5 Safe Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating This Halloween

published Sep 25, 2020
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With Halloween quickly approaching, many are scrambling to consider what activities can be salvaged and reimagined, especially when it comes to trick-or-treating. The good news is that while everyone should continue to be cautious, there are opportunities to safely participate in what, for many, might be the favorite night of the year.

To repeat: Halloween is certainly not canceled (!), and it’s a matter of coming up with safe trick-or-treating alternatives that can still deliver festive fun (aka candy) for all ages. But going into the trick-or-treating season, many will start to wonder: what are the risks when it comes to taking or giving candy the traditional way (i.e., going from door to door)? In their guidelines for Halloween, the Centers for Disease Control ranks this a “higher risk” activity.

Having said that, Dr. Melissa Hawkins, an epidemiologist in the Department of Health Studies at American University, told Apartment Therapy that as long as households and extended groups who have been safely quarantining together are on the same page about risk and exposure, it’s possible to still have a spooktacular Halloween. She shared some creative alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating that you can do while maintaining social distance this Halloween if going door to door isn’t an option. That way, you can still celebrate the holiday in all its sugar- and spook-inducing glory.

1. Distanced Parade 

Want to get dressed up and see other people all dressed up in fun costumes? Organize a socially distanced car parade with friends and other people in your local community. You can get your costumes on and even decorate your car to drive past the homes of friends and family. For added fun, prep bags of candy to drop on people’s porches for a sweet, socially-distanced surprise (just be sure to wash your hands for 20 seconds before preparing the bags).

2. Scavenger Hunt 

This Halloween, pull some inspiration from an all-time favorite Easter activity. Similar to an Easter egg hunt, you can organize a scavenger hunt for your family inside or around your yard. You can hide the (wrapped) candy or other Halloween treats for your little monsters to find, or for an additional festive touch, purchase mini plastic cauldrons to fill with candy.

3. Zoom-or-Treat/BYOC (Bring Your Own Candy)

Keeping with the virtual focus of 2020 (and in the CDC’s “lower risk” category), Zoom is a great way to share Halloween fun with friends and family while practicing social distance. Each household can have their own Zoom room setup for trick-or-treaters to “visit,” and make sure to BYOC (Bring Your Own Candy) to eat as you hop around other Zoom rooms. You can use spooky backgrounds to add to the atmosphere and plan to tell spooky stories or silly Halloween jokes to each visitor who “knocks” on your door.

4. Trick-Or-Treat Distanced Stations 

If you want to welcome trick-or-treaters this year, consider setting up distanced stations in your yard. One idea is hanging a clothesline or thin rope on your front porch and hang individually wrapped candy from a single clothespin (you can pick these up at the dollar store). Dr. Hawkins advised that  “As long as kids are going up one at a time and not grabbing for the same piece” this can be a safer way to do trick-or-treating if you expect kids to be out in your neighborhood. 

You can also set up card tables or other portable tables on your driveway with individually sized pieces of candy spaced out, as long as it’s still keeping multiple people from reaching for the same candies. Additionally, Dr. Hawkins noted that a “trunk-or-treat” model—where decorated cars gather at a central location and treats are given out there instead of house to house—could work, as long as you had a way to keep the candies separated and there are adults traffic managing trick-or-treaters so that they maintain distance when going up to get treats. (The CDC categorizes a non-socially distanced trunk-or-treat as a higher risk activity.)

5. Gifts from The Great Pumpkin

Not feeling up for managing a socially distanced trick-or-treat experience but still wanting to treat the little monsters in your life? Invite The Great Pumpkin to bring treats. This is a tradition in my house where many years “The Pumpkin King” or “The Great Pumpkin” (pick your preferred magical holiday hero) has left festive treats like candy, small toys, stickers, pencils, etc. in special spots around the house on Halloween night, so there’s no need to go outside at all.

Regardless of how you obtain candy, do you need to wipe down each and every piece of candy in order to participate safely? To this, Dr. Hawkins explained that it really comes down to personal preference and comfort level.

“We know the primary route of transmission is respiratory, so that’s going to be about close proximity of people and not maintaining six feet of distance and having the opportunity for respiratory droplets,” Dr. Hawkins said. “There is some risk of surfaces or wrappers or containers—I really think that’s sort of your level of comfort. If it makes you feel better and safer, then do it, but I don’t think that it’s necessary from a public health perspective.”