Moms

At what age are kids too old to trick-or-treat?

Oct. 5, 2011 at 10:54 AM ET

Happens every Halloween:

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Sure, they're cute now, but do you want them on your doorstep in a couple years?

The cute little kids dressed as princesses or pumpkins start making the trick-or-treat rounds in the late afternoon, and by about 7:30 p.m. they’re in their jammies and brushing the sugary residue from Nerds and candy corn off their teeth.

But then at 8 p.m., the doorbell starts chiming again. This time it’s the high-schoolers, the ones taller than you, whose costumes consist of a mask or some greasepaint smeared on their faces. If that. You can’t not give them candy, ‘cause they’re big enough to wreak some pretty serious Halloween mischief on your property. But really, aren’t they too old to be trick-or-treating?

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My older daughter is a high school freshman this year, and I’m nostalgic for the Halloweens when she was an adorable Tweety Bird, Hershey Kiss and Dorothy of Oz (my sister is great at whipping up costumes). This year? Unprompted, she’s told me she’s thinking about going to a movie come All Hallows Eve instead of trick-or-treating. If she’d told me she still wanted to go trick-or-treating, I’d probably tell her she’d have to dig that Hershey Kiss costume out of storage in the basement (yes, I’ve had a hard time parting with it) and wear it. Case closed.

Not too far from where we live, kids her age aren’t allowed to trick-or-treat. It’s the law down in the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia. In fact, Newport News has banned trick-or-treating by kids over 12 for a half-century, police spokesman Lou Thurston told me. And not even the little kids can trick-or-treat past 8 p.m. Violations are a Class 4 misdemeanor. Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Norfolk have similar trick-or-treating age restrictions, Thurston says.

It’s not like people are carding trick-or-treaters before dispensing candy, though. And police officers aren't trolling for lawbreakers, Thurston says.

Still, “This is about safety for the kids and safety for people who are answering the door to the kids," he says, like “a 75- or 80-year-old lady who lives by herself… and all of a sudden a 6-foot-5 basketball player wearing a mask and a sheet scares her to death.”

They’ve had a long time to get used to the age limit in Newport News, so it’s really not an issue anymore, Thurston says.

Oh, and the Newport News law specifically says it’s fine for parents and older siblings to escort young trick-or-treaters. But they better not wear a mask. It’s against the law.

What do you think? At what age are kids too old to trick-or-treat? When will you cut your kids off?

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