Metro-East Living

Show some manners, trick-or-treaters. Here are some helpful tips.

It’s almost Halloween and “fun time.” Thank you for all the questions about good manners for trick-or-treating, from the “tricks” and the “treaters,” so rather than list them all individually, here are some tips to ensure it is a fun and safe time for all:

Children and parents

  • Check the approved hours for trick-or-treating in your area and be respectful by following those times;
  • Adhere to the cutoff age for trick-or-treaters; the age is usually 12 but check to be certain;
  • If it is before dark, ring the door bell once or knock on the homeowner’s door once and wait; it no answer after a few minutes, ring the door bell again or knock again (do not pound) and wait. If then, no one answers the door, move on to the next home;
  • If it is after dark, and a house does not have lighted outside lights, do not go to that house; move on to the next house that is lighted;
  • When going from house to house, use the sidewalks and do not cut across lawns or flower beds. Children, and/or parents, should carry a flashlight, but do not shine it in the homeowner’s face, in their windows, at passing cars, or in other children’s faces;
  • Be respectful of homeowner’s decorations and property — do not touch or otherwise harm;
  • When the homeowner opens the door, be polite. Say “trick-or-treat.” Say your little rhyme or joke or sing your little song;
  • If asked if you would like some candy, say, “please”;
  • Say “thank you” after you receive your treat;
  • Do not reject a treat because it is not one of your favorites; never complain about the treat being offered;
  • If invited to reach into a candy bowl or basket, only take one or two pieces. Remember other children will want some candy as well;
  • If homemade treats are provided, do not open until you get home and your parent have had a chance to inspect;
  • Do not go into anyone’s home, unless your parent knows the homeowner, and goes inside with you;
  • If other children are ahead of you when you reach a house, wait patiently; do not push or shove;
  • Do not leave candy or candy wrappers strewn on the homeowner’s property or on sidewalks and streets;
  • Do not take your pet with you because the pet could become frightened or agitated by all the noise and become aggressive with the homeowner or other children;
  • Children should have a parent or designated adult with them who can help them cross streets, and make certain they are safe;
  • The parent or adult does not have to go up to the front door of each house, but can stay a few yards away on the sidewalk;
  • Unless otherwise invited to other neighborhoods, parents should not take carloads of children into other areas. It is not only impolite but also possibly dangerous for the children;
  • Parents should make sure their child’s costume is appropriate; i. e., no toy guns, nothing offensive to any ethnic background or culture or individual;
  • It is very unsafe for parents to follow their children by driving slowly down the street. All focus should be on driving; and
  • If a child has any kind of food allergy, parents should check all candy before allowing their children to eat it. The parent can also stand closer to their child to advise the homeowner of their child’s food allergy.


  • Leave the inside and outside lights on if you are going to participate. If you cannot participate, be sure to turn off all the outside lights, including porch lights, garage lights and landscape lights;
  • Have your candy or treats as close to the door as possible to make it easier to distribute. Avoid giving homemade treats;
  • Candy that is wrapped or boxed, is preferred. Healthful treats such as little bags of dried fruit or boxes of raisins are options;
  • Be aware some children are allergic to peanuts and other ingredients; therefore, as if anyone has any allergies before distributing or offering the candy;
  • You are not expected to invite the trick-or-treaters into your home and they have probably been advised not to enter;
  • You are not expected to provide restrooms facilities;
  • If you are concerned about children being greedy and taking large amounts of candy out of your bowl or basket, you can distribute the candy yourself;
  • If you think you might run out of candy and still want to participate, you could have a roll of quarters handy and give out a quarter as a treat. It would also be a good idea to have some quarters available to hand out to children who might have a food allergy to your candy;
  • Pets should be kept away from the door to avoid them getting frightened or being aggressive towards the trick-or-treaters; and
  • Be prepared to provide treats to children who are too shy to sing or talk.
Dianne Isbell has written an etiquette column for the Belleville News-Democrat since 1987. She served as director of protocol for U.S. Air Force Communications Command before retiring in 2001.