This Halloween, you should expect to see more little monsters or glitter-covered fairies in your neighborhood, says our expert.

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After predicting a drop in the number of children trick-or-treating in 2020, experts expect many of those mini superheroes and pint-sized princesses to hit the neighborhood with their families again in 2021. "With the return-to-normal activities this school year, I would expect more trick-or-treaters compared to last year," says Dr. Katie Lockwood of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Trick-or-treating should be okay, as long as children stay outside and in small groups." But that doesn't mean the numbers will be back to pre-pandemic levels: "I expect," says Dr. Lockwood, "that there will still be some families who choose not to resume trick-or-treating, based on their local COVID rates, family risk factors, or personal preferences."

Trick-or-treat with safety at the forefront.

Parents of children under 12—those currently too young to be vaccinated—can provide a safer trick-or-treating experience by following standard health practices: "Families should try to trick-or-treat in a small group with friends, avoiding areas where there are crowds and staying outdoors," notes Dr. Lockwood. "They should follow local guidelines about outdoor mask use depending on their local COVID rates. When they get home from trick-or-treating, everyone should wash their hands before eating candy."

If you're outside and safely distanced, you can skip the mask—unless, says Dr. Lockwood, you're in a crowded area, like your town's main street trick-or-treating event, a popular Trunk or Treat, or a packed hayride. If your child's costume came with a mask, it can be tempting to skip the usual cloth option, but, explains Dr. Lockwood, "Masked costumes do not provide the same protection as a cloth face mask and are not an appropriate substitute. Children should not wear a mask under their Halloween costume mask if it makes it harder for them to breathe, so consider this when you are choosing your Halloween costume this year!"

Young kids trick or treating during Halloweenkids-treak-or-treating-getty-0921
Credit: Rawpixel / Getty Images

Create a seamless experience on your own porch.

Adults staying home to hand out candy can create a thoughtful atmosphere for neighborhood kids with a little extra set-up: "When dispensing candy, creating opportunities for social distancing is recommended," says Dr. Lockwood. "This may be accomplished by putting out a few bowls of candy that are spread out or having a table with candy spread across it."

Consider outdoor-only parties for tweens and teens.

Teens and tweens who have decided they're too old for trick-or-treating can likely attend their Halloween parties safely, especially if they follow masking guidelines, keep the guest list small, and are vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu before the holiday, adds Dr. Lockwood. "The CDC recommends avoiding indoor parties or large group gatherings, so if those common local options, families may prefer to choose other alternatives that are outdoors or include only small groups," she says. "For example, my kids loved the block party we had last year with our neighbors so much that they requested to do it again this year instead of trick-or-treating! So perhaps some of our creative pandemic solutions to a socially distanced Halloween will become lasting traditions for this holiday."

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