Halloween is awesome. For well over a month, I can walk into pretty much any store and find GIANT bags of my favorite candy to buy. Mmm. Sugar.
One bag for me. One bag for trick-or-treaters.
Two more bags for me. One more bag for trick-or-treaters.
The thing is, I don’t just get the Halloween candy. Oh no. And that’s what I’d like to talk to you about today.
I say this as a candy lover, a mom of kids with food allergies, and someone who has the same food allergy: it’s time we make offering non-food treats the norm on Halloween.
My kids and I are allergic to chocolate/cocoa. As you can likely guess, this makes trick-or-treating, well, tricky.
On Halloween they are in the habit of opening their bags to let people drop a treat in without their touching it. When they’re done, they and some neighborhood kids meet at one of our homes to dump their bags and trade all the candy they’re allergic to for safer stuff, instead (with me reading labels off in a corner, checking things out before they can take a bite of anything).
Some years are particularly chocolate-heavy, so (thankfully) our good friends and neighbors in the know will have something non-chocolate set aside just for them, plus I’ve always made a point to stash their favorite safe candies aside to beef up their bags—or to completely replace their bags, should someone accidentally toss an open package of chocolate inside, contaminating it all.
Then I realized there was another option that would benefit my kids and others like them.
I set out a second bowl filled with non-food items. Party favors, random kid tchotchkes, mini bubbles—things I happened to have around the house, and a few bits and bobs bought in multi-packs in the Halloween aisle at the grocery store.
It was a hit.
Parents and kids, alike, thanked me when they went for the safer bowl that night. In the days that followed, parents at school pulled me aside to tell me that it was a relief to have at least one home where their kids could take a treat without being scared of exposure to their allergen.
So I kept up the tradition.
Here are some of the things I’ve given away over the years:
- Mini notepads
- Spider rings
- Skull rings
- Sticky hands
- Spinning tops
- Punch balloons
- Temporary tattoos
- Toy spiders
- Tiny snakes
- Stretchy skeletons
- Faux fingers (kids LOVE these things, especially creepy or glow-in-the-dark ones)
- Vampire teeth
- Bouncy balls
- Glow sticks
- Tiny puzzles
- Mini slinkies
- Finger laser lights
- Coloring books
- Mini boxes of crayons
- Fake glasses
The cool thing about this stuff is that whatever doesn’t get snatched up doesn’t expire. Simply pop it into a zip-lock baggie to offer up again the following year. (And hit the clearance aisle the days after Halloween to stock back up on the cheap.)
Tips for setting out non-food treats:
- Yes, they’re for food-allergy kids, but other kids might not want candy, either. I don’t withhold the goods from anyone who seems interested in them. (My kids’ dentist approves this message. 😉 )
- Put them in their own bowl to avoid allergen contamination from the candy. On November 1st, I put my “non-food treats here” sign inside my big black jack-o-lantern bowl to remind myself that’s the food-free one, before storing it away after the holiday.
- Mini tubs of generic Play-doh are tempting to hand out, but many kids are allergic to that, too.
- You don’t need everything to be Halloween-themed. Think “party favor” and go from there.
- There’s an organization called “The Teal Pumpkin Project” (I have no connection with them) that encourages homes to set out a teal pumpkin to signal that there are non-food treats available, and even has free printable signs and stuff. Or take it a step further by buying a teal pumpkin or painting a wooden one to set out by/hand on your door. You can even get your own food-allergy kid a teal pumpkin trick-or-treating pail to signal homes like ours that they need a non-food treat.
Oh—and one more thing. THANK YOU. It means a lot to know that there are people out there helping make sure those food allergy kids can still have a fun Halloween.
Kim Bongiorno is an author, full time freelance writer, and the blogger behind Let Me Start By Saying. Her latest publication is the essay “This One is for the Ghost Girls” in YOU DO YOU, an anthology about the female experience written by authors ages 12-65 for readers of all genders, ages 12 and up. Learn more by connecting with her: Facebook · Twitter · Instagram · Goodreads · Amazon.com · BookBub · Newsletter · Book Announcement Mailing List