Kids aren’t asking — they’ll take the free candy — but some parents wonder, at what point is it developmentally appropriate for teens to hang up their Halloween baskets?
"There is no age when kids 'should' stop trick-or-treating, but after graduating high school many enjoy other ways to celebrate Halloween," Sheryl Ziegler, a Denver family therapist tells TODAY.com. "The decision to stop is based more on behavior than age."
If your older child loves trick-or-treating, that's OK. More than one quarter of adults (26%) believe that children are never too old for the tradition, according to a 2021 YouGov survey.
And 46% of parents agreed in a TODAY.com survey.
Sixteen percent of adults in the TODAY survey felt kids should stop trick-or-treating around 17 or 18, while 19% said age 15 or 16 is the stopping point. And 1% said kids older than 9 shouldn't go door-to-door.
Officials in Chesapeake, Virginia, have decided that age 14 should be the cutoff, while the city of Bathurst in New Brunswick, Canada, passed a law to prohibit kids 16 and older from ringing doorbells.
"It is important to note, however, that while this ordinance has been in effect since about 1970, the City of Chesapeake has never detained nor charged any person under the ordinance," a city spokesperson tells TODAY.com. "It is on the books to allow police officers a method to detain an individual if they create a disturbance or similar actions.
"Officers do not spend Halloween night 'carding' trick-or-treaters, nor are they actively seeking 'over age' participants," adds the spokesperson.
A spokesperson from Upper Deerfield Township in New Jersey tells TODAY.com there was previously a request for trick or treaters to be 12 years old and under, but "there was no enforcement or penalties associated with the request."
How old is too old for trick-or-treating?
It's a topic that tends to make etiquette expert and author Catherine Newman roll her eyes a teeny bit.
“If a 17-year-old wants to dress up with their friends and trade candy at the end of the night, I think that’s great,” Newman tells TODAY.com. "Little kids die of happiness when they see big kids dressed up. It validates their excitement."
But Ziegler acknowledges general concerns about older kids pounding the pavement on Halloween night.
There's potential to scare little children with overtly gory costumes or push them aside to collect fistfuls of candy. There's also potential to scare grown adults by being too loud and rowdy or ringing doorbells late into the evening.
Ziegler points out, however, that kids of all ages are capable of such behavior and offers "common-sense solutions."
"If you're the parent of young kids, you can trick or treat earlier in the evening and if you have older kids, remind them to be mindful of their bodies and manners," she says.
Newman adds that she hopes those on the other side of the door will be polite as well.
Older kids with developmental disabilities may not have outgrown trick-or-treating either, Newman notes, “So you want to resist the urge to make a comment like, ‘Aren’t you a little old?’”
"My 10-year-old son has special needs that are invisible to outsiders," shares Amanda O’Connor, a Nashville mom.
"He has always been interested in content and activities that are geared towards younger children," she says. "I anticipate him wanting to trick-or-treat much later than other kids."
At what age should you stop trick-or-treating?
Some parents prefer their teens to trick-or-treat for no other reason than to keep them out of trouble, and remember that lots of older kids are responsible for taking their younger siblings trick-or-treating. "We don't want to shame them for wanting to spend time with their brothers and sisters," says Ziegler.
"Kids should be allowed to trick-or-treat up to the age of 18," Brandi Harris of Oklahoma City tells TODAY.com. "It’s way better than going to a party where someone may spike the punch or something else dangerous. If a kid still wants to participate in innocent fun, why would we want to stop them?"
Not to mention, it's one activity that isn't in front of a screen.
“Everything is so complicated and virtual these days,” Newman says. “It’s nostalgic for them to go trick-or-treating. Let them be little again for just one night.”
This story was originally written in 2019 and has been updated.