Trick or Tween! How Old is Too Old to Go Trick-or-Treating?

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Still Not Convinced? Give Your Child Other Options

If you really don’t want your tween or teen to trick-or-treat, but s/he is obviously missing doing something celebratory on the spookiest night of the year, you may want to consider giving her other options that seem more age-appropriate but still keep her involved.

  • Have a Halloween party in your home on Halloween night. Allow them some more serious spooks – like a VERY scary movie (make sure the other parents approve it, though…I’ll just say, been there, done that) – but also some plain old childish fun, like fanciful-shaped goodies, green punch with disgusting gummy body parts floating in it and so on. You can even have a costumed karaoke contest or costume fashion show. Another option my kids have always loved: have a sundae bar with candy corn pieces, crushed orange “Halloween” Oreos, gummy worms and so on so kids can build their own treat.
  • Have your child help host a trunk-or-treat, if trunk-or-treat is your thing. I’ve been to some AMAZING trunk-or-treats. I know it took the participants months – literally – to gather supplies and create the amazing displays. Volunteer your services this year and ask for your child’s help. S/he is almost guaranteed to absolutely love it.
  • Let your child hand out the candy. I had two years during my teenagehood when I really had no excuse to trick-or-treat (my baby brother wasn’t old enough, and I was “too old”). My mother allowed me to dress up and in fact, helped me create my costume. It took weeks and I looked amazing. Every time the doorbell rang, it was my job to go to the door. I saw the excited faces and the proffered bags and the cool costumes – and they all saw mine.
  • Plan a Halloween family fun night. As my sister and I got older, my mother and we kids would bake up a storm on Halloween night between answering the doorbell: pumpkin muffins, baked pumpkin seeds, the works. The house smelled delicious and later, after the last trick-or-treater had gone, the entire family curled up to a terrifying movie and fabulous treats. It was absolutely wonderful.

If You Do Let Your Older Child Trick-or-Treat

If you do decide to allow your child to go door-to-door, having a few rules in place just may soften the hearts of die-hard “too old!” dissenters in the neighborhood and make things more pleasant for everyone. Here are the rules I created the first time my oldest child went trick-or-treating with her friends and without me, but you can modify, add or subtract to your own preferences:

  • You WILL be polite. You will say “trick-or-treat” and “thank you”…and you’ll say it clearly. Uncool to do so around your friends? Well, that’s okay. You can stay home instead and do chores around the house for a few bucks to buy your own candy at Walgreen’s. It’s up to you.
  • NO spray-painting, eggs or TP. That’s for Mischief Night…Oh, that’s right! I don’t allow you out on Mischief Night. Whoops! Looks like it’s just dressing up and getting candy for you. (But that’s not so bad…is it?)
  • NO doubling up on houses. No, you may not turn your mask around, trade capes with your buddy and re-visit “the good house” that gives the giant Pixie Stix. Guaranteed I’ll hear about it, and I absolutely will make you march right over the next day and hand the candy back.
  • Yes, you have to wear a costume, and no, it can’t be Lindsay Lohan with an empty beer can and fake vomit down the front of the belly shirt. You can go a little crazy, sure. A seriously scary/freaky mask or something humorous. But I have limits, and before you go out that door, I’m going to approve your costume.
  • Nothing sexy. Sorry. That’s how Mommy wants it and that’s how it’s going to be. You have plenty of years left for “sexy.” This isn’t one of those years.
  • No, and I mean no picking on the littler kids you see. No matter what.

That was all. This may sound tough, but it’s just the sort of tongue-in-cheek half-humor, half-faux threat that my daughter responded to. And you know what? She went out…and had an absolutely amazing time.

It’s a Personal Choice

This is only my opinion, obviously. I know people who make older children sing, tell a joke or do a magic trick for their Halloween treat. I know others who simply turn away the kids that “look too old.”

But if you do decide to turn the big kids down, I hope you’ll choose to do so quietly, without humiliation (i.e. yelling out “Aren’t you a little OLD for this?” or finger-wagging). They really are still kids…no matter how “mature” they may look. Neutrally saying this is just your rule, and smiling, may be the best way to handle things if you plan on turning away trick-or-treaters over Age X.

Or perhaps you’re a former turn-away-er and want to reconsider this choice. If so, I hope you’ll keep the above observations in mind. And whatever you do – have a happy, joyous, spooky, creepy, fun, fun, FUN Halloween…no matter what age you, and your little visitors, are.




  1. I go all out at Hallowe’en, with a big yard display, and started doing this when we moved here 12 years ago. Many of my neighbors were 6 or 7 at that time, and will still come by. My rule is, if you come to my house dressed up, even if all you wear is a mask, you get candy by the handfuls (and I buy the good stuff). If you DON’T dress up, you get ONE piece of candy. I explain this and say if I go to all this effort to make my house fun to view and visit, the least you can do is make an effort to be a part of the spirit. One tween, about 13 or 14, came to my house all dressed up, and reminded me that she had come the year before without a costume of any kind, and got only one piece of candy. She had told her mother when she got back in the car, and her mother said she thought that was fair.

    I figure these older kids are the ones who will be doing the yard haunts in the future, and I want them to have as good a time as any other kiddo out there. Heck, I give candy to the parents who dress up, and offer cups of hot cider to all the adults who come by. Hallowe’en should be fun for all!

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