Every year, kids across the country look forward to Halloween, mine included. It’s a night of dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door asking for treats. It’s almost as much fun when I’m the one passing out Halloween candy to adorable little ones in disguise. But what about trick-or-treaters who aren’t so little anymore? Should preteens/teens still be able to enjoy a night of trick-or-treating?
My Fond Memories of Trick-or-Treating
For my part, I trick-or-treated well into my late teens. I must have been at least 16 before I stopped for good. I loved making my own costumes and amassing an unholy amount of candy and counting it all up at the end of the night. Even once I started working and could have used the money to buy my own candy whenever I wanted, that wasn’t the point. My Halloween stash felt differently earned.
Maybe some of my neighbors judged me toward the end of my trick-or-treating tenure. Maybe you are judging me now—and that’s fine. I was old enough to weigh the balance and to conclude that I’d trade a couple of disapproving stares for a pile of my favorite candy, Reese’s Pumpkins.
Parenting an Older Trick-or-Treater
But now my son is almost 13 and has me questioning if he’s too old to trick-or-treat. 2022 was his last year going with his father. His father loves dressing up and going with the kids door-to-door. Every year, they decorate the house, carve pumpkins and plan out their costumes way in advance.
This year, Cohen plans to wear all black with a light-up mask, nothing too kiddish or scary but something that still qualifies as a costume. And instead of going with Dad, he has plans to go with his friends. I trust him and his friends, and I think it’s harmless fun.
How to Set Boundaries for Your Kids on Halloween
I have never questioned Cohen’s motives. He hasn’t done anything to prove me wrong. However, when he asked to go with his friends, I did reiterate trick-or-treating etiquette. It should still be the same even though he isn’t going with an adult.
I reminded him that his late-evening behavior needs to always be appropriate—especially with so many families with young kids out and about. While kids of all ages should say “trick or treat” and “thank you,” it’s especially important that he and his friends mind their manners. I want him to let the little ones go first and treat them with respect. Sugared-up preteens can get excited and forget that Halloween is a big deal for younger children.
Luckily, Halloween is on a school night this year, so I told him that homework needed to be completed before heading out. He also needs to be home at a certain time, especially if he and his sister plan to sit on the floor and barter with their candy before bed.
The Bottom Line: You’re Never Too Old for Halloween
Overall, there’s no clear cutoff for trick or treating. Each parent is free to establish their own ground rules for this holiday, but I say embrace the idea that preteens and teens aren’t too old to enjoy the innocent fun of touring the neighborhood collecting candy. What’s most important for me is that my kids enjoy themselves and follow the rules we set.
So, whether your child wants to trick-or-treat until they graduate high school or they’re over it as soon as they enter middle school, both are okay. Just make sure everyone is having fun and enjoying the tradition. After all, trick-or-treating is a custom for kids of all ages—plus, this way I still get my Reese’s Pumpkins!
Babies & Toddlers