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COVID-19 trick or treating masks

Celebrating Halloween without the COVID-19 fright

Like everything else in 2020, Halloween will look different because of COVID-19. But, it doesn’t have to be full of fright. With a few considerations, Halloween can still be enjoyable for both parents and kids.

Should you go trick or treating?

The short answer is: Not how you have in the past. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) have released recommendations for Halloween this year. The CDC has listed traditional trick or treating as a “high-risk activity” that should be avoided, and the DHS recommends against door-to-door trick or treating.

Even with those recommendations, decisions around whether or not communities will be allowed to trick or treat this year will be made locally. I recommend you look up guidelines specific to your community and stick to them as they are based on conditions in your area. For example, a community seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases without the ability to be outside or social distance will likely cancel trick or treating altogether this year. 


At Children’s Wisconsin, we agree with the CDC and DHS that traditional trick or treating will increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission and it should be avoided. However, if your community is allowing traditional trick or treating, ultimately the decision is up to each family. If your family decides to go trick or treating, please wear masks and practice social distancing around anyone outside your household.  

Everyone is dealing with different family considerations, such as a family member who has a weakened immune system, and it’s an important reminder that you don’t know what other families are considering. Everyone is making decisions that are best for their family and trick or treating may look different for each family this year. Respect their decisions and don’t pressure or judge others.

How can we celebrate Halloween?

Even if traditional trick or treating is canceled or your family doesn’t feel comfortable doing it this year, Halloween doesn’t have to be a total bust. There are plenty of other ways to celebrate.  

The DHS created an individual decision tool to assess what’s best for you and your family when it comes to celebrating this year. They also provided these recommendations: 

  • Host virtual costume contests and parties.

  • Decorate where you live.

  • Bake Halloween-themed treats.

  • Watch Halloween-themed movies with your family, household or as a group online.

  • Leave Halloween treats outside the door where friends and loved ones live.

  • Visit a drive-through haunted house experience.

The CDC provided additional recommendations:

  • Carve or decorate pumpkins with members of your household.

  • Do a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance.

  • Have a scavenger hunt style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house.

I also like these ideas for celebrating Halloween in 2020:

  • Organize a costume parade where friends and family drive by your house, staying in their car to see your costumes and vice versa.

  • Have your family dress in a theme for a mystery dinner. You could even involve friends or family virtually.

  • How could we forget the classic? Gather your family safely around a fire outside to tell ghost stories. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also provided great ideas — like writing or drawing clues on pieces of paper to send the kids on a candy treasure hunt through the house — in their article here

How can we stay safe this Halloween?

COVID-19 is still in our environment so precautions need to be taken no matter how you celebrate. 

  • Whenever you’re outside your home and in a public space, wear a mask, maintain distance from others as much as possible and wash your hands often.

  • Limit the size of any groups outside your home.

  • Don’t host or attend a party in an enclosed space.

  • Stay in your community. Although it could be tempting to go elsewhere if your community cancels trick or treating, attending trick or treat in another town can lead to the spread of COVID-19. 


Whether you’re celebrating Halloween with a COVID-19-safe version of trick or treating or taking a family walk to see the neighbor’s decorations, our colleagues at Safe Kids Wisconsin put together tips to help keep you safe. You can read all of their tips in this blog post, but here are some of my favorites: 

  • For little superheroes, capes should fasten with Velcro® that easily pulls apart. Capes and other costume pieces should never be tied around a child’s neck. It is also important that younger children know the difference between what people do on television or movies and what they can do in real life. Keep costumes short and use caution with accessories so they don’t become tripping hazards.

  • Hard candy is a choking hazard for children 5 years of age or younger. Consider giving trick or treaters age-appropriate, non-food treats like temporary tattoos or stickers instead.

  • Illuminate carved pumpkins and Halloween decorations with battery operated candles,  flashlights or glow sticks rather than lit candles to prevent fire.

  • Be Safe and Be Seen! Walk with a flashlight at night and use reflective tape on costumes. Walk with an adult and use your safe pedestrian skills. 

Lastly, the Wisconsin DHS also recommends you get your flu vaccine before Halloween to keep everyone healthier overall this season. Read more in this blog post about why getting the flu vaccination is even more important this year with COVID-19. 

Though it may be different, Halloween doesn’t have to be ruined by COVID-19. With some considerations and creative thinking, celebrating and staying safe can go hand in hand.

Accidents still happen and all of these considerations may lead to questions. Should anything come up related to your child’s health, please do not hesitate to call your child’s doctor’s office. If they don’t have a doctor, visit or call 2-1-1, where an operator can direct you to the nearest community health clinic or other needed resources.