We have recently joined the world of food allergies and restrictions. We are facing our first Halloween since the diagnoses. While I was aware of the Teal Pumpkin Project and the idea of offering safe and non-food items for trick-or-treaters, it’s obviously become a lot more important to me now.
Food restrictions can be isolating for anyone, but especially for kids. I didn’t realize how much food is integrated into kids activities until we were faced with trying to let our kids participate in a safe way. Birthdays, school parties, social events and holidays- like Halloween. If you’re not in this situation with your kid, you may not realize the planning, preparation and bandwidth that food restrictions take up in a parent’s mind. If your child’s health depends on what they eat- or don’t eat- your energy is going to both keeping them safe but also trying to let them be kids and to enjoy “normal” things other kids can do. By making your house safe for kids with food restrictions on Halloween, you can help take some of that load off of another parent’s shoulders, even for an evening.
The Teal Pumpkin Project advocates offering non-food items for trick-or-treaters. Ideas include stickers, temporary tattoos, pencils, glow sticks. These items are usually available in multi-packs at the dollar store. I also shop the clearance after Halloween and stock up, then I sock those things away for the following year.
There are also lots of candies that avoid the 8 most common allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy) that account for 90% of food allergies. Starburst, skittles, dum dums, nerds all fit that bill.
This is also a great opportunity to model compassion and community to kids. Food allergy and celiac families did not choose this, and it means the world for others to consider our families in planning celebrations. I never, ever expect someone to go out of their way to accommodate us, but it is so meaningful when they do. What if kids learned Halloween is more than just a chance to dress up and gorge on candy, it’s also a chance to look out for other kids and make sure everyone can have fun?
It’s not an all-or-nothing game, either. You can have a bowl of whatever candy you prefer, one of top 8 allergen-free candy, and some non-food treats. Making Halloween more inclusive doesn’t mean giving up your family’s traditions, it just means making it a fun night where all kids can just be kids.