Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Option #1: Ignore Halloween Completely
- Option #2: The Candy Fairy
- Option #3: Offer Healthy Halloween Treats
Ideas for Non-Candy Halloween Treats (Kids Actually Like)+−
- 1. Glider Airplanes
- 2. Organic Juice Boxes
- 3. Natural Fruit Leather
- 4. Bouncy Balls
- 5. Local Honey Sticks
- 6. Stamps
- 7. Apple Cider Packets
- 8. Carabiners
- 9. Mini-Flashlights
- 10. Pumpkin Oranges
- 11. Organic Candy
- 12. Fake Mustaches
- 13. Stickers
- 14. Bubbles
- 15. Mini Notebooks
- 16. LED Light Up Rings
- 17. Skeleton Bone Pens
- 18. Wikki Sticks
- 19. Lego People
- 20. Glow Bracelets
- 21. Puzzle Balls
- 22. Fancy Crayon Pens
- 23. Slap Bracelets
- 24. Mini Play Dough
- 25. Spooky Spider Rings
- 26. Punch Balloons
- If You're Going to Hand Out Candy...
Halloween and I have a complicated relationship, at least since I became a mom. Take trick-or-treating, for instance. It’s a fun tradition, but there certainly aren’t too many healthy Halloween treats (or even close to it). Easter and a few other holidays require some similar soul-searching.
So what’s a health-conscious mom to do? As I see it, I have a couple of options:
Option #1: Ignore Halloween Completely
Yep … I did this!
I’ll admit it: when my kids were all really young, I just pretended Halloween didn’t exist. We didn’t do the trick or treating thing or the costume thing. In fact, we usually just turned out the lights and went to bed early on trick-or-treating night.
I just didn’t like the idea of already grumpy toddlers staying up late to go to strangers’ houses and ask for candy packed with food dyes.
As my kids get older and want to dress up, trick-or-treating is harder to avoid. On the one hand, I completely understand the fun tradition of wearing a costume and spending time with friends. On the other, I don’t love the idea of them getting bags upon bags of candy (that will make them crazy and rot their teeth out).
Since I’ve learned a thing or two about balance and moderation over the years, we’ve moved on (a little reluctantly) from this option.
Option #2: The Candy Fairy
Opinions differ on whether or not receiving a mountain of candy in one night provides a natural opportunity to learn self-control. I’m all for kids having these life lessons, but I’m a big believer in giving kids choices within certain boundaries set by the parent. (Hence my love for Montessori.)
The Candy Fairy (or Switch Witch, take your choice) visits our house after trick-or-treating and the kids don’t seem to mind a bit. We switch out the majority of the candy for a fun grab bag of treats. Since they come from our home, this also gives me the chance to throw some tasty edibles from better sources.
Option #3: Offer Healthy Halloween Treats
I know, I know … handing out a treat other than name-brand candy is a surefire way to get your house rolled. I promise, I’m not suggesting handing the kids an apple or a carton of bone broth.
Still, since childhood obesity rates are around 17% in the U.S. (and thankfully holding steady for the last few years), wouldn’t less candy given to kids be a positive change?
In fact, there plenty of reasons to consider giving out non-candy treats:
- Food Allergies – Food allergies are on the rise and many popular types of candy contain peanuts and other allergens. I know quite a few moms who can’t let their kids trick or treat because of potential peanut exposure. (Proof this is a real trend: The Teal Pumpkin Project.)
- Too Much Sugar – With high rates of obesity and other health problems, especially among youth, I can’t in good conscience hand out tons of sugary candy. The 80/20 rule is great and there may be a time and a place for treats. The problem is that time seems to be all the time. And the place seems to be everywhere. Kids get candy at the bank, the doctor, school, and almost everywhere they go. Do they really need bags of it?!
- Dye Sensitivities – Many kids are sensitive to food dyes and it is tough to avoid them in most types of candy.
- Orthodontics – Candy and sugary snacks aren’t good for teeth and can stick to braces and other mouthpieces.
- Easier on Parents – When you give out non-candy Halloween treats, you save parents the trouble of checking for anything harmful in the candy.
True, non-candy treats may not make your house the most popular stop in the neighborhood, but there are some really fun alternatives to candy that are definitely kid-approved. And all the other families who are trying to limit sugar or who are sensitive to food dyes will thank you!
Ideas for Non-Candy Halloween Treats (Kids Actually Like)
These are the top healthy Halloween treats I keep in my stash. Bonus: If you have some leftover, most of these will keep until next year!
1. Glider Airplanes
Surprisingly, mini airplanes are inexpensive and a great alternative to candy. My brother loved these when we were little and would have taken one of these over candy any day!
2. Organic Juice Boxes
A consumable Halloween treat that is practical. After walking around the neighborhood, kids may be thirsty. It still has sugar and isn’t an everyday thing for us, but it makes a great treat.
3. Natural Fruit Leather
In my opinion these taste way better than artificially flavored fruit candies! Buy them in bulk for the best price. I’ve seen them at Costco for a good price, or they’re available from Thrive Market or Amazon for a good price.
4. Bouncy Balls
My kids love bouncy balls and we don’t usually have them around the house because of all. the. bouncing. Grab a pack of 100 for cheaper than a big bag of candy and call it a day! They even make creepy eyeball bouncy balls!
5. Local Honey Sticks
My oldest son brought home a bunch of these from a beekeepers’ meeting one time and they were an instant hit with his siblings. Ideally find some from a local beekeeper, or order online. These are still a sweet treat, but the beneficial properties in honey make it a healthier alternative to candy.
My littles spend hours stamping pictures on paper and they gave me the idea for this candy alternative. Stamps are also cheaper than candy when you get them in bulk.
7. Apple Cider Packets
I’m hoping it will cool down by Halloween, and if it does, kids will love something to warm them up after walking around. Even better, this brand uses pretty decent ingredients!
A novel and practical kid favorite! Carabiners top the list of practical gifts that can be reused, and as a bonus… they are plastic free!
A practical idea for kids walking around after dark! Keychain flashlights are fun for kids and a good candy alternative if you don’t live in a busy neighborhood. Order them in bulk for a good price.
10. Pumpkin Oranges
Feeling crafty? Get some organic oranges and use a natural marker to draw some pumpkin faces on the peel. This is probably best for a group of friends or close-knit neighborhood where people trust an unwrapped offering.
11. Organic Candy
If you just can’t fathom the idea of giving out something besides candy, opt for a better kind of candy. This brand of organic lollipops is dye-free and contains vitamin C.
12. Fake Mustaches
Kids love these hilarious fake mustaches. I brought a few packs of fake mustaches to a costume party for adults once and the next morning we woke up and found all of the kids in mustaches too! For a holiday that requires a costume, these are fun to give out!
I have to say, kids have ruined stickers for me. They seem to think it’s a great idea to plaster stickers on any surface to make it more festive. (There is still sticker residue on their bunk beds to prove it.) Since Halloween is about fun for the kids though, I’ll be a sucker and order 1000 of them really inexpensively for treats to give out.
Bubbles are a fun activity that every kid loves. My children will play with these for hours a time!
15. Mini Notebooks
My daughters keep these mini notebooks in their mini purses so they can draw and take notes.
16. LED Light Up Rings
Forget Ring Pops! These rings light up in crazy colors and are a fun way keep kids safe in the dark.
17. Skeleton Bone Pens
Possibly the coolest item on this list! These bone-shaped pens are really cool and practical too!
18. Wikki Sticks
A great inexpensive Halloween treat to give out that stimulates creativity. Wikki Sticks are made from yarn and natural wax and are a mess-free creative way for kids to draw and build pictures.
19. Lego People
Want to be the coolest house on the block? Give out little Lego compatible figures!
20. Glow Bracelets
I don’t usually get glow sticks because of the plastic, but I’ll pull them out as a special treat or candy alternative. Glow bracelets are the most practical option because they also make kids easier to see in the dark while out trick or treating! I’ve never seen a kid leave disappointed when receiving a glow bracelet instead of candy.
21. Puzzle Balls
The downside? They are plastic. The upside? Puzzle balls are a reusable treat that encourages critical thinking.
22. Fancy Crayon Pens
Practical but still cool. These crayon pens have multiple tips and encourage creativity.
23. Slap Bracelets
Slap bracelets were all the rage when I was a kid. Maybe they are outdated, or maybe, like many poor fashion trends of decades past, it’s time for them to come back!
24. Mini Play Dough
We usually make our own play dough, but pre-made mini play dough containers are a good alternative to candy!
25. Spooky Spider Rings
Another plastic toy, but when store-bought candy is at stake I’ll compromise. This kid pleaser adds to the spooky fun. Warning: they’re as bad as Legos … inevitably I end up stepping on them in bare feet around the house for months after.
26. Punch Balloons
I remember punching these with great glee as a kid (probably in the direction of my brother’s face). This perennial party favor comes in Halloween-themed colors and encourages kids to be active and have fun!
If You’re Going to Hand Out Candy…
Opt for pre-packaged treats from reputable companies who use organic or natural ingredients with few to no additives. These are my favorite healthier candy “compromises” since their ingredient lists are a lot less… scary!
What’s your policy on candy on Halloween? Which healthy Halloween treats would you like to see your kids bring home?
Discussion (84 Comments)
An idea that we got from a friend that I think is great is to cut up all the chocolate candy the kids get, and use it to make a big batch of cookies to share with family and friends, or at the church potluck.We do this with all the candy the kids recieve from their great grandparents throughout the year too. They know sugar tastes good, but makes you sick and makes holes in your teeth. We do allow them to enjoy treats, but keep them in their place as occasional treats, and not something to eat every day.
On Halloween I give out money – quarters to be exact – one to little kids and a couple to bigger kids. And most of the kids love it! They run to their parents saying, “I got money!” This seems really safe to me. No need for the parents to worry over whether the treat is safe or healthy or not!
My grandma always gave out pennies! Kids love it.
I always trick or treated at my grandparents’ house (2 hour drive after school and then a 2 hour drive home that same night). It was the BEST part of Halloween. One of their neighbors always gave out change and it was the BEST house. The older gentleman always said to take a handful and if you didn’t take enough (to his standards) he would tell you to take more. Haha. It was mostly pennies with the silvers mixed in, but we felt rich as 7 and 8 year olds.
An additional idea, and one that has been fairly warmly received in our neighborhood is handing out little boxes of raisins.
Last year we gave out mini bananas and mandarin oranges we also had honey patties covered in dark chocolate( no sugar added)
Please remember small chirldren can Not have honey. Also a ton of people are allergic to honey so let kids know it’s a honey pattie in case they reach in there bag at night to sneak a pice.
All of this was a hit!
When trick or treating we just go to all our friends houses first that know and eat like we do.The kids get a ton of homemade treats this way that we can trust or special things from them and my friends love having trick or treaters before they go out to party and they can see my dressed up kids!
We do normal trick or treating however my kids know candy is poison and don’t want it so we donate it to the homeless shelter. They are more into the experience than eating bad food and are happy to give.
They also have there treats from my community of friends so it’s a win win
Wow, so you think candy is poison, but think it’s kind to give it homeless people? Not sure I understand the logic there, but at lease you’re giving them the healthy stuff, too.
I am giving candy, but I do like your sweet alternatives for it. (Though expensive for the amount of kids that comes to our neighborhood….Would be fine for a party but being as I’ve never seen a halloween package of fruit leathers not happening.Plus we usually buy what we will eat if we get stuck with it… )
THough this year I am giving one to 2 pieces of candy (yeah let’s see how well that works) and a non-candy item like a toy, or mini coloring pad.
Sometimes for Halloween we book a local hotel with water slides , bring our own food and call it a day. The kids are so excited every year they don’t care what others are doing!
This year an overnight event didn’t work so we’re going to ‘movie night’ at the grandparents who don’t live in the city like we do. The kids are still super excited!
Parents need to lead the way. You explain to your kids from when they are 1 and you see an item you don’t want them to have, ” let’s choose something else, I don’t want this to make you sick’. Then they get older and ask you WHY it could make them sick. And you tell them. If it’s normal for you and they see you living a healthy lifestyle, they should learn quick.
You can remove the sticky residue off the bunk beds with a q-tip and regular lighter fluid, like Zippo, not charcoal lighter fluid. I know it’s a chemical, but it works and doesn’t harm most surfaces. I use it in my scrapbook projects when something super sticky gets put in the wrong place or is placed wonky. It deactivated the adhesive long enough to rub it away. Or you can allow it to evaporate and the sticky returns. It will even remove duck tape residue if it hasn’t etched into the surface!
I gave out decorated pencils last year and they were a BIG hit for all ages. I was pleasantly surprized?
When my kids turned 10 and 12, we moved out of state. Having no idea what the local Halloween scene looked like and being a protective parent anyway, we decided to offer the kids a Halloween alternative idea. We let them invite friends over and staged what was a lot like a huge easter egg hunt, but with halloween candy (you could use the options from Katie’s article) and after dark. We used sandwich bags and glow bracelets to mark each spot where something was hidden. Even hung them from the trees by punching the bracelet through the bag and closing it around a limb. After they do the hunt, they play outside with the nighttime toys that they’ve accumulated as the grand prizes over the years. The kids LOVED it and I got to control what they received. Now, it’s a Halloween tradition that they ask for every year.
Wow, I’m going to buck the trend here. While I normally agree with feeding your family with healthy, home-prepared whole foods over processed stuff, kids should be allowed to be kids and participate in traditions. And some candy every now and again is not going to kill them or rot their teeth if they’ve been taught good dental hygiene, which I’m sure is the case in your family. I also know from my own childhood that kids whose parents were overly strict (no soda, no junk food etc.), really went crazy with all that stuff whenever their parents weren’t around – i.e. they’d be a friend’s house with less strict parents and (nearly single-handedly) devour a 2 liter bottle of soda and a giant bag of Doritos within the space of an hour or two. So personally, I think moderation and common sense is the key. Make most of your meals/treats etc. healthy and non-processed, but don’t be that mom at Halloween that passes out some homemade goody that isn’t really what the kids want. And if they get way too much, let them pick a reasonable amount of their favorite treats to keep (somewhere between 5 and 10) and portion the rest so they don’t gorge on it all at once. Or toss it, if you prefer.
Michelle, I understand where you’re coming from, but by that logic, if you don’t allow your kids to experiment with drugs in high school then they will go crazy and abuse all the drugs in college. Just because something is a tradition doesn’t mean it’s a good one. My job as a parent is to teach my children how to make good decisions based on logic and not simply the emotion of what everyone else around them is doing. Definitely not easy, but well worth the effort. Thanks for reading!
Seriously, you’re comparing allowing a bit of candy on special occasions to drug use? I suppose you could argue that sugar is addictive if people can consume it in unlimited amounts, but the honest truth is, during the 70s when I was a kid, we were allowed to eat candy and drink soda, and there were virtually no food allergies and almost no overweight kids, probably because we were outside for most of the day, rain or shine. Most moms stayed at home and cooked for their families, so most of us got one half.way healthy meal a day, but breakfast was usually some sort of sugary cereal, and the school lunches weren’t that great, although the portions were the right size for kids that age. Like I said, while I agree it’s important to teach your children healthy habits early on. but allowing a little rule-bending every now and again (barring serious food allergies) isn’t going to ruin all your good work.
Sugar companies want you to believe that sugar is not addictive, but science shows it is more addictive than cocaine. High fructose corn syrup was not in the candy of the past, and it stresses the whole metabolic system and the liver. Good ideas were given to help kids have some better options, not to necessarily take away all choice or fun. Consider that we can help create fun traditions without making the kids want to rebel from excessive strictness.
Michelle, I’m with you 100%. I’m reading this article and thinking how much money I’d make if I put a lump of coal up each of these women’s butts. Think of all the diamonds! You guys need to loosen up. Good lord. It’s one day.
Katie - Wellness Mama
In this podcast episode I interviewed Susan Peirce Thompson who is a neuroscientist with a PhD in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. She was also personally addicted at one time to drugs, alcohol, and sugar, and she said that by far, sugar was the most addicting substance of any of those, both to herself, and to the many patients she has worked with over the years… so no, in my opinion one day out of the year isn’t an excuse to go crazy with heroin or sugar.
Michelle, I have to agree with you on this one. We rarely had sweets in the house growing up, so Halloween was that one time of year that we were able to indulge. Our parents didn’t put limits on our candy as long as we ate all of our meals each day. If we wanted to eat it all at once, we quickly learned that we would then suffer a stomach ache, but our parents no longer had to worry about the candy spoiling our meals. Once it was gone, it was gone. We became experts on making our candy last, which meant we only ate one or two pieces a day until it was gone. I usually agree with a lot of things on this blog, but I don’t think that drug comparison correlates. (but that’s just me.) Kids need the opportunity to learn to self discipline when mom and dad are not around. I think I will stick with traditional Halloween once a year and allow kids to experience the fun traditions I enjoyed as a kid. I love this blog and will continue reading it. We can’t all agree on everything….can we?
Exactly, although I do think a lot the suggestions posted above would be well-received by most kids, too. On the point of letting the kids learn self-control, i agree there, too. I made my Halloween candy last for months when I was a kid because we didn’t have non-stop sweets at our house, either. Although my sister always ate hers a lot more quickly and then raided my stash – another type of life lesson! And to some of the comments below, I get that Halloween, like many other holidays, has drifted far from its original meaning and become overly commercial, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the holidays fun for your family. Kids love dressing up and running around in groups to collect treats, so why stop them? At the same time, that doesn’t mean you need to spend megabucks on a costume from Etsy, put something fun together for the little ones, and help the older ones be creative and make costumes out of things they find around the house. And with the candy, a lot of people offered good suggestions if the kids bring home more than you’re comfortable letting them keep. As my sister-in-law routinely ignores our requests not to overdue the amount of candy they give our kids around the holidays, (she literally gives them bags with at least 5 pounds of candy), my kids voluntarily give me all but 2-3 favorites, and we donate the rest, along with hygiene articles and warm clothing, to organizations that put together packages for kids that almost never get treats,.
I agree with you Michelle. All of the people I have known as well that experienced strict deprivation of sugar and other foods went crazy with them as well. They would consume them in quantity at friends’ houses, buy them behind their parents’ backs, eat a ton upon becoming adults, and so on. They never really learned self-control or moderation and the temptations were so great. They always wanted them even when they weren’t allowed to have them. In some cases I have seen it cause some degree of social isolation as well. The children aren’t allowed to partake in certain social events and it leaves them out. I consider social isolation to also be unhealthy. I know I struggle as a parent to make the right choices. I try to look at different sides and get different perspectives. Talking to friends about their childhoods of deprivation and witnessing it myself has helped to shift my perspective. Halloween is one of my best memories from childhood. It wasn’t even about the candy, it was the dressing up and trick or treating that was so much fun for me. Being with my parents and siblings as we went from house to house, seeing all the decorations and different people. I want the same for my child. I don’t know what I will do about the candy things just yet. My child is too young for it to be an issue at this point.
I was one of those “deprived kids” whose mother didn’t allow us to eat Halloween candy, and I couldn’t be more grateful! We still went trick-or-treating and collected mountains of candy, and the rule was – we had three days to play with our candy (I loved counting it and making towers and big piles), we could choose two pieces to taste, and the rest would be traded in for “healthy candy,” such as sesame honey bars, dried fruit and organic chocolate/carob bars. Easter was the same way. My brother and I got all the fun of participating in celebrations, and none of the sugar crashes and allergic reactions from eating junk candy. I definitely got to experience candy at friends’ houses and school trips, but while I found it to be interesting it never appealed to me because it made me feel awful! I’m incredibly grateful that my mother provided an environment In which I could discern what felt good for my body and not. She also provided a solid model that I can emulate with my own children. And believe me – if you start the habits young, most children don’t mind the difference at all! I was the kid going to the birthday party with an avocado sandwich packed to eat instead of pizza, and homemade blueberry bread to eat instead of cake – One of my most vivid memories, and I think it’s just as funny now as I did then! Different food choices don’t have to be traumatic. It’s “we do different things but we have just as much fun.”