How Old Is Too Old For Trick-Or-Treating?

Every October, kids look forward to celebrating the spookiest day of the year. For most, that means grabbing a bag or bucket and making the neighborhood rounds, collecting enough candy to fill Willy Wonka's factory. In 2015 — the most recent year for which stats are available — an impressive 41.1 million children between ages 5 and 14 went trick-or-treating (via U.S. Census Bureau). That adds up to a lot of mini-Hershey bars. 

But while most people would agree it's adorable to see preschool princesses and third-grade ninjas on their doorstep, the approval level goes down as the trick-or-treaters get older. An ongoing poll from the Today show finds that 20 percent of respondents think the candy rounds should stop between ages 15 and 16, while 16 percent say kids between 13 and 14 are too old, and another 16 percent cap the limit at 17 to 18.

On the other hand, 44 percent of those polled say there should be no age barrier to candy collecting. Etiquette expert Catherine Newman is among them. Asked by Country Living whether teens should avoid trick-or-treating, she said, "I begrudge teenagers nothing ... Isn't trick-or-treating the most innocent, delightful thing for them to still want to do?" She added that going out at Halloween is a much more fun and healthy way for teens to socialize than staying at home, glued to their phones.

Psychologist Vanessa Lapointe added to Parents that age limits shouldn't apply to children with developmental delays. Despite their chronological age, they may enjoy collecting candy well into their teens or early adulthood.

Some towns set an age limit on Halloween

Depending on where you live, the age decision on trick-or-treating may be out of your child's hands. In recent years, selected towns in various states have made it illegal for anyone over age 12 to collect candy on Halloween (via Quartz). However, the odds of older kids getting penalized may not be that great. Chesapeake, Virginia, has had a law on the books for years that imposes fines and jail time for anyone trick-or-treating over age 12 or after 8:00 PM. But the town's mayor told Time that the ordinance is far too severe, and he's hoping to see it removed. 

The idea behind the bans is the potential threat teens pose, such as intimidating younger children, or vandalizing houses with eggs and shaving cream. At the very least, they may cause homeowners' candy supply to run out before the littler trick-or-treaters get a chance.  Newman asserted to Country Living that older children have the right to candy collection, as long as they follow some simple etiquette rules. For instance: No trick-or-treating without a costume, and outfits shouldn't be too gory. Take only a couple of treats per household, and be sure to say, "Thank you." 

When in doubt, Lapointe told Parents, ask your child what they want to do for the holiday. Some teens may feel too old to go door-to-door, while others may want to continue the tradition for another year or two.