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Harlem Children’s Zone Guide to a Fun and Safe Halloween 2021

The night of thrills and chills is upon us — Halloween is coming back to the Zone!

We know our scholars and families are excited for a night of spooky celebrations, dress up, and of course, trick or treating.

But with COVID and other safety concerns top of mind, it’s normal to wonder: is it safe to celebrate this year?

For the answer, we turned to Jasmine Tumma, our Director of Safety, and Jessica Lake, our Managing Director of Social Services & Wellness, for advice on how to have a fun-filled — and worry-free — spooktacular.

Check out top tips for a safe Halloween 2021 and see photos from our Halloween celebrations!

Take note of early dismissal

As in past years, and to ensure a safe Halloween for all our scholars, our After School programs are being dismissed at 6:00 pm on October 27, 28, and 29. Plan your week accordingly and reach out to After School directors for any questions or concerns.

Jessica Lake at Healthy Harlem Har

Jessica Lake, Managing Director of Social Services & Wellness at HCZ.

Use these tricks for cutting back on treats

Candy and Halloween go together like full moons and werewolves — you can’t have one without the other!

That said, “It’s important to set a rule about how much candy kids can eat the day of Halloween and in the days after,” Jessica says.

This is always a good idea on Halloween. But it is especially true this year given “the impact of the pandemic not only on our emotional health, but also on our physical health,” Jessica adds.

Here are some tricks you can use to cut down on your treat intake:

  • Fuel up on a filling and healthy dinner so kids don’t binge on the bad stuff
  • Stretch out candy consumption over several days rather than going through your whole haul on Halloween night
  • Pay attention to ingredients to avoid allergic reactions
  • Opt for the “healthier” versions of favorite treats, such as low-in-sugar candies, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, and anything naturally sweetened with fruit or vegetable juice
  • Make fruit available to maximize the sweet options that bring nutritional wins
  • Avoid sugary beverages and encourage a water-only Halloween weekend

Mask up, wash your hands, and avoid large gatherings

Children younger than 12 are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, so many trick or treaters going door to door are still at an increased risk for contracting the virus. 

“That’s why we’re encouraging all our scholars to wear masks, as well as wash and sanitize their hands frequently,” Jasmine says, adding that Halloween costume masks are not a substitute for a standard face covering.

To make sure we have a safe Halloween, scholars who show any signs of illness should stay home to avoid exposing others to germs. All scholars age 12 and older should strongly consider becoming vaccinated against COVID-19.

Keep the scares to a minimum

Some kids love seeing scary costumes and visiting a haunted house! But for others, the ghosts and ghouls may be too scary — especially given the 2-year gap in Halloween celebrations and the emotional stress of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 brought on fears, sadness, and potential losses within the family or community,” Jessica says. “This can impact sleep, appetite, and of course your emotions.”

While they might be fine for some folks, Jessica cautions against engaging in fear-inducing activities this year, or keeping them to a minimum.

“While we might generally feel OK,” she says, “grief and loss symptoms can show up unexpectedly. It’s important to be aware of that.”

Little girl in Halloween costume in school

If you see something, say something

On Halloween, our top priority is to ensure the safety of our scholars and families. The best way of achieving that, Jasmine says, “is to look out for each other.”

“Halloween is a fun time of year to celebrate with our community, but it can also pose unique risks or safety concerns,” she adds. “Remember, if you see something, say something.”

Observe any dangerous or illegal activity? Call 911 and report it immediately.

Beware of scary movies

Rather than trick or treat, you might cozy up with a spooky movie or TV show. But before you do, consider the age of your kids and follow recommended rating systems.

“Younger kids might say they are fine, but watching scary or violent content can significantly impact mood, sleep, and even learning,” Jessica says. “This year especially, we recommend limiting exposure to sensitive content.”

Stick with your community

When it comes to having a safe Halloween, Jasmine and Jessica urge all our scholars and families to stick with their community. Spending the evening with other Harlem Children’s Zone community members is a plus, as is attending events like our annual Baby College (Friday, Oct. 29, 1:00-2:30 PM on Zoom) and Salem Community Center Candy Giveaway (Friday, Oct. 29, 3:30-5:45 pm at Salem Community Center, 211 West 129th Street).

“And remember,” they say, “never go out with strangers, stay with family and friends you know, and look out for each other.”

If you have any questions about safety protocols or concerns, contact your scholar’s teacher or After School staff for guidance. We are here to support our community and help them have a fun and safe Halloween!