of the night. WTH us wrong with people? He does it every year, too. My friend’s husband almost went over there to knock some sense in to him after the fact.

  59. dmd October 13, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    @Greg , you are so right! The change in Daylight savings is AWFUL. When I was a kid I thought time changed so that it would be dark for Halloween.

    They did trunk or treat in our n’hood for a few years after Katrina since there weren’t enough homes reoccupied. That’s ended but a few block parties have sprung up which are quite festive and we enjoy going as a family.

  60. Sheila Keenan October 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    Our neighbourhood goes over the top for Halloween, so it’s a social event for parents as well as the kids. If my son wanted to go on his own, I think I’d let him. (He’s 7, so far he likes us to go with him.)
    My parents who let me range free during the day didn’t let me go trick or treating on my own, even though most of my friends got to and I would have been fine. I was always so embarrassed to have my dad trailing along. A friend and I still wanted to go when we were in Grade 8 (Grade 7 was the usual cut-off where I grew up) and one of the reasons I was so excited to go was my parents let me go on my own. Another reason was I wasn’t ready to let go of that part of my childhood. For me trick-or-treating that year was a real mix of craving independence and still wanting to be a kid. (My friend and I really worked on our costumes too, it wasn’t just a put-a-mask-on-to-get-candy thing.)

  61. NJMom October 13, 2010 at 8:18 pm #

    What’s most irritating about the Today Show segment and the whole over-the-top-Halloween thing is that, yet again (and again, and again), adults of today are incapable of letting children do things on their own. There just isn’t much of a divide between kid life and parent life. And I just can’t figure out why parents and children aren’t mutually embarassed when mommy says to the ten-year old, “So, let’s start thinking about your costume!” It happens in my area and it’s just lame.

    I for one need my children to hang out with other children and have a life I know nothing about. Hey, don’t worry, at the same time I have developed a relationship with them where they can come to me to when they need help, advice, and problem-solving. I also need to have time with my husband to talk about issues unrelated to children when there are no children present. Hanging with other couples who feel the same sure would be nice.

    What does this have to do with Halloween? Well, simply put, when I was a kid Halloween was for CHILDREN. End of story. Well, ok, but not quite the end of my comment…

    My parents, back in the early 70’s, had cocktails in the living room before dinner, without children of course. I do believe that’s an excellent tradition; it’s a lot more fun than running to Target for last minute Halloween costumes, etc.

  62. Hege October 13, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    So only at 13 you’re safe to go out on your own at Halloween?
    And in some states you can drive at 14?
    I’ve heard of growth spurts, but have a hard time believing in a sudden maturity spurt between 13 and 14/15, so to me there is something profoundly wrong with this picture.

  63. Dalia October 13, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    I have to say I do agree…with the 13 thing. My son has just turned 13 and I now feel he is ready to be responsible enough. And, I didn’t go trick or treating by myself until I was almost 16! I know, give it to me now….:).

  64. Uly October 14, 2010 at 2:25 am #

    Momof4, that’s not true. According to Snopes there HAVE been a few cases of people finding razor blades or pins in apples. However, they’re easily detected by anybody looking around at the apple or, for the paranoid, anybody cutting their apples open prior to eating them (as in Firefly).

    There have NOT been cases of strangers poisoning candy, though… although there have been a few cases of people claiming strangers poisoned candy in order to get away with harming their kids or to cover up for druggie relatives, or as a prank.

    Honestly – I don’t know why people put a limit on the age you “must” stop TOT’ing anyway. I remember as a teen you get dressed up, you go out TOT’ing for a little bit to get some candy (that is no longer the ultimate goal, mind you), then you hang out with your friends like normal, just dressed up in costume. Eventually, you start going to parties like adults do – and eventually, you make an ass of yourself when you’ve had one too many.

    I agree – and when it’s grown-ups doing it, it annoys me. You REALLY don’t know if the child you turned away is “too old” or just really tall/developed for their age. I was ELEVEN when it happened to me – and the woman didn’t say a WORD to my older sister.

    My rule is very simple: No costume, no candy.

    Costume? CANDY! (Also, if you’re escorting smaller children, or if you can convince me that your school clothes constitute a “costume”, I’ll be nice.)

    But this year I’m not even giving out candy. I’m giving out glowsticks. I gave out a few that I had lying around last year and people loved ’em, and they’re cheaper than candy. (Plus, they’ll light my porch. My porch light’s bulb is broken, and we can’t figure out what sort of light bulb goes into it.)

  65. Brian October 14, 2010 at 3:40 am #

    If the Today Show says 13, I am going to wait until my kid is 18 to let him go trick or treating alone. Just in case, because, you know, I could never live with myself if anything happened.

  66. Sammi October 14, 2010 at 3:58 am #

    Trick-or-treating seems to be dying here in Calgary. Two years ago, I lived in one of the safest communities in Calgary, and we only got two groups of trick or treaters. It was quite disappointing.

  67. Sky October 14, 2010 at 5:16 am #

    Hmmm…can’t remember when I did. I was probably 5 or 6, but with my brother who was 9 or 10.

  68. ReflectiveAgent October 14, 2010 at 7:35 am #

    Thanks for the (slightly bitter) laugh, Lenore!! I’m laughing because I feel likes it almost all I can do. I will probably end up taking my kids out TorTing because the other kids’ parents, who will insist on accompanying their kids, will not want to be my kids’ chaperons.

  69. Dawn October 14, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    I love our town. Every year they block off a few areas to all cars (except those who live there) and the kids go trick or treating. Very safe because there are no cars and parents tend to congregate in groups on the sidewalk and let their children (usually 8 and under) go up to several houses themselves until they get out of eyesight unless with an older child.

    Of course, the very little ones (toddlers) usually have mom or dad’s hand but sometimes go with a sibling. We live just outside the blocked off area so donate candy (the town collects candy for the blocked off houses so they don’t go broke supplying it). We will usually see 40-70 kids, depending on the weather and the day Halloween falls. We’ll see the littlest early on (5-7:30 or so), followed by the older ones until about 9. We all enjoy it, and often get kids from other areas who love the ability to run up and down the streets. (Our town streets don’t always have sidewalks and are rather dark, so the blocked off streets are a safety measure).

    They have done it this way for years. Older kids will often hit the blocked zone with younger siblings then go off to other houses on their own. We will occasionally even see high school kids (8:30 or 9 pm) out for candy.

  70. Karla October 14, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    I’m in Calgary, too, Sammi! Did you see the ad in Calgary’s Child from a dentist’s office (could have been an orthodontist) where they would BUY kids’ candy after Halloween, $1 per pound or some other ‘reward’ per pound, not money, but a slightly higher dollar value? I can’t even remember what it was. The whole ad just aggravated me. I get that candy is bad for teeth, we all know that, but why destroy the one day a year when kids can revel in a mound of candy? I hate when adults try to ruin something mostly harmless that brings kids joy. I LOVED Halloween as a kid, who didn’t? Buy my candy?!?!?!?!?! You’d have to give me a lot more than a dollar a pound!!!

  71. Dee Hall October 14, 2010 at 10:16 pm #

    At 13, I was escorting my 5-year-old sister and a couple of her friends trick-or-treating, not trick-or-treating myself.

    I have a memory of year I was allowed to go around my block trick or treating “alone” (with friends my own age), a memory of a year when my limits were expanded to our entire local neighborhood, and a memory of a year when my limits were “don’t cross the busy streets” which were 95th (north), 111th (south), Western Ave (west) and some vague east boundary.

    We moved out of that house when I was 11 and I remember having the “don’t cross the busy streets” limits for a couple of years. So, around the block at maybe 6 or 7, around the local area maybe 8, around the whole area, maybe 9.

  72. Greta October 15, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    I’m 12, and I like trick-or-treating with my mum + dad, thankyouverymuch. Just because it’s safe to do so, doesn’t mean we want to do something, you know.

  73. shawn3k October 17, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    The only reason I never trick or treated without an adult is because I lived in the country and had to be driven into town to trick or treat! Even then, my mom would pull way up the street and let me work my way up. Pull up further and again, I’d work my way up. I wasn’t exactly alone and I wasn’t hovered over, a nice balance. Its what we do now for our kids – walk the neighborhood with them and tell them “Go on, but stop at that house and wait for us to catch up.”

  74. oncefallendotcom October 17, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    I know I’m chiming in a little late, but I’m amazed there were no explicit mentions of “sexual predators” (although it was implied in the Today Show segment). Of course, there has never been a reported case of a child raped and murdered on Halloween, but it is usually the one thing the media loves to use to scare the crap out of all those paranoid helicopter moms.

  75. pentamom October 19, 2010 at 1:11 am #

    oncefallendotcom — there actually was a case in Western Pennsylvania of a child who was kidnapped, molested, and murdered while walking home from a Halloween party — albeit on 10/27, not 10/31. The murder happened in 1992, the case was finally solved and ended in convictions in 2006.

    It’s certainly rare, and it doesn’t seem like there’s any particular statistical correlation between Halloween, and rape/murders, so I agree that having a particular fear about it on Halloween is unfounded, but we ought to be careful about saying what has “never happened.”

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