Forget any expectations you have of skipping from house to house with your elated, well-behaved toddler. The first Halloween experience may look drastically different than what you anticipate.
Be ready to go home early if you need to and pay close attention to your toddler's over-stimulation signals to make sure it's fun for both of you. You can make it a great, ghoulish night filled with good memories, or hideously heinous by engaging in this list of killjoys:
1. Find uber-uncomfortable costumes.
Think that hooded cow costume would be adorable on Junior? Make sure he tries it on and successfully wears it several times before Halloween. Some costumes cause serious wedgie issues while others are insufferably scratchy.
2. Let Junior have as much candy as he wants.
Why is the kid with a ghost costume such a messy eater? Because he's always a goblin! If you want to be the fun parent and let your kid engorge on ridiculous quantities of high fructose corn syrup, be my guest! And watch your toddler spin right off the planet. If that doesn't sound like fun to you, check out "Healthy Halloween Habits" from KidsHealth.org for tips on successfully curbing your child's candy consumption.
3. Visit all the creepy decoration houses.
The best way to ensure that your three-year-old wakes up with nightmares for a week is to trick 'o treat neighbors who clearly forgot Halloween is for young, innocent kids. Boycott "R" rated Halloween props by averting your eyes and skipping those houses. For the design-challenged among us, our dear friend and Halloween fiend Martha Stewart has easy-to-follow (and friendly) DIY outdoor decorations.
4. Dress everyone in black.
Parents, help your kids learn some safety. According to a study reported in Time.com by Safe Kids USA, children are twice as likely to be hit in a car accident on Halloween than on any other night. Maybe your kids rarely walk outside as it is, so take this opportunity to teach them the right way to cross the street and how to handle approaching cars. Always carry a flashlight, especially for dark costumes, and consider some reflective gear as well.
5. Fail to comb through the candy bag.
Razors and rat poison in Halloween candy? Maybe that urban myth has some morsel of truth, but the biggest threats to your child's health via Halloween candy are cavities and obesity. Pull out cheapo candy like hard mints or taffy and toss them directly out. Find free printable coupons to a craft store from sites like CouponSherpa.com, and offer to trade some of your child's candy for crafts.
6. Allow the little ones to go out alone.
Never allow your kids to go out at night unaccompanied by a responsible adult or older sibling. Offer to take your neighbor's kids out for a while so your own children can trick 'o treat with a friend. Even letting your small kiddo run next door or across the street at night is a huge hazard--they need to go with someone. The Center for Disease Control has a nifty acrostic to help you have a safe Halloween.
Ashley Grimaldo comes from a long line of penny pinchers and enjoys blogging on money-saving tips and advice for frugal-minded parents. She lives with her husband and three children in Bryan, Texas. Ashley has been featured among such media outlets as Redbook, The Chicago Tribune, Time.com, and CBS News-Houston.