*This is an updated post, originally published 10/2018.
The Great Pumpkin is about to fly over the pumpkin patches, looking for the most sincere patch of them all– Halloween is upon us! Cue the costumes, the candy, the spooky films, and everything else that accompanies the day. Halloween is still one of my favorite holidays, which is why, now as an adult, I try to do my part to make Halloween as inclusive as possible for all to enjoy.
What do I mean by inclusive? Well, a few things, really. There are some kids that have a bad food allergy or sugar intolerance, some children can’t handle crowds, some have anxiety about knocking on stranger’s doors, or are afraid of the dark. Others have more complex challenges that make trick or treating onerous.
Luckily, there are many organizations out there to help navigate the challenges posed by a traditional Halloween Night. *The good people at Understood.org have just posted a very helpful article about helping kids with ADHD cope with Halloween. If food sensitivities or allergies are your family’s challenge, then take a look at the tips from The Teal Pumpkin Project. The Teal Pumpkin Project helps communities make trick or treating accessible to the 6 million+ kids living with life threatening food allergies. People that participate in the project display a teal pumpkin outside their house, or a teal pumpkin sign which signifies they provide non-edible trinket treats as well as allergen-free candy. People can go on the site and place a “dot” on their map to signify that houses in your community are participating in the project. Need some ideas for what kind of trinkets will bring Halloween joy to respective trick or treaters? Here is just a sampler list:
- Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces
- Pencils, pens, crayons or markers
- Halloween erasers or pencil toppers
- Mini Slinkies
- Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers
- Eyeball Bouncy balls
- Finger puppets or novelty toys
- Spider rings
- Vampire fangs
- Mini notepads
- Playing cards
- Temporary Tattoos
Additionally there are a few things to look out for. Some brands of moldable clay or putty contain wheat (bad for gluten-allergies), and other items might contain rubber or latex (bad for latex allergies), so read labels carefully before you put your bowls out! If you want to hand out candy, there are also some allergy friendly choices out there. No, they may not come in giant 5 pound bags, but they are still reasonably priced; naturally flavored lollipops without chemical food colorings, for example. Be sure to think about keeping edible treats and non-edible treats in separate bowls and label them so that kids know what they are getting.
Even if your community doesn’t have many Teal Pumpkin participants, there are work-arounds. If your allergy-saddled child comes home with a candy hoard that would make the early Vikings jealous, consider The Switch Witch or your dentist’s candy buy back program.
To implement The Switch Witch at home, you and your child should decide on an agreed upon amount of candy that is safe for them to have. The rest of the candy then gets placed aside for The Switch Witch who will visit that night. Once your kid is asleep on Halloween night, you trade out the Halloween candy for a toy or trinket the child can have. This equals a happy kid (they have a new toy) and a happy parent (less sugar highs to wade through)! If your child is too old for The Switch Witch (though some never tire of these things), then perhaps the dentist or school’s candy buy back is the thing to do to reign in the candy consumption. Buybacks are held at local businesses, traditionally but not limited to dental offices. With the goal of removing excess Halloween candy from kids while supporting our troops, the Buyback is a great platform to help multiple causes. To find a participating buyback in your area, use the ZIP code search at the site for halloween candy buy back to find an event close by. Are there no businesses in your area participating in the program? No worries. You can ship your candy directly to Halloween Candy Buy Back 2018’s non-profit Veteran’s organizations by filling out their donation form on their site. If you can’t get your kids to part with their candy, maybe they are willing to sacrifice some of that candy in the name of science? Channel their inner mad scientist and check out some super cool science experiments (albeit some of these ideas are a little messy) you can do with your kids using candy as your experimental medium. (see below for link)*
What if food is not the issue that makes Halloween challenging for your child? For example, what if trick or treating or big parties are a sensory nightmare your child? Here is a great article about strategies to help your sensitive child’s Halloween challenges. Some trick or treating alternatives may include baking a favorite treat together or inviting a small number of close friends to come to the house in costume to play some Halloween games, do some arts and crafts together, and/0r watch a movie.
Halloween is meant to be fun, so if you find yourself with complicated circumstances that make you dread this kid-focused holiday, fear not, there are many creative strategies to make Halloween less stressful and more inclusive. Now go out there and trick-or-treat with wild abandon! Here’s to wishing you lots of spooky fun for the days to come 🙂 Happy Halloween from the crew at ETM.
Anouck, Maki, and the gang!
This post is adapted from an October 2016 Eat The Marshmallow Letter from the Editor titled, Halloween For All.
Here are a few more resources that are specific to certain issues around Halloween: