By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor
Families have different traditions for taking part in Trick-or-Treating. Some participate in church festivals, many go door-to-door in their neighborhood, and others, like Kent, the boys and me, do a combination of both. And there are families who choose to let the day go by without attention. Regardless of how you participate, you’ll enjoy these practical points, because there’s something here for everyone.
Trick or Treat Manners for Kids and Grown-ups!
With input from children, moms, and my personal observations, here’s the Gold Standard of interacting that will make sure trick-or-treating is a treat for children, parents, and neighbors alike! I’ve broken the tips into three parts:
Part One: Tips written in kid-friendly language to share with your children!
Part Two: Accompanying your children while they go door-to-door? You’ll want all these tips for bringing out the best in your little ones as they stand on your neighbors’ front porches!
Part Three: Staying home to give out candy to trick-or-treaters? These tips will help you make happy memories for all your little guests!
Trick-or-Treat Manners to Share with Your Children (written in kid-friendly language!)
- Always assume there’s a one-piece limit on taking candy from the bowl. If the person offers you more, take one or two more pieces, and don’t forget to say thank you, even if you already said it.
- Make a quick decision! If Mom or Dad can count to “seven” before the candy is in your bag, you’re taking too long.
- If you don’t like the candy being offered, take a piece anyway, and say thank you!
- Don’t say anything negative about the candy you’re being offered, and don’t ask whether the people have anything else. Since they picked out the candy, you could hurt their feelings by making them think they didn’t make a good choice.
- Don’t search through the candy bowl looking for “the good stuff.” Take a piece from the top and move out of the way to make room for the next kids approaching the door.
- Remember, no one reads your mind. Your neighbors don’t know that you appreciate their kindness unless you tell them. Look each person who gives you candy in the eye, smile, and say, “Thank you for the candy!”
- Make sure your voice is loud enough for the person to hear you say thank you.
- As I told my son when he was six and “forgot” to say thank you at each house: If you’re not old enough to remember to say thank you without being reminded, then maybe you’re not old enough to go trick-or-treating.
- If the front door light isn’t on, or if the window blinds are closed, skip the house. A dark, closed house is the silent signal that the homeowner isn’t going to be giving out candy this year.
- Don’t touch the decorations or play with anything on the front porch. It’s easy for decorations to fall over or break.
- Knock or ring the doorbell once — twice at the most. After that, leave if no one comes to the door.
- Even though you want to get from house to house quickly, stay on the sidewalk and driveways, and stay off people’s grass. Also, be careful not to walk through their shrubs and flowers. This is one way you show respect for other people’s homes.
- If you’re going to go trick-or-treating, then you have to wear a costume! It’s part of the tradition or the “rules of the game.” It’s kind of like being on a sports team, when you have to wear your team uniform to all the games.
Tips Just for Mom and Dad
- Don’t carpool your children to another neighborhood unless a friend or relative lives there. People buy candy based on the amount used last year. A few minivans of unexpected children can cause the host to run out of candy in no time.
- When escorting your children, leave your own costume at home. It distracts from the little ones’ spotlight.
- The trick-or-treating hour is all too brief in the minds of our kids. It’s fine to talk to the other adults walking with you, but keep chit-chat at the neighbors’ doors to a minimum. Nothing is more frustrating that night to a nine-year-old than feeling he’s being “slowed down” by Mom conducting a neighborhood association meeting.
- Once your children are six or older and you’re confident they’re remembering their pleases and thank-yous, stay on the neighbor’s driveway or the end of the sidewalk and shine your flashlight in the direction of the neighbor’s front door. That lets strangers know you’re right there, but gives your children the illusion they’re on their own. I read once that “No one ever was scared of the Headless Horseman…and his dad.”
- In the days leading up to candy night, role-play with your children on what to say and how to respond at the front door of neighbors’ homes. They’ll feel more confident on opening night if they’ve had several trial runs.
- Once the door opens, don’t prompt your children about what to say. If they aren’t quickly forthcoming with the “right” words, say something like this: “Zach’s a little shy this evening. I’m sure he wants to say, ‘Thank you very much for the candy.'” This reinforces for Zach the best thing to say, and the more he hears you say it and the kind responses you receive from saying it, the more verbal courage he’ll gain to say it for himself.
- Nothing’s more awkward for the child, parent, or neighbor than a mom or dad at the front door echoing the refrain, “Brooke, what do you say? Come on now, we’ve practiced this. Brooke, I’m serious, you need to say thank you.”
- Don’t take groups of more than five or six children out together. The larger the group, the louder and more rambunctious they tend to be, and the harder it is for the children to maneuver at the front doors. It’s a good idea to break large groups of friends into two smaller ones, each visiting a different neighbor first, with a 90-second-or-so gap between the two groups.
Tips for Those Handing Out Candy at Home
- Make it obvious that you’re “Open for Business.” Turn on all the lights in the front of your house, turn on the porch light, and open all your blinds.
- Secure all pets in another room. You know that little Fido wouldn’t hurt anyone, but the four-year-old at the door isn’t so sure.
- Don’t dress in a costume yourself, especially a scary or gruesome one. Children expect the door to be opened by a friendly-looking grown-up, not a vampire.
- If you don’t participate in the night’s festivities, that’s fine. To avoid confusion, just make sure your house is dark.
- If you choose to take part in the night, do so with a smile. If it’s a decision you’ve made, then it’s not an imposition of your time or energy.
- If it’s OK for the children to take more than one piece of candy, tell them so. “Please take three pieces. I made sure I had plenty.”
- If you place the candy in the children’s bags, don’t just toss it in their direction. It’s hard for little ones to bend over in their masks.
- Keep your front porch free of anything too spooky or easy for children to stumble over.
- A Grace Note: Don’t comment negatively on a child’s costume. Several years ago my son’s little friend dressed as the ultimate Florida Gator’s fan. At one neighbor’s house, a man opened the door and with a stern voice said, “I shouldn’t give candy to someone in that horrible jersey. You need to choose the right team if you want candy from me.” In shock, I held the hand of the little boy who was now scared and almost in tears. My husband then informed the man that the six-year-old was wearing a costume chosen for him, not by him, so perhaps he should take his complaint up with the boy’s father. The man tossed a piece of candy into each of the boys’ buckets and closed the door loudly without saying another word. As we walked down the driveway, my son asked, “Mom, is that a bad man like the ones you tell me to look out for?” “Yes, sadly, Sweetie, he is one type,” I replied.
- When opening the door, pretend, at least for a moment, that you don’t recognize the children. Let them know their costume is a great disguise. The last thing the “Darth Vader” at your front door wants to hear is, “Hi, Tyler! Tell your mom I said hello!”
- Most of all, have a great time! The years go by way too quickly. Moms, before we know it, we’ll be holding our grandchildren’s hands, not our children’s anymore!
If you eat any Kit Kats, think of me — they’re my favorite candy! In fact, I might have bought an extra bag at the store just so I’d have some for the
weeks days ahead!