Trick-or-treating only happens once a year, so you want to make sure you do it right.
It’s something to consider as you finalize plans for Halloween, whether you’ll be traversing the streets with kids or staying in to hand out candy. If you start the festivities too early, you risk catching people off guard; if you end the evening too late, you may encounter a candy shortage or wake up the neighborhood.
Not every family can stick to one schedule, but a 2015 survey conducted by polling organization FiveThirtyEight indicated that 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. is a respectable time frame for trick-or-treating. The earlier you can head out, the better, considering there’s a 43% higher risk of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween, according to the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Some Halloween revelers may not have much choice: Some cities, towns or homeowners associations (HOA) may impose age limits or Halloween curfews (although they are rarely enforced). You may want to coordinate around community traditions, your child’s age and family preferences.
What’s the best time to start trick-or-treating?
If you plan on trick-or-treating, it’s best to get an early start, whether your kids are in preschool or high school.
That’s because Halloween falls on a Tuesday this year, smack in the middle of the week when kids have school and adults have work and other responsibilities. Children in the U.S. typically finish school by 3 p.m. (although little kids might get out earlier) so barring after-school sports or recreational clubs, it might be acceptable to begin trick-or-treating soon after the bell rings.
“Trick-or-treating after school is a good idea because kids are usually amped up from their day and might have even worn their costumes to school,” Sheryl Ziegler, a Denver family therapist, tells TODAY.com.
Ziegler suggests waiting approximately one hour after school so parents of trick-or-treaters can provide kids with substantial snacks before inhaling all that sugar. It also allows those staying home to prepare bowls of candy and finesse outdoor decorations.
“The downtime gives everyone a chance to breathe,” says Ziegler.
Before it's time to go trick-or-treating...
When does trick-or-treating end?
“Trick-or-treating should generally stop at 9 p.m. — at the latest,” says Ziegler. Kids between the ages 3 and 18 usually need anywhere from 8 to 13 hours of sleep per night.
“Trick-or-treating should generally stop at 9 p.m. — at the latest.”
Sheryl Ziegler, family therapist
As long as their buckets are full, kids (especially older ones who want to experience spooky darkness) probably won’t fuss over the time. Since it typically gets darker earlier during the fall and winter, you can bet on darker skies for most of Halloween night.
Check your local jurisdictions for local laws on trick-or-treating, and you can check parenting Facebook groups for the local customs. Some towns let kids have their fun until 9 p.m., while others enforce strict curfews and local ordinances. For example, the Yonkers Police Department issued a citywide curfew: children ages 11 and younger must be home by 10 p.m.; ages 12 to 13 must be home by 10:30 p.m.; and ages 14 to 16 must be home by 11 p.m.
If you stayed home to hand out candy and are worried about Halloween stragglers ringing the doorbell late into the night, turn off any outside lights to send a message, suggests Ziegler. If you suspect that won’t scare off determined sugar seekers, post a sign outside indicating that you’ve run out of candy. Boo!