While some young teens have relinquished their candy bags, crossing to the other side of the door to hand out treats, the annual door-to-door...

Share story

While some young teens have relinquished their candy bags, crossing to the other side of the door to hand out treats, the annual door-to-door outing is still a popular activity with junior-high-school kids in some neighborhoods.

With Halloween transformed into an all-ages holiday, there’s less “little kid” stigma about dressing up. While some secondary schools ban Halloween garb, others invite kids to dress up, as long as costumes are in good taste, adhere to the school dress code and don’t interfere with the educational environment, explained Vic Anderson, assistant principal at Seattle’s Madison Middle School.


Halloween and teens

At what age are kids too old to trick-or-treat?




You’re never too old!


View Results

At Pine Lake Middle School in Sammamish, students dress up, and “It is a fun day, but we don’t have parties or an assembly,” said assistant principal Michelle Caponigro.

Other schools host Halloween-themed costume dances.

Halloween is trendy with young adults, with 85 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds planning to celebrate the holiday, up from 67 percent last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. Nearly two-thirds of young adults will don a costume.

“Halloween has especially exploded among young adults who are celebrating with large parties and elaborate costumes,” said Phil Rist, vice president of strategy for BIGresearch.

That trickles down to younger teens, who aren’t ready for club parties but still want their fun.

Teen Halloween events


Teen flashlight pumpkin hunt: Prizes and goodies for ages 11 to 16. Dress warmly and bring a flashlight. 7:30-8:30 p.m. Oct. 26 (meet at 7:15 p.m.). Free. Bitter Lake Community Center, 13035 Linden Ave. N., Seattle, 206-684-7524.

Flashlight candy hunt: Middle-school students can search for candy in a dark, haunted hangar. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27. Free. Hangar 27, Magnuson Park, 7400 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle, 206-684-7588. High-school students are encouraged to volunteer as helpers.

Halloween Howl: Haunted house for ages 11 and up. 6:15 — 8:45 p.m. Oct. 27. $1 (limit one trip). Jefferson Community Center, 3801 Beacon Ave. S., Seattle, 206-684-7481.

Masquerade Ball: For ages 12 and up. 9:30-11:30 p.m. Oct. 27. Free and open to nonmembers. Shoreline/South County Family YMCA, 1220 N.E. 175th St., Shoreline, 206-364-1700.

October Madness: Costume contest (no weapons or masks), pumpkin painting, swimming, basketball, games and free food for students in grades 6-12 in the Auburn, Highline, Kent and Federal Way school districts. Bring student ID cards or YMCA membership cards. 8-11 p.m. Oct. 27. Free. Auburn Valley YMCA, 1620 Perimeter Road S.W., Auburn, 253-833-2770.

Halloween Costume Par-tay: Costume contest, games and scavenger hunt. 6-11 p.m. Oct. 28. RSVP by Oct. 26. Open to community teens. $5. Bellevue Family YMCA, 14230 Bel-Red Road, Bellevue, 425-746-9900.

Scary stuff

FrightFest: Local teen leaders say this is a favorite, albeit expensive, outing. Besides thrill rides, there’s a 3,000-square foot Haunted Mausoleum and dance party most evenings in the wave pool. 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5- 9 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 29. $24.99. Wild Waves and Enchanted Village, 36201 Enchanted Parkway S., Federal Way, 253-661-8000.

Haunted houses: Teen leaders suggest KUBE 93 FM Haunted House at Renton Motorcycles, 3701 E. Valley Road, Renton. Another option is the House of Terror at SuperMall in Auburn. $10-$13. For information on both, visit www.seattlehaunts.com.

Scary Nights in the Cornfield: 7-11 p.m., admitting until 10 p.m., Friday and Saturdays through October and Oct. 29-31. Ages 14 and younger must be accompanied by chaperone age 21 or older. $10. Biringer Farm, Highway 529 between Everett and Marysville, Everett, 425-259-0255.

Field of Screams: 7-10 p.m. today and Oct. 27-28 and 6-10 p.m. Oct. 29-31. Appropriate for ages 10 and older. $10 or $12 (with corn maze). Stocker Farms, 10622 Airport Way, Snohomish, 360-568-7391 or www.stockerfarms.com.

Haunted Woods walk: 7-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through the month, $15-$22.50, advance tickets available online, space limited. Not recommended for ages 10 and younger. Night Corn Maze, flashlights required, 7-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through October, $7-$10. Maris Farms, 24713 Sumner-Buckley Highway, Buckley, Pierce County, 888-235-5439or www.marisfarms.com.

Ravenna teen trips: Supervised teen outings with transportation provided. KUBE 93.3 Haunted House, 6-9:30 p.m. Oct. 26, $10; and Maris Farms Haunted Woods, 6-10 p.m. Oct. 28, $15. Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center Teen Program, 6535 Ravenna Ave. N.E., Seattle, 206-615-0277.

“It just gets bigger and bigger every year — you can’t slow it down,” said Cindy Mueller, co-president of the Highland Middle School PTSA in Bellevue. She admits it’s not hard to see the allure: “It’s an opportunity to hang out as a group, dress up and get candy.”

When she suggested her 12-year-old daughter was too old for trick-or-treating, “she looked at me like I had a screw loose,” said Mueller, who also has an 11-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son. She thinks more older kids trick-or-treat than when she was young.

“They really want the candy,” she said. “They’re into getting to as many houses as they can.”

Though some of her peers prefer to stay home and give out candy, Bellevue resident Marissa Dawes, 12, doesn’t plan to stop trick-or-treating any time soon.

“I put my heart into designing a costume, dress up, go out to collect lots of candy and return home to sort it all,” she said. “I think someone is never too old to go out and have fun goofing off with friends and getting a big score of candy! … I guess the best age to ‘retire’ would be about the time of college.”

One option for young teens is to chaperone younger siblings or neighborhood kids. Melody Ferguson’s 13-year old daughter plans to dress up for Halloween and go out with her younger siblings. She’s collecting donations as part of a UNICEF coin drive organized by the Honor Society at Kirkland Junior High School.

For homeowners answering the door, big kids’ attitude is key. “Trick-or-treating is nothing more than going out and playing a game,” said Deborah King, owner of Final Touch Finishing School. “As long as teens play by the rules and put some effort into it, homeowners should go along, too.”

However, she understands adult frustrations when older teens seem like they’re just out to scam free candy. “Coming up with a pillowcase and a shirt backwards — that’s not a costume,” she said.

Depending on the neighborhood and the child’s maturity, many parents let younger teens trick-or-treat on their own with friends, often with cellphones as backup.

Even if teens balk, parents can insist on tagging a short distance behind. “You supervise kids if they can’t take care of themselves, and you supervise older kids who are in the position of getting into trouble if they’re unsupervised,” said Greg Grannis, public information officer for the Bellevue Police Department.

Christine Lesh, teen-development leader for Seattle Parks and Recreation, advises parents to look for organized activities that offer teens a sense of independence but are still supervised. When she takes groups to corn mazes and haunted houses, she carefully plans what to wear. Far from avoiding her, teens stay close by during the scary outings. “I know they’re going to stretch my shirt out, grabbing it,” she laughed.

If teens go trick-or-treating without an adult, parents need to remind them to watch their P’s and Q’s (say thank you, don’t trample gardens) and discourage large groups and late wandering, King suggests.

“It can feel very intimidating to a homeowner when 20 teens come to the door,” King said. It’s usually older ones who come after 9 p.m., which, she says, should be the cut-off. “Past 9 p.m., trick-or-treaters aren’t welcome.”

Stephanie Dunnewind: 206-464-2091 or sdunnewind@seattletimes.com