PUBLISHED: 2:03 PM on Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Throw a safe, ghoulish gala for all ages

  Create a costume easy to wear and functional for the event. Face paint or makeup can be used to get the look you want without messing with masks.
Halloween is a time where free spirits, young and old, enjoy a dose of magic and mischief. Part of the fun entails dressing in costume and trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, within Halloween fun lurks the potential for safety hazards. This year, learn the safest ways to enjoy Halloween with your children, family and friends.

a Crazy costumes - Sure. The wackiest and wildest costumes often garner the most attention, but too many embellishments can be dangerous. Masks are an easy way to get into the spirit of the holiday, but they obstruct your vision. And costumes with long or flowing skirts can cause trips or falls. By keeping safety in mind with your costume, you can make it spectacular but safe. Opt for face paint instead of masks, and follow package directions. Even makeup billed as safe for face use can cause irritation. Avoid sharp or protruding props, and make sure you can safely get around in your costume. Don't compromise your vision in any way by wearing tinted glasses, crazy colored contacts or prosthetics; you want to be able to safely walk around a dimly lit costume party room or outdoors in the evening.

a Create a safe party environment - Setting the mood for a Halloween party involves keeping the lights low and offering a creepy ambiance. But you'll want to provide enough illumination so that guests will be able to walk around comfortably. Consider an interior lighting set with a dimmer switch so that you can control the level of light. Avoid using candles inside where they can be inadvertently knocked over. Rather, line the exterior walkway of your home with tiny votives housed inside aluminum cans that have been poked through on the sides to let the light filter through in a creepy way. Or use battery-operated, Christmas-like lights in the shape of pumpkins for an even safer option. String the holiday light strands here and there for a festive effect. Offer guests flashlights or glow sticks for even more illumination.

When it comes to your home, avoid props or other items that people may trip over or stumble upon. Keep the house sparse so guests will have plenty of room to mingle. Set food-service tables at the outskirts of the room so that hot dishes won't be knocked over. Choose one large centerpiece item (like a mechanical coffin) rather than a bunch of little decorative items, which will get lost among a crowd.

a Choose a theme for optimal creativity - Tired of the same boring vampires and witches for Halloween? Think of a theme and go all out. For example, turn your home into a haunted Egyptian tomb. Decorate with urns of "treasure," cobwebs and mummies. Or how about a spooky tropical rain forest? Hang rubber snakes, lizards and other creatures from objects around the house, and visit your local craft shop for silk flowers, vines and other foliage to create a tropical, closed-in look. Don't forget the importance of setting the scene with an audio backdrop. Hook up your IPod to the stereo speakers and broadcast animal cries or insect chatter instead of the typical "Monster Mash" repertoire.

a Offer foods that are portable and fun - Make eating and drinking easy on guests who may be hampered by costumes. Finger foods like mozzarella sticks and mini quiches are easy to tote around. Consider threading chunks of fruit and cheese on shish kebab skewers so that they can be eaten on the go. For dessert, candied apples on a stick, bananas dipped in chocolate, or cupcakes are easier to tote around than a piece of cake. You can also bake sugar cookies into Halloween shapes like pumpkins, or cats or those that fit your theme, and then frost them with orange or black icing.