As Halloween approaches, parents may wonder if the spooky day associated with costumes and candy has an age-related shelf life. Sure, trick-or-treating can be fun for all ages, but how old is too old? As costumes are planned and candy is purchased, it’s normal to ask: at what age is it time for kids to trade in their pillow cases for a night by the candy bowl?
For most moms and dads, the timeline doesn’t seem to stop at a set number. Nathaniel Schwartz, a father of two from Georgetown, Ky., explains Halloween events have been a wonderful way to bring his community together for years, regardless of age.
“Our community has trick-or-treating in our downtown area for small kids, but I’ve seen college-aged kids come to participate,” Schwartz tells Yahoo Life. “The older kids hand out candy and sometimes do a round of trick-or-treating as well. It’s nice to see the community come together with kids of all ages enjoying the holiday.”
Schwartz says it’s possible that becoming a parent is the true Halloween cutoff, as that’s when you switch gears, preparing to help your children with their own trick-or-treating adventures — while taking a small candy tax, of course.
But if an age limit for trick-or-treating does exist, most parents seem to agree that teens are in the clear.
“I know a lot of parents think high schoolers are too old to be trick or treating, but I don’t think so,” says Alexandrina Aguirre-Schilke, who lives in Holly Springs, Ga. with her 4-year-old son. “The oldest I have seen are 14 or 15 years old anyway.”
“These kids could be out doing god-knows-what, and if they still want to trick or treat, I think it’s totally fine. They shouldn’t be turned away because some people think they’re too old,” Aguirre-Schilke continues. “They’re still kids.”
In fact, some experts agree.
Brett Bernstein is a community resources unit supervisor at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department in Tucson, Ariz., where the department’s safety tips place less of an emphasis on age, and more on the importance of adults making smart choices to provide a safe Halloween for everyone in the community.
What are Bernstein’s top tips for a safe Halloween for trick-or-treaters of all ages?
“We advise motorists to exercise extra caution while driving on Halloween night,” says Bernstein. “We also advise parents and trick-or-treaters to stick together in a group.”
“And, if it’s time for your teens to head out for their first Halloween alone, we suggest having a plan in place beforehand,” Bernstein adds. “Plan and review a route that is acceptable for your family and then agree on a specific time when teens should return home.”
Maria Jalkio, a first grade teacher from Virginia also has some Halloween tips to share.
Jalkio says she teaches students to always stick with an adult and to head home before dark. When it comes to moms and dads, Jalkio offers this extra advice.
“There really should be no age cut off for trick-or-treating,” she says. “That should be up to parents and their children or teens. We never know what obstacles a child may be facing or where they may be developmentally, despite their age.”
“We often can’t see these things from the outside looking in,” Jalkio cautions. “I always recommend people try to remember that and lead with kindness as we head into this time of the year.”
Abbie Beart, a mom from West Freehold, N.J., is preparing for Halloween with two teenage boys. While she notes Halloween has become more about costume parties with friends for her sons, who are 16 and 18, she believes there is no shame in teenagers joining in on some trick-or-treating, as long as there are guidelines in place.
Beart’s guidelines are all about minding those manners and being aware of younger trick-or-treaters.
“As long as kids are respectful and appropriate I am OK with them trick-or-treating,” says Beart. “I would want to make sure they are setting a good example for younger kids who are out: No swearing, be kind and no more than one piece of candy per house. And, of course, still use please and thank you.”
This story was originally published on Oct. 25, 2021. It has been updated for Halloween 2022.
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