Can kids go trick-or-treating this year? Tips for a safe Halloween

Story by CBC Kids News • 2021-10-13 14:42

Health officials say have fun, follow local guidelines and don’t go out if you’re feeling sick


It’s mid-October, and now that Thanksgiving is over, many Canadian kids will start to look forward to the next big celebration: Halloween.

Yay! Candy, costumes and fun!

But wait. Some Canadian kids were asked to avoid trick-or-treating back in 2020, in places where there were lots of COVID-19 cases. Will the same thing happen this year?

While most parts of the country still have gathering limits and mask requirements, most kids are back to school in person and many places have eased restrictions enough to allow for small indoor gatherings and activities.

However, COVID-19 is far from gone.

Some provinces, like Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, are seeing surges of infections and kids under 12 still aren’t able to be vaccinated against the virus.

So, can kids go out for Halloween this year? And if they do go door-to-door, how can they stay safe?

Trick-or-treat! It’s on in 5 provinces, with more guidelines to come

CBC Kids News reached out to every province and territory to ask them what they were advising for Halloween this year.

Five provinces responded with Halloween-specific guidelines: Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, P.E.I. and Nova Scotia.

In those five provinces, trick-or-treating currently has the go-ahead — with precautions.

Dr. Theresa Tam is Canada’s chief public health officer and the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). PHAC says that cancelling or restricting Halloween events and activities like trick-or-treating is up to the provinces, but it did offer up some general guidelines. (Image credit: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

So far, no province or territory has said it will outright cancel or ban door-to-door trick-or-treating, but many provinces and territories are still working on their guidelines.

It helps that trick-or-treating usually happens outside and “outdoor transmission of COVID is very, very low risk,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease doctor in Toronto, Ontario.

That said, here are some tips and tricks for being extra safe on Halloween from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the various provinces that have released guidelines.

Tips for kids going door-to-door:

Tips for people who are handing out candy:

While this is a good summary of the rules for Halloween 2021, both provincial and federal health officials say to check your own local guidelines, as every region may have different rules.

Do I have to wear a mask outside?

Government health authorities do recommend masks be worn outdoors if physical distancing isn’t possible.

As for Chakrabarti, he said masks aren’t really needed outdoors, but that people should make their own risk assessments if they’re going door-to-door.

If someone does choose to wear a mask, he said people shouldn’t shame them for it.

Costume masks don’t count

If you’re going to be indoors, costume masks are not a substitute for a well-fitting non-medical mask, health officials say.

However, you shouldn't wear a costume mask on top of your non-medical  mask, either.

Doing that could be dangerous because it makes it hard to breathe.

Masks that are made for costume purposes only, like the ones pictured, are not appropriate for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and can’t be worn in places that require masks, experts say. Many costume masks have holes for the mouth and nose and were not designed with infection control in mind. (Image credit: Trevor Brine/CBC)

Instead, health officials recommend incorporating an approved non-medical mask into your costume.

Alternatives to trick-or-treating

Of course, if you can’t go door-to-door this year, for your own personal reasons or because of a public health restriction, you can try other at-home activities.

PHAC recommends a candy scavenger hunt, a virtual pumpkin-carving contest or just watching a Halloween-themed movie.

Health officials recommend that households that are sick or symptomatic, or have chosen not to hand out candy for their own comfort, should turn off all their lights and put up a sign to discourage trick-or-treaters. That means making sure your jack-o’-lantern isn’t lit either. (Image credit: Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Kids' mental health is important, PHAC said, and missing out on “one of the most anticipated events of the year for kids” could make them feel sad.

PHAC said it’s important to find new ways to celebrate big events, even if the holidays “look different than they have in the past.”

What’s your plan for Halloween 2021? We’d love to hear about it. Email us at

With files from Bobbie-Jean MacKinnon, Jessica Wong/CBC News

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