The latest Census information estimates that more than 36 million kids go trick-or-treating each year and that more than 790 million pounds of pumpkins are produced annually; and that there are more than 2,500 costume rental stores nationwide. So Halloween is big business, and with this year’s orange and black festivities happening on a weekend (Friday), count on a late night with lots of foot traffic!

And here’s a bagful of treats for fellow Moms, including tips that I’ve compiled and edited concerning safety, dental health, and free yogurt!

o Discuss safety in advance with your kids.

o Virtual Carving – As a safer alternative to knives, or if you hate to get your hands dirty, consider “virtual carving.” There are some adorable online sites where you can let your computer mouse do the dirty work, and it’s a thrill for young kids (and moms, too!). Google “pumpkin carving online” for a selection. One I like that is simple and fun is

o Light the Night – Now is a great time to put fresh batteries in your flashlights. Also, consider lightweight flashlights your kids can carry. Another fun tip is to bring light sticks – kids love them, and your glowing children will be easy to spot in the dark.

o No Chocolate for Dogs! Chocolate can actually be toxic to dogs, so be careful as your kids spread candy all over the floor.

o Pillowcases make great trick-or-treat bags – And if you’re game, you can let your kids decorate them with markers or paint.

I’ve collected some useful parenting tips from other sources as well.

First, some important safety tips, reprinted with permission from The Safety Mom, Alison Rhodes’ The Safety Scoop Newsletter.

Remind your kids:

Do not get into cars or talk to strangers

Look both ways before crossing streets

Do not enter homes of strangers — only accept treats in the doorway and thank the homeowner for the treat

Remind your child to not eat anything that they receive until they return home and it can be checked. Anything that is not in an original wrapper should be thrown out.

There’s safety in numbers: If your child’s old enough to go out without an adult, make sure they will be trick-or-treating with several friends and be sure you know who they are. Establish a route they will take and set a curfew. If your child doesn’t have a cell phone, let them use yours for the evening.

Keep it light: If possible, try to create or select a costume in a lighter color which is easier to see in the dark. Place a piece of reflective tape on both the front and back of the costume.

No strings attached: For younger children be sure there are no long strings near the collar of the costume which could pose a strangulation hazard. Also, make sure the costume is not too long which could cause your child to trip (one of the leading causes of accidents at Halloween are falls).

Rhodes also discusses some safe alternatives to traditional Halloween candy including stickers, temporary tattoos or pretzels.

The second treat includes ways to “prevent holey teeth” strategies, courtesy of Delta Dental Plans Association, and comes with a Halloween Riddle: What evil villain doesn’t go thump in the night or creep about in the fog, but silently leaves a potentially dangerous trail of oral destruction in its wake? The answer is sugar.

“While we tend to focus on Halloween candy at this time of year, sometimes parents don’t realize the amount of sugar children consume during the entire year,” says Max Anderson, DDS, a national oral health advisor for Delta Dental Plans Association. “It’s not just the sugar in candy that is harmful, but the sugar that is packed into foods such as cereals, processed fruit snacks, birthday cakes and sweetened beverages, which children may eat and drink every day.”

Anderson shares the following dental health tips appropriate for Halloween:

• Choose candy that can be eaten quickly and easily to limit the amount of time sugar is in contact with the teeth.

Steer away from sticky candies like sugared fruit snacks, caramels, popcorn balls and other candies that expose the teeth to sugar for long periods of time.

• Encourage children to eat a small amount of candy in one sitting followed by a glass of water or a thorough tooth brushing.

Give kids a good meal prior to trick-or-treating, so there will be less temptation to fill up on candy.

Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.

“When you consider that each year Americans consume 142 pounds of sugar and corn sweeteners and gobble up 25 pounds of candy, it further emphasizes the importance of practicing all these cavity prevention strategies year-round and not just at Halloween,” says Dr. Anderson. (Sources: U.S. Census Bureau 2008 Statistical Abstract; U.S. Census Bureau’s Facts for Features)

And finally, I promised free yogurt! This is an adorable promotion that may interest you as a way to trade candy for calcium.

For up to two weeks following Halloween, parents can send any candy wrappers which their kids have earned trick or treating (limit one submission per household) to YoCrunch and be rewarded with a coupon good for any YoCrunch product. Mail to Shaina Zalma, YoCrunch, 9507 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 300, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

Happy Halloween!