How Old Is Too Old for Trick or Treating?

Posted October 30, 2012 by

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I’m embarrassed to admit that I was 16 the last time I went trick or treating. In a half-hearted attempt at a costume, my best friend Colleen and I “dressed up” in pajamas in a blatant and rather craven  bid for candy. Toward the end of the evening, an exasperated woman sputtered, “Aren’t you two a little old to be trick or treating?” Guilty as charged. What could we say? She was right — we were pushing our luck trying to score a toddler-sized bag full of candy. While I have to say that 14 seems to be a reasonable “last hurrah” for candy begging (as my mom used to call it), now some parents are saying that 12 is too old for trick-or-treating (really? 12?) — and some schools are trying to ban the holiday altogether.

Age limits for Halloween? I kind of get it, to a point. While cute little princesses and Power Rangers are in the spirit of the holiday, a few teens in hoodies on your doorstep grunting “trick or treat” doesn’t engender the same kind of warmth and desire to rain candy into their bags. Partially in response to this, some cities, like Belleville, Illinois, have placed an age limit of 14 on the holiday. (Some seniors in that town said they were afraid of older teens who showed up on their doorsteps.) In Boonsboro, Maryland, it’s even more strict — kids there over the age of 12 aren’t allowed to trick or treat anymore.

But are we going overboard with the rules a little bit? After all, Halloween is one of the few nights of the year where “kids can be kids.” They get to dress up, create costumes, and rove in packs with their friends in search of treats. For my son, his love of Halloween is second only to Christmas. What does he like most? “My favorite part of Halloween is getting candy, wearing costumes, going trick or treating with my friends, playing jokes on people — and trying to scare them!” At 9, Alex is firmly in the “scary” costume camp — this year he’s going as a ghoulish jack-o’-lantern, complete with long black cape and green, viney hands. I have to admit that I miss the days when he dressed up like a knight or a bumblebee, but the point is, he loves the holiday and has a blast. While I wouldn’t want to see him trick or treating past the age of 14 (in other words, don’t be like mom!) I don’t want to cut off the fun at 12, either.

What do you think? When should kids stop trick or treating? And should towns put a legal age limit on this Halloween custom?

P.S. I just did an informal survey of my house. My husband thought 14 was a good time to stop. My son said “20!” Uh oh.

Elisabeth Wilkins is the mother of one son and the Editor of Empowering Parents. She and her family live in storm-tossed Cape Elizabeth, Maine.


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. WxGirLiz Report

    This year my 16 year old stepson went trick or treating. I thought it was a bit old until I spoke with a good friend. She commented many kids 14 and over are up to some risky business, experimenting with drugs and alcohol or worse. If a 14 year old or 16 year old still has the courage and finds some enjoyment in getting dressed up and going door to door looking for sweets we should give a sigh of relief.

  2. Nathansmomma Report

    I think they’re too old when they decide that they have better things to do. Face it, by the time they’re 13 or so, they are starting to have more fun doing other things – like shopping or just hanging out. Roving around dodging little kids is probably not that high on the list. We have enough laws, rules, regulations and forbidden things already without banning children from having fun on a holiday.

    My son’s school is one of those that banned Halloween, and also Christmas. We might just have a private Christmas party for all the kids in his class…



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