When I was a kid, growing up in a Midwestern suburb that felt very safe, I went trick-or-treating with the same friend every year. Sometimes we took along another pal or two as we meandered through our quiet, pumpkin-lit neighborhood, ringing doorbells, showing off our homemade costumes and filling our pillowcases with candy, but I don’t remember, past maybe the age of 7, taking along our parents.
Now, as the mother of a 7- and a 5-year-old, I cannot imagine allowing my children to trick-or-treat without an adult in tow. (I barely allow them to cross the street without holding my hand.) I suppose that day may come, but when? When is the right time to allow your kids to trick-or-treat without you or your spouse tagging along after them?
The Asheville (North Carolina) Citizen-Times recently posed this very question to its local police department. Cpl. Ben Parker, of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, told the paper that, in general, he doesn’t think it’s a great idea for kids to trick-or-treat without a parent or trusted adult nearby, and that he generally recommends a ratio of at least one adult chaperone to every five kids for elementary and early middle school age kids.
If parents do allow their older kids to make the Halloween candy rounds without them, Parker added, they should set boundaries on the time and location, send them off armed with cell phones, and make sure they know who their kids are with at all times.
The kids, he said, “should stay in lit-up areas where there are lots of people, carry flashlights and wear reflective, flame-retardant clothing.”
All of which sounds like fine advice, but it doesn’t answer the original question: How old should a kid be before he or she goes trick-or-treating on their own? And if they’re old enough to be trick-or-treating on their own, are they too old to be trick-or-treating at all? What parameters do you set with your kids? Weigh in!