Don’t let Hallowe'en be more frightening than it should be: Top 10 costume safety tips

Halloween is fast approaching and it can be a genuinely scary time for parents as highlighted last year when TV presenter Claudia Winkleman’s daughter was badly burned.

Fright night: Beware the naked flames in Halloween lanterns
Credit: Richman 21 / Shutterstock
Fright night: Beware the naked flames in Halloween lanterns Credit: Richman 21 / Shutterstock

Last year, the eight-year-old daughter of Strictly Come Dancing presenter Winkleman was taken to hospital after being seriously injured when her Hallowe'en costume caught fire.

Now with parents and children are starting to plan their outfits the potential dangers of fancy dress costumes should not be underestimated.

The government has ordered spot checks of costumes, and some retailers do carry out extra testing.

But while you don’t want to take the fun out of choosing a spooktacular Hallowe'en costume, it’s important to keep in mind some basic safety tips when buying or making an outfit that’s scary but doesn’t fill parents with fear.

Top 10 tips when buying or making your child’s Hallowe'en costume:

1) Use or choose flame-resistant materials: It may sound like stating the obvious but your child is likely to be near candles, lanterns, and other decorative flames when they go to Halloween parties or out trick-or-treating, so check the label to see if a costume is safe.

2) Look for a good fit: Avoid is putting your child in something that’s too big or loose. A costume that’s too long can cause the child to trip, can easily snag on objects and other kids and can potentially catch light more easily around open flames, such as candles – very common at Hallowe'en.

3) Keep the neck area clear: Try to avoid anything that could pose a strangulation or choking hazard, such as costumes that are too tight round the neck or have cords or sashes that go around the neck. Costume jewellery could also get dangerously tangled.

4) “No capes!” - the simple advice of Edna 'E' Mode in 'The Incredibles'. Very common in costumes, capes can pose strangulation risks, and could get caught on something or cause a child to trip (or get snagged on a missile fin).

5) Use masks sensibly: Not when scaring people, of course that’s the whole point. But if you allow your child to have a mask, make sure they only wear it for photos, and certainly not walking near busy roads. Many masks can obstruct a child’s vision, and could pose a danger, especially when it’s dark at night. Make sure it fits snugly with large holes around the eyes, and of course ensure that they can breathe comfortably while wearing it.

6) Read face paint labels: Face paint is often used at Hallowe'en but do make sure you read labels carefully and choose paint that is FDA-approved and meant for use on skin - “non-toxic” doesn’t necessarily means it’s safe for use on the sensitive skin of a child’s face.

7) Think about your accessories: Swords and knives should be flexible and soft, and ensure that wands or canes have no sharp edges or points. A good question to ask yourself here is ‘Would they be hurt if they fell on it’?

8) Stay visible: A lot of costumes use dark colours which are hard to see at night. Why not tape or sew reflective materials onto your child’s costume – this could even enhance the look. Also consider carrying a torch, which kids love anyway, especially Hallowe'en-themed torches which are widely available.

9) Think about safe footwear: Many of the dress-up shoes that come with kids’ costumes are not meant for outdoor use. Make sure shoes fit properly and are not the cheap, plastic kind that have no traction and could cause a child to slip and fall. In fact, why not have your child just wear their trainers when trick-or-treating outdoors?

10) Use common sense: The most important of all. Just use your parental instincts and ask yourself do you feel comfortable with what they are wearing and know the surroundings where they are going to be and happy haunting.