When can children go trick or treating on their own: what's the law?
At what age can children go out trick or treating without an adult? We have the legal lowdown, expert advice from educational psychologist Naomi Burgess, and what other parents think. Plus, the best trick or treating rules to stick to
With Halloween fast approaching, your child is probably itching to put their costume on and get you to take them out trick or treating. But if your little one isn’t so little anymore, maybe they want to go trick or treating with their friends: is that OK, if they haven't got a parent with them?
Is there an official age below which children must always be accompanied if they're trick or treating? Or can children of any age go around the neighbourhood unaccompanied for their Halloween fun? And if they can, is that really a good idea?
We've checked out the UK law on trick or treating to find out what's what. And we've also spoken to educational psychologist Naomi Burgess, and surveyed our community of parents to see what both experts and other parents think. And however you're doing your trick or treating this Halloween, we've got some great 'rules' to keep your neighbours happy and your kids safe.
What's the UK law on the legal age for trick or treating?
Trick or treating’s perfectly legal at any age – and there's no legal age limit on when children can or can't go out on their own.
As far as the law's concerned, the only thing you need to know is that, if your child's under 16 years old, you'll be liable to pay any fines if your child is involved in any chargeable anti-social behaviour.
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So, in the end, if your child wants to trick or treat without you, you have to judge whether you're OK with that – depending on where you live, how well you know your neighbours, if your child's friends are going with them, how long they'll be out for, where they'll be going and how mature and streetsmart your child is.
You might also want to consider what our expert has to say too (see below).
At what age can kids go trick or treating without an adult? The expert view
Educational psychologist Naomi Burgess believes children under 12 are best off being accompanied by an adult.
"It's partly about behaviour," she says. "When dressed up, children tend to be less inhibited and take more than one treat. But it's also about safety: did you also know that the riskiest aspect of trick or treating is actually pedestrian motor accidents?
"Bearing both of these things in mind, I can’t really imagine you would want children to go alone until they're teenagers."
And, truth be told, by the time they're teenagers, they'll probably consider trick or treating too "babyish" and be wanting to go to Halloween parties with their friends instead...
Trick or treating: great rules for children (with or without you):
- Don’t knock at a door that doesn't have a pumpkin outside or isn't otherwise decorated for Halloween
- Remember that very old and very young people can be easily frightened by masks and gory costumes: wait to see who opens the door before you go full-throttle scary
- Don't grab sweets. Take 1 each – unless you are offered more
- Always say thank you>
- Agree before you set off about when to eat sweets. It's sensible (though hard!) not to eat any until you get home, so an adult can then check through them and remove anything unsuitable. This is especially important if anyone in the trick or treat group has food allergies or intolerances
- Always carry a torch and a phone (or make sure the accompanying adult does)
- Never throw flour/eggs as your 'trick' (they're just too messy and people will get annoyed)
- Stay on well-lit streets in an area you know
- Be traffic alert
- Agree a time you'll stop trick or treating and and come home
At what age would you let your kids go trick or tricking without an adult? The parents' view
When we asked the parents in our MadeForMums Facebook community what they thought, about 35% of them said they'd never let their child trick or treat on their own, with many sharing Shanny S's view that, "It’s scary out there!"
"Yes, I'd never allow it," added Mrs H. "Once they are old enough to be out alone, they shouldn't be knocking on doors at Halloween. Trick or treating is for the little kids."
Pics: Getty Images
About our expert educational psychologist Naomi Burgess
Naomi is a Registered Practitioner with the Health Professions Council and is a Chartered Member of the British Psychological Society. She has a PGCE and a Masters degree in Educational Psychology from the University Southampton. She works across 5 different education authorities in England, teaching and lecturing in Psychology, Educational Psychology and Special Educational Needs.
Tara is mum to 1 daughter, Bodhi Rae, and has worked as Content Editor and Social Media Producer at MadeForMums since 2015
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