We’re quickly approaching Halloween, that time of the year where little kids don layers of polyester and face paint, head door-to-door, greet the neighbors and come home with buckets and pillowcases full of treats. It’s exciting! And fun! And miniature candy bars are the cutest! And it’s a great way to say hi to the people that live seven houses down!
Unless you’re a family with food-allergic children.
Truth be told, we’ve skipped out on Halloween altogether. My daughters are young (the eldest just turned six), and the idea of them going door-to-door and me trying to police whether or not my cheerful neighbors are dropping what is essentially poison to my children in their bags and then taking 80% of the candy away is … anxiety inducing.
Forget it. We’re not doing Halloween, I declared when they were small. We also didn’t do birthday celebrations or after-church luncheons or pizza parties and ice cream socials, and that worked for a little bit (especially while I was in the trenches of having three tiny kids three and under), but now that they’re older and I have a better handle on their allergies, I try to find safe ways for them to join in on the fun.
1. Get your neighbors in on it.
My neighbors are lovely and gracious and completely understanding of my girls’ health concerns (they’ve also been privy to seeing ambulances zoom down our road, and they’re the first ones to knock on the front door and offer help). While many of them have offered to pick up candy they can have, my daughters’ allergies are sort of intense (dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, mustard, and coconut), so I head to the store and grab some treats they can have and deliver to about eight or so neighbors before the trick-or-treating begins.
It’s sort of labor intensive if you want to get the whole ‘hood in on it, and this obviously means that they only trick-or-treat at eight houses, but it’s worked great for us. Also, I have amazing neighbors, so I’m lucky in that regard. It’s also a great way to get to know yours!
2. Get some non-edible treats.
This tip is my favorite. And no, it doesn’t control what other people do, but I feel like it silently inspires others to get on board the we-don’t-need-treats-all-the-time train. I no longer pass out candy at Halloween. I’ve passed out Silly Bandz (remember those animal shaped bracelets that were all the rage? can those start trending again, please?) and teeny pots of Play-Doh.
Even to teenagers, and my house hasn’t been egged yet. In fact, they’ve all been responded with, “OMG PLAY-DOH? CAN I HAVE BLUE?”
Yes, teenager who didn’t even bother to put on a mask. You can have blue. ;)
Other non-edible ideas: stickers, pirate eye-patches, hair ties, glow-in-the-dark bracelets, bouncy balls, pencils, leftover wedding favors (JK, not those).
3. Stage a Trunk or Treat.
Get some parents together to create your own fun and safe trick-or-treat time. Here’s how it works:
Parents line up their vehicles in a safe parking lot (at a church or at a school, with permission from administration), and kids go from trunk-to-trunk. Some parents get wild and decorate, and some just have a bucket of goodies for all of the teeny Elsas and little Spidermans and miniature cardiologists.
4. Pass out the treats.
We’ve dressed up the girls in their costumes and have deemed them in charge of passing out the treats. So they’re not going door-to-door, but they’re enjoying the experience of people coming to them, and the responsibility of bestowing treats on other children gives them a bit of a thrill. And maybe a power complex.
“Behold, I have treats for you. Extend forth your bag, Iron Man.”
5. Throw a party.
The best way to have control of what gets served, I’ve found, is to throw the party myself. I’m not Queen of all things Pinteresty, but I can handle a small crew of kids in costumes and play some fun dance music and serve cute, allergy-friendly snacks.
6. Trade in goods.
Buy some treats your kids can have, and after they’ve done the traditional trick-or-treating, swap out all of the snacks they can’t have for treats that they can have. Or if you just want to forgo all the edibles altogether, tell them they can cash in all of the candy for a toy instead.
7. Make it a family affair.
Fill up some Thermoses with hot cider, pack a basket of snacks, and find a local corn maze or hay ride or — if you and your kids are daring — a fun and spooky haunted house.
How do you handle Halloween with food allergies?