Children's Hospital Colorado

Children’s Colorado's Tips, Tricks (and Treats) for Celebrating Halloween During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Children's Hospital Colorado | September 25, 2020
Illustrated characters are dressed up for Halloween in costumes, like ghosts and pumpkins, while wearing face coverings.

Halloween 2020 might look a little different, but it can still be fun. With the right precautions in place, you can plan costumes, devour candy and enjoy some of your favorite Halloween haunts. You can even create some new traditions. 

“This Halloween is definitely different, but we can still make it enjoyable for kids and parents,” says Samuel Dominguez, MD, PhD, an infectious disease doctor and coronavirus expert at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “By continuing to practice proper hand washing, physical distancing, wearing face coverings and staying home when they’re sick, families can do their part to ensure everyone has a fun – and safe – Halloween.” 

From virtual costume parties to candy hunts, Children’s Colorado’s pediatric infectious disease experts offer several ideas on how you can keep your Halloween happy, healthy and safe. Regardless of how you celebrate, though, you should keep the following in mind: 

  • Wear a face covering when out in public or around people who are not part of your household. Halloween costume masks are not a substitute for a cloth mask unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers mouth and nose and doesn't leave gaps around the face.
  • Avoid celebrations in confined spaces and with people outside of your small social circle.
  • Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet when you interact with people outside of your household.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
  • Clean items that are frequently touched.
  • Do your best to stay close to home and within your own neighborhood.
  • If you are sick or know someone who is, stay home and away from others.
  • Follow regular Halloween safety tips such as decorating costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and carrying glow sticks or flashlights to help increase visibility among drivers.
  • Always follow the guidance of your local public health department since COVID-19 risks and spread vary between communities. In Colorado, you can check your county's COVID-19 status using the state's dial dashboard to help you gauge the level of risk.  

Modify your trick-or-treating 

We can all imagine that it’s a little risky to go trick-or-treating this year at the homes of people we don’t know. So instead, our experts recommend planning ahead and getting creative.

Organize a “Trunk-or-Treat” with your school pod 

If your child attends school or is sticking to socializing with a small group, take advantage of that. Those children and parents are in your “bubble,” meaning they’re people who you and your family have already been exposed to. Ask if they want to get together in the school parking lot or other large outdoor area and have a Trunk-or-Treat where kids can safely go from car to car to collect candy while maintaining social distancing. An adult can help screen all participants (those giving out and receiving candy) to make sure everyone is healthy, wearing masks and using hand sanitizer. It’s also best for one person at each station to drop candy into bags, rather than lots of little hands reaching into the same candy bowl.   

Communicate with your neighborhood 

Instead of having kids ringing doorbells and picking out candy from a community bowl, make the suggestion that neighbors put candy in individual containers like paper cups or plastic bags. They can line the cups or bags along their sidewalk or porch for kids in the neighborhood to safely take. Plan ahead and keep your own stash of Halloween candy on hand for the day-of. (More on that below.) 

Think about costumes and face coverings 

Unfortunately, costume masks (such as rubber or plastic masks of scary characters) are not a substitute for an approved COVID-19 face covering. Just like preparing a costume that can incorporate a winter coat, our experts recommend helping your child think through their costume and how an approved COVID-19 face covering fits in. Consider: 

  • Is your child OK wearing a facing covering under their Halloween mask?
  • Can they comfortably breathe? If not, suggest ideas of characters that wear face coverings, like a healthcare worker.
  • Can you get creative with the face covering? For example, paint whiskers on a plain black face covering or find a patterned face covering that works with your child’s costume. 

Consider a “hands-off” period for collected candy 

Our experts say one of the safest things you can do for your family is have your child wait 48 to 72 hours before digging into the Halloween candy they’ve collected while trick-or-treating.  This is because the candy is coming from multiple households and mingling together in a bucket or bag. Studies have shown that COVID-19 can survive up to three days on some surfaces. That’s a long time for kids to wait, so parents should consider having a small stash of candy on hand that they’ve purchased ahead of time for their kids to enjoy immediately. 

Create new traditions or enjoy old ones safely 

Halloween is on a Saturday this year, which means you can celebrate during the daytime. Think about how you can use parks, parking lots and open space for some safe, socially distanced fun. 

Plan fun activities at home 

The options are endless: make Halloween treats or bake cookies, carve or decorate pumpkins, make Halloween art, watch a Halloween movie, or host an online contest for best, funniest and scariest costumes or face masks. 

Host a scavenger hunt 

Like an egg hunt but for Halloween candy. You can either host a hunt for just your immediate family in your own yard, or you scale it up and make it a neighborhood event. Kids can dress up in their costumes and safely hunt to find hidden candy while keeping their distance. 

Watch a scary movie outdoors 

In some cases, it can be OK to host smaller and carefully organized events that promote safe practices like face coverings, hand washing and social distancing. These events should be held outdoors, which can be a challenge in late October in Colorado. But for example, consider projecting a Halloween movie onto the garage door of a home in the neighborhood. A small group of kids and families can come watch the movie as long as they’re following local public health rules for groups, like wearing face coverings and spaced at least 6 feet apart. 

Organize a neighborhood costume parade 

Those who have kids can plan to participate. Everyone else can plan to watch from their porches or driveways. For those participating, have them meet outside of their houses at a certain time. Then, everyone can start to walk or bike around the block in a circle to show off their costumes until everyone ends up back at their own house. Assign older children or adults to make sure younger kids are staying at least 6 feet apart during the parade. 

Decorate your house or have a contest with neighbors 

Give your year-end holiday lights a run for their money by lighting up your home and block with Halloween-themed displays. Remember, decorations don’t have to be expensive. Recruit your kids to help with some of the following ideas:  

  • Make drawings to hang in the windows.
  • Create paper chains to put around the mailbox.
  • Use old Halloween masks, wigs, costumes or clothes and turn them into funny or scary mannequins for your porch or yard. (Stuff the clothes with extra plastic bags you’ve saved from the grocery store.)
  • Cut up extra cardboard boxes and paint them to look like headstones around the front yard.
  • Decorate doors and trees with ghosts and pumpkins.  

Pumpkin patches, hayrides and corn mazes 

If you’re interested in doing any of these traditional activities, our experts recommend calling the business or person who’s hosting the activity and asking about the safety measures they have in place. Knowing that might help you make a participation decision that’s right for your family. In general, the organizers should have protocols that limit the number of people in the location at one time, allow plenty of space between groups and require face coverings and proper hand hygiene. 

A friendly reminder

And overall, remember: There’s never been a way to eliminate all risk. That’s true for this Halloween and even last. But by planning ahead, keeping an eye on the spread of COVID-19 in your immediate community, taking precautions and remaining flexible, you can still enjoy the holiday, and make Halloween 2020 one to remember.

Find even more coronavirus resources, curated just for families. 

More resources 

Editor's note: This page was updated on Sept. 25, 2020. Due to the nature of the coronavirus pandemic, recommendations can change quickly. Please follow all rules and guidelines set by state and local public health and safety authorities. Refer to CDC and CDPHE for immediate updates on COVID-19.