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Are Teens Too Old to Trick-or-Treat on Halloween?

A Virginia town has a law that says Halloween trick-or-treaters can't be more than 12 years old. This mom disagrees.



Teenagers occupy a strange in-between world. No longer children, not yet adults, they are quick to abandon “childish” things and almost as quick to regret that they have done so. It is during the teen years that many of us start to wonder why we ever wished to grow up faster.

Trick-or-treating is something that many kids look forward to for months. They spend hours thinking about how they want to dress, often coming up with bigger and better ideas each week leading up to Halloween. As a parent, I learned early on to not buy or make the costumes my children asked for in August or September, realizing that they would likely change their minds a few times by mid-October.

It is an unheralded milestone when your child says, “Trick-or-treating is for little kids.” The first time I heard this, my insides lurched. My babies were growing up, much too fast, and they wanted to rush the process.

Since I made a similar proclamation at that age and later made a game-time decision to go out on Halloween, I advised them to keep the option open. “You can dress up anyway. There may be parties, so what do you want to be?” (Full disclosure, I love Halloween and have loved making costumes for my children. Though I have lost sleep and shed tears in that last week of October, I enjoyed it when they challenged me to create something out of the ordinary.)

Many adults think that once a child reaches a certain age or height that this fall ritual should end. (Editor's Note: A Virginia town has even set the cutoff at 12 years old.) They see trick-or-treating as an activity for small children and think that older kids are being greedy. Though candy is a motivator, most teens just want to dress up. In fact, I have seen many teens hand off their candy to younger kids while walking away from a house.

Dressing up is fun. It is not often that we have the opportunity to pretend to be someone else, if only for a couple hours. For us and our neighbors, Halloween is a community event, one of those days when we catch up with people a block or two over; when we see how much the kids have grown. Some parents also dress up and it is fun to see their costume choices each year.

Personally, I like to see teenagers at my door on Halloween. Some years, it was the impetus that got my own kid out the door, rather than moping around at home, if only for a short time. When the kids were little, we divided tasks: my husband handed out candy at our house and I walked with the kids. At some point over the years, he decided to revive the concept of trick-or-treating, insisting that kids do a trick for a treat. Though some are surprised at this, the kids remember it and in later years have come to the door with something prepared. Teens can be shy about this, but we often have been entertained with songs, dance moves and handstands.

I vividly remember the first Halloween I thought I was “too old” for trick-or-treating. I had a friend over and after the first few witches and ghouls came around, we decided we really weren’t too old. I had a pirate mask from a prior year and it wasn’t too difficult to come up with the extras to make that work. My friend lived too far away to run home for a costume, so we improvised. We grabbed a black trash bag, created leg holes and tied it loosely around her neck. I think we added crumpled newspaper to fill it out. The image of her walking down the street in this costume and her answer when people asked what she was — “A bag of trash, of course” — still makes me laugh.

Today, more than ever, kids are growing up too fast. If they have a costume, no matter how lame, I’ll give them some candy (especially if they are willing to show us a trick).

Kimberly Yavorski is an Ambler, PA mom of four grown children who still will create a costume when asked.

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