Beyond Candy: Think About Some New Halloween Treats This Year
by Katie Beltramo
Do you remember Halloween as a kid?
Me, I'd come home and yank off my costume, then dump a pillowcase full of booty onto the kitchen table or family room floor and sort it all, trading with my sisters and reveling in the sheer volume of sugary deliciousness.
Oh, Halloween, we'll always have candy.
Everyone loves candy, right? So what's the problem?
Let's face it: candy's a bunch of empty calories.
I mean, yes: It's delicious. But, do you ever read about America's Childhood Obesity Crisis and wonder whether you are part of the problem? On Halloween night, you probably are. Michelle Obama would advise you to set down that bowl full of M&Ms and get the kids out into the garden to harvest some carrots. But if that's too daunting for you, the least you can do is confine them to a couple of snack packs, then crank up Beyoncé to distract them with a dance party. Let's move!
Forget the kids. . . it's a bunch of empty calories for you, too.
Do you really want stockpiles of chocolate and caramel in your house for the next couple of weeks? Wait, scratch that: do you really need stockpiles of deliciousness in your house? Will that encourage you to make good choices? Hmmmm? I didn't think so. In my experience, it's much easier to resist applying temporary tattoos to yourself than it is to resist eating snack-size Snickers bars. And if you're going to eat empty calories, they should be sophisticated, classy, grown-up extra calories: Sea Salt Soirée, come to Mama!
Also: candy's not so great for anybody's teeth.
There's a reason why all of those dentists have candy buy-back programs. OKay, even if you're handing out sticky-sugar treats, your next-door neighbor is unlikely to present you with the dental bill when she has to get three of her son's cavities filled. But wouldn't it be nice to know you're not part of the problem? Plus, what about all those poor kids in braces? They're strictly no gum, no caramel, which is tough enough on a normal day, and even more difficult on Halloween.
Besides, what the heck is in that candy?
We agonize over our children's food choices. We spend erstwhile college funds to purchase organic milk and painstakingly prepare healthful school lunches in an attempt to raise offspring who are untainted by the Evils of Artificially Manufactured Food-like Products all year long. Then Halloween rolls around. And we look at Skittles and say to ourselves, sure, these tangy and delicious chewy candies are named after fruit flavors without containing any actual fruit, and they are made with literally a rainbow of artificial dyes, but you know, whatever, that's what Halloween's all about.
Candy isn't accessible to everyone.
Between nuts, dairy, gluten, eggs, and food additives, it's likely that some of those cute little trick-or-treaters won't be able to eat your candy. And if you're about to start whining that it's annoying to accommodate kids with allergies, just quit it right now. Because it is way more annoying to actually have to watch out for allergens every single day to protect your child with food issues. In fact, for some families, it's downright terrifying. Thank your lucky stars if you're not in this position, and be mindful of food concerns as a way to support and show kindness to other families. Because there's such a thing as late-onset allergies. And karma.
Okay, I might concede that candy is not always as perfectly wonderful as it seems to be while it's melting in my mouth.
But. . .
I don't want to be the lame house that hands out toothbrushes.
You don't have to be lame. In fact, you will be awesome! You know what kids love? Choices! Kids love making decisions, and making decisions is a good skill for them to learn. So provide them with choices, and you're making them happier, wiser people. You're terrific. Incidentally, sometimes parents like choices, too. If you see some new-looking parents with a toddler, you can hold up the options with a questioning air and make Significant Eye Contact before offering anything to their beloved progeny. Depending on the parent-child combo, they could be worried about sugar, choking hazards. . . whatever. Support those newbie parents--they'll be grateful to have a little input, and you'll let them know that you're on their new team, Team Parents.
I'm worried that there aren't any other great options.
Oh, you're wrong there! Between demand for Halloween party favors and advocacy from folks like FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), retailers have jumped on the non-food Halloween treat options in a huge way. Oriental Trading has a vast Halloween novelty toy section, or you can check out your local party goods or dollar store for erasers, spider rings, stickers, and more giveaways. As someone with experience offering up gewgaws to children while representing KidsOutAndAbout, I can tell you that the kids love slap bracelets and foam glider planes.
I don't want to spend more money on Halloween than I already do.
I hear you! And really, just like with candy, there's a range of prices. With a big bag of candy, a single portion will generally run you about 10-20 cents, although there are cheaper options (I'm lookin' at you, Laffy Taffy!). Do you usually hand out one piece of candy, or two or three? When it comes to trinkets, you can splurge on slap bracelets at a quarter each, buy tattoos at about 5-8 cents a piece, or fall somewhere in the middle. But here's where you've got an excellent opportunity for bargain hunting: Stuff like this doesn't go bad! So you can check out the post-Halloween sales, scoop up some mega-bargains, and then stockpile next year's stuff and pack it away with your Halloween decorations.
I don't really want to burden Mother Earth with more unnecessary junk.
Wow, good point. Have you heard about Books For Treats? It's a simple idea: Offer your used children's books as treats on Halloween. We've done this at our house, and kids love it. Seriously, one time a little boy reacted as if he'd won the lottery. It was possibly my most joyful Halloween-treat-dispensing moment ever.
We also collect random stuff: You know, the frisbee handed out at a camp fair, the favors from previous birthday parties, the craft supplies that never inspired the kids that are cluttering the house. After all, one person's trash is someone else's treasure. And if you feel guilty offering up--let's face it--junk to random children, remember that it's their choice: they can always go for a chocolate bar instead. In recent years, our front porch has come to resemble a tag sale, and some kids really love it.
So, wait a minute, are you saying that I can promote children's literacy while de-cluttering my house, helping out parents of kids with food issues, and avoiding calories and cavities?
Yes, you can! Fabulous, right? On October 31st you're going to make the world a better place just by answering your doorbell.
Now, all you need to do is come up with some costumes. . . .
© 2014, KidsOutAndAbout.com
Katie Beltramo, a mother of two, is the Albany editor of KidsOutAndAbout and also blogs at Capital District Fun. She's lucky enough to live on one of those neighborhood streets that's so awesome for trick-or-treating that parents drive in from all over to bring there kids there. So, she's kind of an expert with this treat-handing-out thing.