When it comes to Halloween night, some of us prefer to turn off the TV and all the lights and pretend that nobody’s home (don’t hate—we know you’ve done it, too). But others of us live for this one electric evening when we get to take in the costumes and the joy as we hand out candy to tiny Black Panthers and mini Elsas.
It all sounds harmless enough—a bunch of costumed kids running around your front yard, just trying to fill their pillow cases to capacity. But here’s the thing: If you haven’t prepared your home for so many visitors, big and small, a night of frights and delights can easily turn into a series of cursed mishaps.
Don’t be haunted by your mistakes! If you’re planning to host hordes of trick-or-treaters this year, make sure to avoid these pitfalls before the kiddos come a-knocking.
1. Not clearing your walkway
Sure, you probably know your walkways shouldn’t be obstructed by giant inflatable jack-o’-lanterns and animatronic spiders. But clearing away the big stuff doesn’t mean you can ignore the small stuff; it’s incredibly easy to trip and fall on bits of debris—especially in the dark, and especially if you’re an excited (and sugar-high) 9-year-old.
Sweep away anything that could be a hazard on the way to the candy door—pine cones, nuts, etc.—and don’t forget about your yard, too.
“Kids tend to cut across lawns on Halloween night, so it’s important to store any yard-related items or chemicals away and out of sight,” says Andrew Roszak, executive director for the Institute for Childhood Preparedness.
“If you have in-ground sprinklers, be sure to place a cover over them so children don’t trip,” he adds.
2. Keeping things too dark and spooky
We get it—your Halloween decor is meant to be enjoyed in the dark. But for safety reasons, you should plan on leaving (at least a few) lights on to help your visitors navigate the front yard.
Not only is a well-lit porch a good idea for your own personal safety (so you can see who’s coming and going), but it’s also important if you want to attract trick-or-treaters.
“Parents warn children not to go near homes that are dark and suspicious,” Roszak says.
3. Using candles
Sure, you need to have some light—and nothing screams “Halloween” quite like a flickering jack-o’-lantern. But having an open flame on your busy front porch? Probably not the best idea.
“Stick to electric lights, rather than lit candles,” Roszak says. “Choose LED candles; open flames can cause fires, especially when children are excitedly running around. Let’s also not forget that a child’s costume can catch fire if she’s standing too close to an open flame.”
4. Not keeping pets inside
Even if your dog loves kids, the general mayhem of Halloween is enough to give most animals some anxiety.
“Make sure pets have a safe, quiet place to relax and aren’t inadvertently let out of the home when the door is opened,” says veterinarian Rachel Barrack. “This is particularly important with regard to Halloween trick-or-treaters, when the door is being opened repeatedly and scary costumes and loud noises could alarm your pet.”
Plan on keeping your pets indoors on the big night, even if they normally prefer to be outside.
5. Inadvertently displaying your valuables
No matter how cute the costumes, hosting trick-or-treaters still is all about openly inviting strangers to your home. Which means it’s a good idea to keep any tempting valuables out of sight.
“A lot of people keep their keys near their front door—it makes sense—but you should take care to hide them out of view,” says Joanne Archer of Expert Home Tips. “You don’t want strangers to find out where you keep them.”
Besides keys, anything expensive and easy to take should be tucked away and out of sight when your trick-or-treaters start arriving. This includes wallets, phones, tablets, and even laptops.
Archer also offers some sound advice for protecting your car on the big night.
“From swords to broomsticks, costume accessories can easily end up scratching your vehicles,” she says. “Make sure that you keep your vehicles as far away from the walkway as possible.”
6. Not securing your home
On a related note: Although your front porch should be readily accessible to trick-or-treaters, be sure to keep other doors to your home locked. According to a 2016 report from Travelers Insurance, claims due to theft (inside the home) increased by 60% on Halloween night. Translation: Make sure your home is secure, and keep the party on the front porch.
“Don’t invite trick-or-treaters inside your home,” Archer says. “This sounds obvious, but keep the festivities to the front lawn. There’s no need to make your home into a haunted house—you never know who you could be inviting inside.”
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