With Halloween just around the corner, that means it’s time for many home owners to get their trick-or-treater game in gear. First Halloween as a homeowner? New to a trick-or-treating neighborhood? Follow these tips to get your home ready for trick-or-treaters this Halloween.
1. Clear the Path
You want your walkway to be clear of anything that might trip up little ones (or their litigious parents) in the dark. In the clear light of day, walk all the way to your front entrance from the street. Fix any loose paving stones, rickety hand rails, or other potential hazards. Put away bicycles and other potential obstacles. Sweep up any leaves or fallen debris.
Clearing the path to your front door is especially important for folks who use their front doors less frequently: if you’re like most Americans, chances are pretty good that the most commonly used entrance to your home is through the garage.
2. Put Up Decorations
If you want trick-or-treaters to know that they’re welcome at your home, you’ll want to put up at least a few festive decorations. You don’t have to go totally nuts, of course—unless going over-the-top with holiday decorations is your thing. (In that case, remember that a little bit of scary decor can go a long way, especially for little kids. Keep it reasonable. You don’t want crying toddlers on your doorstep.)
For the theme-decorating averse, inexpensive paper decorations are available at basically any drugstore. Put them up for one day only, and pack them away for next year.
For decor that will last well into autumn, consider decorative gourds, un-carved pumpkins, and wreaths in fall colors. If you’re lucky, your tasteful autumn arrangement could make it all the way to Thanksgiving.
3. Light the Way
Darkened doorways may be extra spooky, but they aren’t especially inviting. With strangers and small children approaching, you’ll want to make sure that everyone can see clearly to your front door, all the way from the street.
At the minimum, leave your porch light on. You might also consider stringing extra lights near your front door or along the pathway. Your house will look extra festive, and you’ll reduce the odds of an accident happening on your driveway.
4. Don’t Get Burned
Jack o’ lanterns are tons of fun but think twice before illuminating them with old-school candles.
Piles of dried leaves, paper decorations flapping around in the autumn wind, and clumsy children up past their bedtimes chasing candy in the dark: none of these mix well with open flames.
Even if you’re very careful, your neighbors’ highly-flammable decorations could blow into your yard. So use faux LED candles for that flickering light effect.
5. Secure Your Pets
Opening and closing your front door dozens of times in one evening? Then you’ll want to make sure that Fluffy and Fido are well away from the trick-or-treat action.
Trying to find your cat outside in the dark is no fun on an ordinary night. And spooked pups could potentially bite and injure trick-or-treaters, turning a fun Halloween evening into a real nightmare. Keep calm, costumed pets on a leash and clear of the doorway. Or better yet, set the pets up in an interior room in your home and close the door until the trick-or-treating is over.
6. Get the Good Stuff
Remember, you’re the adult now. When you head to the store to pick up Halloween treats, don’t get the weird candy. Let some other houses insist on introducing neighborhood children to the awfulness that is necco wafers or circus peanuts.
And unless you’re baking for children and families that know you personally, you’ll want to stick to store bought treats in their original packaging. Most parents are wary of allowing their children to accept homemade goods from strangers. Save your adorable Halloween snickerdoodles for the church bake sale or classroom Halloween party.
7. Consider Some Non-Candy Treats
Some kids have food sensitivities that make trick-or-treating difficult. And even without specific allergies, spider rings, vampire teeth, and stickers are all pretty exciting for folks in the single-digit age bracket. Think about offering treats that aren’t candy, either in addition to or in lieu of the traditional sugar-loaded Halloween treats.
(Pro-tip: if you’re going with candy and non-candy options, keep the non-candy treats in a separate bowl. That kid with the severe peanut allergy won’t be able to wear that slap bracelet if it’s been in contact with a Snickers bar.)
That said, if you’re going to eschew the candy altogether, don’t be the house giving out toothbrushes or boxed raisins. Kids (and their parents) will remember you as some kind of Halloween Grinch. Even if you aren’t handing out candy, offer something fun for the kiddos who knock on your door.
8. Collaborate with Your Neighbors
The best neighborhoods for trick-or-treating are the ones where most households get in on the action. You’re far more likely to welcome trick-or-treaters if lots of other houses on your block and in your neighborhood participate. And that means that the run-up to Halloween is an excellent time to check in with your neighbors about their Halloween plans, or just to say hello.
Feeling ambitious? Halloween block parties are a great way to meet your neighbors and have tons of fun. Your neighborhood may already have Halloween traditions in place. And if not, there’s no time like the present to get something started.
9. Show Some Spirit
Answering the door for princesses and ninjas in your boring street clothes is a bummer. Show some Halloween spirit with a costume of your own. You don’t have to go overboard if dressing up isn’t really your thing—a witch’s hat or pumpkin shirt is better than nothing at all.
When you do answer the door, take the opportunity to chat briefly with the kids about their costumes. A little bit of small talk is a small price to pay for free candy, after all—and it’s good for kids of all ages to get practice speaking to adults who are non-family members in an appropriate setting. Plus, talking with your neighbors and taking in the cute and creative costumes is a big part of what makes Halloween fun.