Tomorrow is the big day. Your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle outfit is ready, and your sister's all set to be Madonna. Your house is decorated with cobwebs and ghosts. The pumpkin is carved and waiting on the front porch. It's finally Halloween, and that means it's time to hear about safety.
"Oh mom, you and dad always tell us to be careful on Halloween," says Josh. "It ruins it! Halloween is supposed to be scary."
"I know it's fun to be a bit scared," his mom says. "I used to scare myself on Halloween by running up to the door of a mean neighbor's house."
Even so, Josh's parents insists that their children practice sensible safety procedures. You should, too. Here's what Josh and his sister Sally do (and don't do) when they're out trick-or-treating:
They carry brightly colored trick-or-treat bags that are covered with reflective tape.
They use flashlights so they can see and be seen better at night. (Flashlights are good for making scary faces, too. Try putting the light under your chin and pointing up.)
They do not carry sharp objects.
They trick-or-treat with a group of neighborhood friends.
They walk around the neighborhood with at least one adult. This year, their father and a couple of other parents are going along. Josh and Sally's dad stays at the curb while they go up and ring doorbells.
They trick or treat only in familiar neighborhoods, and they stop only at houses that have Halloween decorations or jack-o-lanterns displayed on them.
They do not go inside the houses, unless the people are well-known to their parents and their dad signals to them that it's okay to go in.
They don't walk out into the street from between parked cars. They cross at corners.
They watch for cars backing out of driveways.
They walk from house to house. If they start running, their dad says he's going to take them home. This is the second-hardest part of the safety rules, but they follow it.
They don't eat any candy until they get home and their parents have inspected it all. This is the hardest part of Halloween. But Josh and Sally eat a snack before they start, so they won't be tempted by the sweets they collect.
By the time they get home, though, they're practically starving. What fun to empty all that candy out on the dining room table and add it up. They throw away any candies that have loose wrappers or broken seals.
Of course, there's lots of candy left over. Josh and Sally's parents help them divide it into "stuff to eat tonight" (not enough to make them sick, but close) and "stuff to save." Over the next few days, they'll ration out candy into their lunchboxes and jacket pockets.
When Josh and Sally get home, there's another treat waiting for them. It's already a family tradition -- even though they only started it last year. They sit in their darkened living room and nibble on candy while they watch a scary movie on the VCR. But not too scary -- after all, Halloween is supposed to be fun.
Are you going trick-or-treating this year? It's likely that you are; according to the National Safety Council, 88 percent of American families allow their children to trick- or-treat on Halloween.
There will be a lot of kids out tomorrow night. Please be careful.
Tips for Parents
In its booklet "Don't Be Afraid on Halloween!" the National Safety Council lists ideas on how to dress your kids for their favorite national holiday:
Costumes should be made of a fire-resistant material and be large enough to wear warm clothing underneath.
Be sure the costume lets a child walk without tripping.
The child should wear comfortable shoes or sneakers. High heels are not recommended.
Use light colors or reflective tape so motorists can spot the child easily at night.
If your child's costume includes makeup or face paint, be sure it is labeled: "made with approved color additives," "laboratory tested," "meets federal standards for cosmetics" and "nontoxic."
Attach the child's name, address and phone number to a sleeve (if the child is under age 12) in case they get lost. But do not display this personal information openly on the costume.
The Safety Council also suggests that motorists:
Slow down in residential areas.
Watch for children darting from between parked cars.
Watch for children walking along the edge of road, medians or curbs. In dark clothing, they are hard to see.
Do not wear a mask while driving to a costume party; avoid wearing a costume that may impede your arms and legs.
Be sure all children in your car exit on the curb side, away from traffic.
For more information, contact the National Safety Council, 444 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.
Catherine O'Neill is a children's writer in Minnesota.