Non-Food Treat Ideas For A Candy-Free Halloween
Non-food treat ideas for a candy-free Halloween
Originally published 10/25/17
It’s trick-or-treat time! If you are planning on handing out non-food treats or going halfsies (half candy/half non-candy) this Halloween, continue reading. This post is saturated with non-food treat ideas for Halloween – and I have good news, many were approved or created by my 7 and 9-year-old nieces, Stephie and Allie.
I like the non-candy idea. Halloween’s candy-centric-ness (made up word?) has always been frustrating for me as an adult and nutrition coach. This country sells an insane amount of candy! According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), it is projected that Americans will spend $2. billion on candy this Halloween (2017), with 90 million pounds of that being chocolate. According to a Visual.ly infographic, on Halloween night, the average American will eat roughly 3.4 pounds of candy, and the average American kid will consume as many as 7,000 calories (for reference, one pound = 3500 calories)!
DAAAAAAAMN. With today’s rising obesity rates, I do not want to contribute to these booming statistics, which means I fully support handing out non-food items like fun toys and school supplies.
Yes, my views are VERY different from when I was a sugar-craving five-year-old in the ’80s. I was once a candy-whore (who wasn’t?).
I have clear memories of hunting down the largest pillowcase (candy-collector-holder-ma-thing) I could find, donning my plastic (and suffocating) Care-Bear mask with its coordinating plastic shirt and pants and running door to door. The goal was easy – gather as much candy as possible so that my extra-large pillowcase would overflow with glorious sugar. My candy tunnel vision was on point. Oh, how things have changed!
The Teal Pumpkin Project
In my last post, “The Teal Pumpkin Project,” I discussed The Teal Pumpkin Project, a campaign that raises awareness of food allergies by promoting the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters. Participating households across the world hand out non-food treats on Halloween, so that children with food allergies can enjoy the holiday. For all of you taking part in this movement, this article will help you fill your trick-or-treat bowls with non-food treats.
We can help
One in 13 children has a food allergy. For children with food allergies, intolerances, and/or diseases that prevent them from consuming sugar, a holiday like Halloween can be extremely challenging and disappointing… but it doesn’t have to be. By providing alternatives to food-related treats, we can help these kids.
Inspire our youth
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Take action and look at this Halloween as an opportunity to inspire future generations to be healthier. Sure, many kids will only have eyes (and tummies) for candy – but I bet there are many who would appreciate a cool, non-food treat in their bag. Trust me, if you choose fun, cool and useful non-food treats, your house will not be egged/toilet-papered – instead, kids will be lining up year-after-year to see what awesomeness you are sharing!
Bamboo Core’s non-food treat ideas for a candy-free Halloween
Here is my list of Halloween non-food treat ideas. For tips on how to make the switch away from candy, where to shop and what to look for in a non-food treat, scroll to the bottom of this article.
I sorted the non-food treats into eight categories:
- Arts and crafts/school supplies
- Assortment packs
Kids always love things that glow and light-up. Bright glow sticks and flashlights will help keep trick-or-treaters safe while they roam around the hood. Germaphobe parents will find the hand sanitizer handy (pun intended). 😉
- Finger flashlights – Bright mini flashlights that clip to your fingertips.
- Glow sticks that convert to bracelets and necklaces – Who doesn’t love a glow stick? Kids and parents will like these. Kids can add them to their costumes, make their boo-crews stand out and be safe on the dark roads.
- Hand sanitizer – Bath & Body Works anti-bacterial hand gels of mixed scents.
- Light-up whistle necklaces – Beware, parents may hate you for this potentially annoying treat.
2. Arts and crafts/school supplies
Arts and crafts pr are always a hit with kids and school supplies are useful and appreciated by teachers and parents.
Activity pads – Mini activity books to keep the kids busy for a short time.
- Bookmarks – 24 farm animal character ruler bookmarks (chicken, horse, cow and pig) – so cute!
- Crayon packs – Small boxes of Crayola crayons. Crayons are always good to have.
- Duck Tape – Mini Duck Tape that comes in assorted prints. My nieces came up with this idea and I think it is brilliant! 🙂
- LEGO monsters series minifigures – This complete set of monster LEGO minifigures is SUPER COOL, but pricey. These minifigures are the perfect, extra-special treats that you can hand out to your favorite neighbors. Doing so will elevate your cool factor to new heights.
- Mini comic books – The Halloween ComicFest (HCF) is on October 28th. Participating comic shops across the country will have mini-comic bundles, containing 25 of a single mini comic title available to purchase for $4.99. Anyone who goes to a participating comic shop on Oct. 28th will get a free comic. For more details about The Halloween ComicFest and where to find a local participating comic shop, visit www.halloweencomicfest.com.
- Notebooks – 12 assorted comic book mini notebook memo pads – great for doodling and sketching.
- Paint sets – Mini paint sets that come with a pallet and brush.
- Pencils – You can never have too many pencils. These are Halloween-themed.
- Pencil erasers – 30 adorable and assorted animal erasers. Zoo, jungle, farm, wild, sea and arctic animals are featured – very lovable.
- Play-Doh – Encourage creative play with these mini Halloween-themed Play-Doh cans.
- Sidewalk chalk – 12 boxes of colorful sidewalk chalk.
- Small coloring books – Halloween-themed mini coloring books.
- Stencils – These dinosaur-shaped stencils will be a hit among dino-lovers.
- Sticker boxes – Kids love stickers. This bundle consists of 20 boxes with 20 assorted Halloween-themed stickers each.
- Sticker sheets – 24 sheet of 9 Halloween stickers each for a total of 216 stickers.
The idea of handing out flower and vegetable seeds came from Stephie, my youngest niece (7). This is, by far, one of my favorite ideas.
This appeals to city and rural dwellers because you can grow the plants indoors on a window sill. A little gardening/science project is always a nice activity during non-summer months. An added bonus is that all seeds listed below are non-GMO.
- Flower seed packets – 20 individual packets of non-GMO wildflower seeds.
- Herb seed packets – 10 varieties of non-GMO heirloom herb seeds in individual packets.
- Vegetable seed packets – 12 heirloom varieties of non-GMO vegetable seeds in kid-friendly packaging
Kids love to play. From bubbles to bouncy balls to playing cards – there is something for everyone in this list.
- Bendable monsters – 24, four-inch monsters that can be bent into various poses.
- Bubbles – Halloween-themed bubble bottles.
- Caveman action figures – 48 plastic caveman action figures made in the USA. I LOVE these!
- Glow in the dark bouncy balls or Halloween themed bouncy balls – I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t like bouncy balls.
- Grow a dino – 12 assorted water-growing dinosaurs.
- Halloween Rubber-Ducks – Who doesn’t like a cute rubber ducky?!
- Plastic dinosaurs – Mini dinosaur action figures.
- Playing cards – 24 packs of mini playing cards. Examples of the games include Go Fish, Hearts, Old Maid, etc.
- Stretchy skeletons – Skeletons that are meant to be stretched and pulled in all directions.
- Yo-yos – 12 Halloween-themed yo-yos
- Carabiners – You can buy these in a pack of 20 and kids can use them for key chains and play.
- Wood airplane gliders – I remember these from when I was a kid – so fun!
- Foam glider airplanes – Pack of 24 individually wrapped 8″ foam glider planes.
Jewelry and temporary body art have always been a huge hit with kids. Here are four ideas that are sure to be enjoyed by all trick-or-treaters.
- Fake mustaches – 4 packs of 3 self adhesive mustaches. Great for costumes, dress-up and silliness.
- Jelly bracelets – Say hello to the ’80s with these 144 assorted (neon colors) rubber bracelets.
- Keychains – Kids love attaching items to their backpacks. This is a pack of 16 soft, plush 2″ emojis with removable keychain clips. Two colors are available: pink and yellow.
- Slap-bracelets – Bring back the ’90s with these colorful patterned bracelets!
- Spider rings – 36 child-size glow in the dark plastic spider rings. Creepy, but fun!
- Temporary tattoos – These fun and silly monster-themed tattoos will keep the youngsters happy, while these graveyard-themed Tattly tatts (non-toxic and made in the USA) will please the tweens that come to your door.
- Vampire fangs – Fangs are fun! This pack comes with 144 individually-wrapped white Dracula fangs.
Kids can work on their hand-eye cordination with these fun puzzles.
- Maze puzzles – Plastic Halloween-themed mazes.
- Mini Rubix Cubes – 6-pack of teeny Rubix Cubes.
- Mini-push button water games – 12 assorted plastic ghost and pumpkin designs.
7. Assortment packs
Amazon offers a lot of options when it comes to bulk party favors. Here are three ideas for Halloween assortment packs that include a little bit of everything.
Pokemon Go party favors pack – Pokemon kids wristbands, pencils, tattoos and Pokemon Go trivia questions
- 84 piece mega-Halloween novelty toy assortment pack – All toys are Halloween-themed: Included are 12 disc shooters, 12 crayon packs, 12 vampire teeth, 12 fun and games books (tongue twisters, connect-the-dots, hidden pictures, etc.) and 36 plastic spider rings.
- 156 Piece mega-Halloween novelty toy assortment pack – All toys are Halloween-themed: Included are 12 rubber ducks, 12 pencils, 48 mini-erasers, 72 temporary tattoos and 12 sticker sheets.
- Money/coins – If you decide to pass out loose change, consider placing the coins in a bag or pre-roll them so that kids do not reach into their treat-bag and accidentally pop a coin into their mouths. Also, my nieces state that if you are going to give change, don’t just give a couple pennies – it must be significant to have an impact. They suggest that a little change PLUS another treat or candy to go along with the money would be good.
- Gift certificates and/or gift cards – This may be a more expensive non-food treat. Unfortunately, I do not know of any restaurants other than fast food giants like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King that offer affordable gift certificates to pass out during Halloween. If you know of any healthy-ish gift certificates and/or gift card options (food or non-food related), please share in the comments below this post.
My moral dilemma
I have to admit, writing this blog post has been challenging. While writing, I had to stop several times and ask myself, “Am I essentially replacing one evil (candy) with another (cheap toys bought in bulk and manufactured overseas)? Am I in a position where I have to choose between the lesser of two evils?”
For me, it’s a difficult choice. On one hand we all know that there are many negatives to candy – there’s the sugar, the artificial and toxic ingredients, and the food dyes – all of which have been linked to disease, food allergies, and behavioral issues among people, especially children. The waste produced from Halloween is also high – a lot of Halloween candy ends up in the trash post-Halloween…
…but on the other hand, bulk toys and games are often made in places outside of the United States and are associated with wasteful packaging that may one day end up in a land-fill. We also don’t always know what these novelty products are made out of – do they pose a risk to our children?…and is that risk greater than what may happen when our kids consume thousands of calories of candy? UGH…
After letting these challenging questions swim around my brain, I stopped overthinking. I quickly remembered what motivated me to write this article. My blood boils every time I think about all of the toxic crap that the food industry exposes us to and feeds our children. So much of it has serious health consequences, especially when it is gobbled up is mass amounts, which is often the case during the period between Halloween and Easter. Then I thought about the stresses families with children with food allergies or illnesses have – and how hard holidays like Halloween can be…
As you can tell from the list I shared with you above, I put aside my holistic pride and chose the lesser of two evils – I decided to (begrudgingly) promote the companies that mass produce non-sugar and allergen-free goods for Halloween. Ahh!
I feel the toys have two significant attributes:
- They encourage creative art and play
- They support kids who cannot eat candy
The candy did not stand out in my mind as having any sincere positives. For me, the non-food treats win. What do you think?
What about restricting the amount of candy our kids consume?
Sure, as adults and parents we can set limits on things like candy consumption – and that’s all good… but it can be a relentless battle. As our kids get older, we are around them less and less, and not always in control of what they are eating. This is especially true for the times when they are at school or out with friends. We can educate and teach them healthy habits by being good role models. We can also tell them how much candy they can eat, but that can get combative. Setting limits may:
- Cause us to be seen as “those ridiculous, unfair parents on the block” (not always a bad thing).
- Encourage our kids to hoard, hide and squirrel away piles of candy – to be eaten when parents aren’t looking. This sometimes creates anxiety, lying and whacky food-related baggage among chrildren. (To avoid this, many psychologists recommend letting your kids be in charge of when and how much candy they eat – eek.)
Perhaps it is time to stop fighting the candy battle. A good solution might be to change the way we do things. Reduce or remove the temptations. Hand out more non-food treats and less (or no) candy – bring your children to more houses that offer non-food treats. (Look for houses that have teal pumpkins on their steps). Encourage others in your ‘hood to do the same.
Making the transition from candy to non-food treats
If you decide to be a non-candy household this year – and you want to participate in trick-or-treating, how do you make this transition? Here are a couple ideas:
- Start new traditions when your kids are younger…. it’s often easier that way.
- Explain to your children what you are planning on doing, well before Halloween. Teach them about The Teal Pumpkin Project and tell them how it helps children with food allergies.
- Include your kids in the selection and buying process. Have them help you choose non-food treats. This way they will like them too.
- During the first year, offer both candy and non-food treats. For subsequent years, only hand out non-food treats.
Tips when buying non-food treats
- To reduce packaging, order items in bulk.
- To save money, do not wait until the last minute to buy your non-food treats.
- Only buy what you think you will need. If you have leftovers, donate these items to a local charity or store them for use next year.
- Be careful – some of these toys contain small parts that may be a choking hazard for young children.
- Pay attention to non-food items that may contain food allergens, such as some brands of moldable clay, which may contain wheat. Additionally, try to choose latex-free items, as there are children who have latex allergies.
- If you decide to go halfsies, be sure to have two trick-or-treating bowls – one dedicated for candy and one for non-food treats.
- Place a teal pumpkin or a Teal Pumpkin Project sign outside your house to let others know that you are providing non-food treats this Halloween.
Advice from my nieces (my professional Halloween consultants)
- Allie (10) strongly suggests that you choose carefully. Only select toys that you know kids will like. Try not to get anything that is too cheap, for it will only last one day or a week because it will break. Once it is broken, it will end up in the trash and in our landfills – and according to Stephie (8), those toys will then “torture our world.” 😉 (Super cute).
- Allie and Stephie both recommend that you include non-Halloween-themed toys and school supplies in your treat bowls. They want you to remember that after Halloween night, the holiday is over and kids might want to play or use something that doesn’t have ghosts and witches on it. 🙂
Where to shop
- Whenever possible, support your local businesses, artists and artisans. Shop at small toy stores in your area.
If there is plenty of time before Hallween day, check out Etsy.com for lots of homemade, organic, all natural and/or recycled Halloween treats like these beeswax chapsticks and these recycled and molded monster crayons.
- If shopping locally is not an option, buy in bulk and receive fast (and free) shipping with Amazon Prime.
- Check out craft and hobby stores in your area such as AC Moore and Michael’s. You can always download a coupon to your phone and/or print one from your computer. The app, “SnipSnap” works well for this.
- Stores such as BJs and Costco may offer some non-food treat items in bulk.
- Target, CVS, Party City and Dollar Stores have many of the products I have listed.
- If you are the creative type and have the time, consider making custom non-food treats.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article; I hope it was helpful. Now I want to know your thoughts.
- What do you think about non-food treats for Halloween? Are they a good idea or bad idea?
- Do you plan on handing out non-food treats this Halloween?
- If you are a candy-free household, have you faced any obstacles or challenges? If so, what are they and how did you overcome them?
- What did I miss? Are there any other non-food treat ideas that you would like to share?
Happy haunting – have a safe and healthy Halloween!
When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.