The annual Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating is a good time to teach children the importance of incorporating walking into a daily routine to increase physical activity, said an expert at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine.
"It's a good opportunity to walk around the neighborhood as a family and, if you enjoy it, consider incorporating it into your daily family routine," said Dr. Jason Mendoza, a pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM.
Although there's a new trend for parents to drive children down the street in search of Halloween treats, Mendoza said that this may actually increase trick-or-treaters' risk of injury. The more traffic in the neighborhood, the greater the risk for a child to be involved in a pedestrian/vehicle crash, said Mendoza.
He advises that children wear visible clothing and costumes while trick-or-treating and encourages parents to closely supervise children. It's also a chance to teach children about how to cross the street safely.
"Research shows that when teaching children about pedestrian safety, it's important to model it and practice in the real world," said Mendoza.
Be sure to teach children to stop at the curb, look both ways before crossing the street, and encourage them to walk, not run, across the street to avoid injury.
If the Halloween walk is enjoyable, Mendoza encourages incorporating walking into a daily routine as it promotes a healthy lifestyle. Families can also consider whether a child may want to start walking to school. Research shows that children who walk to school have higher levels of physical activity than those who use another form of transportation.
"Taking a walk around the neighborhood is a great way for families to get fresh air, meet the neighbors and get active," said Mendoza.