For many people, one of the best parts of Halloween is dressing up and going door to door for candy. The problem is, not everyone agrees on how old is too old for trick-or-treating. Most people feel kids can trick-or-treat until they are at least 13 years-old, but after that, it gets a little more complex. While some states and municipalities have an age limit to trick-or-treat, in most cases, the decision simply comes down to a judgment call.
Basic Guidelines for Trick-or-Treating Age
An informal poll of nearly 3,000 readers by the Today Show indicated that 76 percent of people do not think there should be an age limit for trick-or-treating. Still, there's a big gray area between age 12, when going door to door for candy is usually acceptable, and 21, when a person is considered an adult in almost every way. Even though most people don't support a legal age limit for trick-or-treating, they may not welcome costumed college students on their doorstep.
The teen years are when trick-or-treating starts to become a question. Is 13 too old to trick-or-treat? What about 14? Ultimately, the decision is less about age and more about the individual kid.
Realize Manners Matter More Than Ever
While young kids might get away with grabbing a handful of candy, expectations are higher for teens. If older kids are polite when they trick-or-treat, that behavior can go a long way with adults who might feel they are too old. Kids who engage with adults, don't snatch candy, and say "thank you" are usually welcome at any age.
Put in the Effort
When you're older, dressing up is going to take more than a pair of purchased cat ears or a simple rubber mask. Kids who make a minimal effort with costumes aren't going to be welcome at every house. However, if a teenager is making their own costume or putting lots of effort into face painting, adults will sense that enthusiasm and be less likely to make judgments about age.
Consider Escorting Younger Siblings
When an older kid is going door-to-door with younger siblings, people tend to be more accepting of the behavior. Even if adults think the teen is too old for trick-or-treating, the presence of the younger child helps give them a role everyone accepts; they are helping younger kids enjoy Halloween evening safely.
Be Prepared for Disapproval
Some teens may care a lot about what other people think, and this could be a potential problem. Kids are bound to encounter some adults who disapprove of teenagers trick-or-treating, and if this disapproval will bother them, it might not be worth it. Similarly, if an older kid will react with anger to adult judgment, it might be time to stop. However, kids who are confident in their choice to trick-or-treat at an older age may not be bothered by disapproval.
Give Some Thought to the Group Size
For some adults living alone, a group of a dozen 19-year-olds trick-or-treating can be an intimidating sight, especially if the teens are in scary costumes. If you're deciding whether to trick-or-treat as a teenager or allow your teenagers to go out this year, considering limiting the group size to just a few people.
Legal Age Limit for Trick-or-Treating in Specific Cities
Before heading out door-to-door or letting your teens trick-or-treat, take a moment to check the laws where you live. Most states and cities don't have a legal trick-or-treating age limit, but there are a few places that do. The following cities ban trick-or-treating for older kids:
- Chesapeake, Virginia - In Chesapeake, there's a law on the books that bans trick-or-treating after age 14. However, the mayor of the city points out that this law hasn't been enforced, and no longer includes penalties for violators.
- Upper Deerfield Township, New Jersey - One New Jersey township limits trick-or-treating to 12 years and younger, but again, this law is not enforced.
- Belleville, Illinois - This Illinois town also bans trick-or-treating by teenagers over age 12, and this ban is more recent.
- Charleston, South Carolina - The city of Charleston has an age limit to trick-or-treat, restricting this Halloween tradition to kids 15 and younger.
Plenty of Halloween Fun for Older Kids
Most places don't have a specified age when kids stop trick-or-treating, so it's mostly a matter of deciding for yourself. Take some time to think about what the holiday means to you and how much effort you want to put into costumes and makeup. If it seems like it's time to stop, remember that there are lots of other fun ways for older kids to celebrate Halloween, including handing out candy, going to teen Halloween parties, and helping organize community events. The Halloween fun doesn't have to stop when kids feel they are too old to trick-or-treat. There are even plenty of ideas for adults to go trick-or-treating. For more helpful information on the topic, see this etiquette guide to trick-or-treating.