Halloween can be scary -- and of course, that's the whole idea, to a point. But particularly when the kids are very small, it can be frightening not only for them, but for parents as well. After all, on any other day, taking your kids out on the streets after dark, knocking on strangers' doors and asking for candy would be considered unthinkable. We have four simple tips for first-timers -- and important reminders for the veterans -- for how to keep your child safe, healthy and happy this "All Hallow's Eve."

  • 1

    Warmth

    Particularly in the case of the grade school set, you're not exactly going to be dressing your child up as a "sexy nurse" or a "naughty black cat." But even some of the more demure costumes can be thin or offer inadequate arm or leg coverage -- princess gowns, anyone? And by the end of October in Bismarck, winter is already beginning to set in. This issue can be fixed in one of three ways.

    The first is simply to require they wear coats... but let's be honest, they're not going to like that idea because it covers up the adorable costume they were so excited about (and that you spent money on). Another way is to choose a costume that offers full-coverage -- superheros, with their padded built-in "muscles," and furry animals are good ones to consider. Or pick a costume with which a heavy coat would blend right in, like a pilot or a clown. The third solution is to layer, layer, and layer some more. Put a pair of thick tights or long johns -- or several pairs -- on under skirts or flimsy pants. Close-fitting tops or leotards -- maybe in a color that blends in with skin tones if the costume is short-sleeved -- work well up top. If you choose to go this route, remember to purchase a costume that allows room for layering underneath. Also try and choose something that includes a hat, wig or full-coverage mask, to keep heads and ears warmer.

    Take a cue from this little guy and wear "fur." (Photo: HannamariaH/ThinkStock)
  • 2

    Visibility

    Most families wait until after dark to trick-or-treat, because it's tradition. But it's also risky, especially when you consider the fact that many in the older crowd will be partying that night, and unfortunately, some may be driving who shouldn't. But even safe drivers can fail to see someone walking who isn't sufficiently visible in the dark.

    Some costumes take care of that themselves, like firefighters, police officers, or any of those newfangled light-up costumes. But most do not. So carry a flashlight, or better yet, one for each member of your trick-or-treating party. You can also get little strobe-like flashing lights that attach easily to costumes at any party or Halloween store. Another option is to get some of those party glow sticks that can be worn like necklaces or bracelets. They last a good six to eight hours on average, come in a rainbow of colors, and can be found at most dollar stores.

    Hang these from belts or trick-or-treat buckets. (Photo: DuncanL/ThinkStock)
  • 3

    Supervision

    Kids get excited by Halloween, fueled by visions of a bucket-load of candy, and they want to run full-tilt from one house to the other. Which means supervision is very important. You don't have to invest in one of those "kiddie leashes" -- just be attentive and firm when it comes to safety.

    One adult per two children is ideal, though we realize that sometimes this isn't possible. So keep them close to you at all times. Some parents choose to hang back while the kiddos go to the door, which is fine, but keep your eyes on them, and never let them run ahead of you up the road. Stick to densely populated, well-lit streets that are off the main drags, and make sure they stop and look both ways -- twice -- at each intersection. Most importantly, never send any one kid off alone, at any time, for any reason. Use a predetermined buddy system, preferably one that includes an adult with each child or two.

    Keep your little ones close as they go door-to-door. (Photo: Creatas Images/ThinkStock)
  • 4

    Courtesy

    Many people and families, for religious, cultural, financial or personal reasons, do not celebrate Halloween. And for as long as most can remember, the universal symbol for "leave us alone" on Halloween night is a dark house. If the porch light is off, move on, even if you can see the TV glowing in the window or hear people inside. They don't have candy, and likely won't even answer the door or appreciate the knock.

    Two more things to remember: 1) At the houses that put bowls of goodies on the porch saying "help yourself," keep your kiddos reasonable. There will be more kids along, and it's only polite to leave some for them. 2) When someone does answer the door to hand out candy, make sure your kids are saying "thank you" -- it's the oldest and simplest rule in any book of etiquette.

    Think of a lit Jack o'lantern like you would a porch light. (Photo: Ivan Bliznetsov/ThinkStock)
  • 5

    Caution

    Much as it pains us to contribute to the sadly alarmist society we live in, when it comes to what you allow your children to eat, there's no such thing as "too cautious." No matter how they might try to beg, plead or cajole, do not allow the kids to consume goodies along the way -- save it all for when you get home, where you can inspect each fun-size package for punctures. Make sure you lift up the flaps along the seams in the back; if you find holes or evidence of tampering of any kind, don't risk it. Dispose of the candy right away. Also, unfortunately, homemade items should also be discreetly made to disappear. There are allergen issues to consider... and we don't like to admit it, but there are weirdos out there; so unless those caramel apples were made by a close family member or a friend or neighbor you've trusted for years, it's not worth the risk of putting it in your child's tummy.

    Everything in that bucket should be thoroughly examined before giving to children. (Photo: Jennifer Barrow/ThinkStock)