On the verge of 3, my son is finally old enough to trick-or-treat this Halloween. He understands wearing a costume and knocking on doors. He’s been practicing saying “Trick or treat!” and “Boo!” to our neighbors’ ghosts and pumpkins that have been out since early September. He’s pointing out all the skeletons and witches he sees. Every day — no, every hour — he gives me a different (yet adamant) declaration of what he’d like to be for Halloween. (Current front-runners being a princess, a robot, and a boat — wish me luck.)
While plenty of kids start the trick-or-treating tradition well before 3 years old, we’ve never considered taking our son before. To me, there was no point in dragging him around outside past his bedtime collecting sugar-filled candy he wouldn’t be able to eat. He wouldn’t know what he was missing and simply dressing up in a Halloween costume was exciting enough. But this year, we’ve decided he can go to a few houses … and I’m only slightly terrified.
Yes, terrified, a totally normal reaction to a fun, kiddie-friendly holiday like Halloween. For most parents of young kids, the biggest concern about Halloween is dealing with the sugar rush that comes from the onslaught of typically-forbidden candy. But for parents like me, it’s a much bigger deal. My son has severe food allergies, making trick-or-treating for candy a little bit of a cruel activity. Sure, we could choose not to let him go trick-or-treating again this year, but eventually, he’ll know he’s missing out on something. Even this year, still in the throws of toddlerhood, he’ll know something’s up as he watches his friends walk around the neighborhood collecting treats. Hiding him from Halloween isn’t my preferred choice. So the other option seems to be letting him go trick-or-treating and then doing a sleight-of-hand magic trick to swap out all of his treats with something safe before he has a chance to dig in and realize, yet again, that he can’t have something.
Or, this year, there’s a third option out there: The Teal Pumpkin Project. The Food Allergy Research and Education organization (FARE) is leading the way in providing a safer option for kids with food allergies this Halloween as well as kids (or parents of kids more likely) that just don’t want so much candy. They’re encouraging families that want to participate to paint a pumpkin teal, which is the color of food allergy awareness, and place it on their front porch with a sign explaining the project. The teal pumpkin lets kids and parents know that the house has non-food Halloween treats available, meaning it’s safe for kids with food allergies, and they can actually keep the goodies they get on their trick-or-treating adventure. While at first it may sound like this is for a small audience, you might be surprised: As stated on FARE’s website, 1 in 13 kids are affected by food allergies in the US.
While some may balk at the idea of a non-candy Halloween treat, I’m in love with the idea, and not just because it personally benefits my son. I happened to live on the same street as my kindergarten teacher growing up and she was notorious for giving out treats that had nothing to do with candy: finger puppets, erasers, or pencils. It was one of my favorite houses to visit on Halloween, and I may have tried to stealthily stop there more than once in the same evening.
Here are some fun ideas for non-food Halloween treats:
- Glow sticks
- Rubberband bracelets
- Pencils, pens, crayons, or markers
- Halloween erasers or pencil toppers
- Mini Slinkies
- Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers
- Bouncy balls
- Finger puppets
- Spider rings
- Vampire fangs
- Mini notepads
- Playing cards
If you’re interested in the idea but don’t want to commit or are worried about it being too expensive, consider having two bowls (labeled) for kids to choose from – one with traditional treats and the other with something non-edible or allergy-friendly.
What do you think about The Teal Pumpkin Project – will you hop on board this Halloween? We sure will! Time to go paint some pumpkins! If you get in on the action, share your pictures on social media to help spread the word and awareness, using the hashtag #TealPumpkinProject.