By Laurie McKillip, M.D.

As with most events this year, Halloween will be different due to the pandemic. With concerns about spreading the coronavirus still high, traditional trick-or-treating and parties are considered risky. But kids and adults can still participate in Halloween fun while following safety guidelines.

We’ve come up with some alternative activities that keep the treat in Halloween even when celebrating is a bit tricky.

Halloween at Home
There are a lot of ways to give your kids a memorable Halloween without ever leaving the house.

  • Create a haunted house inside your own home. Depending on the ages and sensitivity of your kids, you can decorate your haunted house with cute pumpkins and ghosts or really turn up the spooky with eerie music, blacklights, and animatronic creatures. To really amp up the thrills, decorate when the kids are sleeping so they don’t see all of the treats you have in store for them.
  • Have a pumpkin carving and decorating contest with your family, with one family member acting as the judge. Award the winners with fun treats. Then display the pumpkins outside.
  • Hold a scavenger hunt inside your house or even around the neighborhood if kids can keep a safe distance from others. Or have an Easter-egg-style hunt by hiding Halloween-themed items and awarding the person who finds the most.
  • Have a virtual costume contest, game night, or movie night with family and friends who are not in your home, using technology like Zoom.

Creep Outside
Outdoor Halloween activities can still be low to moderate risk if some precautions are taken. During any event or activity, people from different households should stay six feet apart, everyone should wear protective face coverings, and the number of people in attendance should be kept to the number specified by your area’s guidelines.

Here are some ways to safely celebrate outside:

  • Have a neighborhood costume parade. There are a couple of ways to do this. Participants can either stand outside of their homes in their costumes while neighbors drive around, or participants can walk around the neighborhood six feet apart to show off their costumes to people watching from their homes.
  • “Boo” your neighbors by dropping off a goody basket at each doorway, ringing the bell, and walking away. It’s a “ding-dong-ditch” trick everyone will love to be treated to!
  • Set up a movie theater in a back yard or park using a large white sheet and projector. Spray paint X’s on the grass six feet apart to indicate where attendees should set up their chairs or blankets. Be sure everyone brings their own snacks and refreshments.
  • Look for events held by retailers that are designed for safe Halloween fun. Lowe’s locations are offering drive-thru, curbside trick-or-treating for two weekends in October. Target is giving out “boo bag starter kits” to customers who use their pickup services. Keep an eye out for events in your area.

It’s important to note that costume masks are not a safe substitute for protective masks. Also, wearing a costume mask over a protective mask could make breathing difficult. The best option is to make a protective face covering part of the costume.

Whatever activity you choose, if you are in contact with people or objects outside of your household, be sure to bring along hand sanitizer to use when necessary.

Don’t Boo It!
The CDC strongly advises against participating in the following activities:

  • Traditional, door-to-door trick-or-treating
  • Trunk-or-treat events during which treats are handed out from cars in parking lots
  • Large, indoor costume contests
  • Indoor haunted houses
  • Hayrides with people not in your household
  • Parties with more than 10 people

There’s no need to cancel Halloween this year! With a little imagination, you and the kids can still have a spook-tacular time while staying safe and healthy.

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Dr. Laurie McKillip is board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Conroe Family Medicine Clinic. She’s a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics. Her clinical interests include neonatology, weight management, and dermatology.