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First of all, my son has no idea how lucky he is to experience Halloween in Southern California. All of my childhood Halloweens went basically the same way: argue with my mom about whether or not I had to wear a coat over my “punk rocker” or “ballerina” costume (the only two things I dressed up as for my entire childhood), go out trick-or-treating with my friends, freeze my face off.
Here in the Los Angeles area, we have mild weather in October, and while it can cool down into the 50s by the time it gets dark, it is not nearly cool enough for a big old puffy coat.
Because of this, Oliver is super into his costume every year. He knows nothing of the disappointment that comes from covering up a carefully planned Halloween costume.
This year he has chosen to be a zombie ninja. No, I am not sure what that is exactly, either, but I’m no stranger to costumes with crazy involved back stories: Last year I was a vampire bee, and Jeff wore a beekeeper’s suit -- and we gave him fangs, too, and drew bite marks on his neck, with the idea that I had “stung” him and turned him into the undead. (Try explaining this concept costume at parties.)
Anyway, I don’t care what a zombie ninja is -- all I care about is that it does not involve a giant heavy mask, or require any props that must be carried in hand. The past two years, Oliver was Boba Fett, and before that, he was Darth Vader. Both costumes involved big, heavy helmets (the Darth Vader helmet even made all the right kchsshhh noises). AND there were assorted jet packs and light sabers involved in these costumes.
Guess who carried the helmet and light saber the whole time trick-or-treating?
So now that I have several years’ experience taking a youngster out to knock on strangers’ doors and demand candy, I present to you my top trick-or-treating tips:
1. No masks. No props. Not only are masks kind of dangerous (impaired vision), but guess who is going to carry that mask all evening when your child gets tired of wearing it? You, my friend. YOU. Same thing goes for Thor’s hammer or Darth Vader’s light saber. I recommend leaving these items at home.
2. It doesn’t matter what kind of shoes a kid wears with his or her costume -- as long as they are the most comfortable shoes he or she has. No one wants to carry a six-year-old three blocks home in the dark because his feet hurt.
3. Give your child a treat bag with a shoulder strap, or even a cross-body bag. They are easier to carry, keeps your kid’s hands free, and there is no cheap plastic pumpkin handle threatening to break five minutes in. This year I’ll be giving Oliver one of those reusable shopping bags that I always forget to take to the grocery store with me. Alternatives: pillow cases that can be slung over the shoulder, or fabric bags with sturdy handles that can be carried on the arm.
4. Bring a Thermos with something warm to drink for yourself. This is not so practical, but the one year I forgot my travel mug of decaf coffee, I seriously regretted it. I made this mistake so you don’t have to.
5. Go with a group and designate a couple of other adults to hold the flashlights. This way you can hang on to your delicious hot beverage with both of your cold, cold hands. Every year, we meet up with several of Oliver’s friends from school and all their parents, and we walk together.
And finally: don’t be afraid to steal your kid’s candy. And don’t you feel a bit guilty about it! Seriously, no child needs three pounds of candy, and if you play your cards right, your kid will forget all about it in like a week anyway. I let Oliver pick out a few of his favorites to consume with wild abandon, right there on the spot, and I graciously help him out by eating whatever he doesn’t like (Almond Joy).
Are you a trick-or-treating pro? Have any good tips? Do you steal candy from children? At this point, I have Oliver trained to spot all my favorite candy (Junior Mints, York Peppermint Patties) and set it aside for me. He makes me so proud.
Somer is on Twitter: @somersherwood