Too old to trick-or-treat?

Oct 28, 2009 at 4:30 p.m. ET

The first time we took our son out for trick-or-treating on Halloween, he was 18 months old. We dressed him up as a bumblebee and took him to three neighbors houses. The neighbors were delighted and pleased to fill his little paper sack with treats - that the parents ate, actually. Fast forward twelve years and that same bumblebee is 13 years old and considering whether it's still appropriate to go door to door and mooch candy from the neighbors. His parents are wondering, too.

Halloween is great fun for kids of all ages, but trick-or-treating is only appropriate for the young - and how young or old is open for debate. It varies according to community, and a bit by the kid. Some kids will want to stop earlier than others, and others will want to drag it out as long as possible.

Teen boy dressed for halloweenThe early crowd and the late crowd

Some things don't change, it seems. As when I was growing up, there's a younger crowd of small and adorable and well-supervised princesses and superheroes that are on the early side of the usual trick-or-treating time range. Slowly over the course of evening, the costumed crews get taller and spookier - and often less well-supervised.

Usually, about the time we're ready to blow out the candle in the jack o'lantern and turn off the porch light, we get one last knock from someone who created a costume at the very last minute (it definitely shows) and is often taller than us. While, yeah, we're pleased to get rid of the last of the candy bowl - if there is any left, that is - we are always struck that that last visitor probably shouldn't have made the (minimal) effort in the first place. That kid was definitely too old.

When I mention this to my son, he agrees that he doesn't want to be that tall last visitor, either. But he also doesn't want to miss out on any fun - or candy. Last year he went out with a group of friends and canvassed a small neighborhood. He liked that part - the being with friends part - more than the knocking on doors part. Even he sees that he's making the natural transition to the Halloween experience being more about a gathering than about door-to-door begging.


For the most part, kids around here self-select out of trick-or-treating sometime in middle school. That's about when it happened when I was a kid, too; I think I was 12 the last time I went out in the neighborhood (in a haphazard last minute costume). Eighth grade seems to be about the outer limits of reasonable trick-or-treating. Some kids recognize this and are fine with it - and some want to hang on as long as possible.

If your child isn't self-selecting out of this activity, it's probably reasonable to suggest an alternate activity - or responsibility - for your child. Maybe your older child can take on some of the house decorating, or be the one to give out the candy? Maybe your child can organize a gathering at your home with some close friends, some pizza and sweet treats?

My son says he's done with trick-or-treating this year. He says he'll stay home and answer the door while we take his siblings out. He says he's fine with it, that he knows it's time to stop - but he also has been asking his siblings if they will share their hauls with him. He may have moved beyond tricks, but no one is too old for treats.

Tell us: What age do you think kids should stop trick-or-treating? Comment below!

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