Advice about Halloween

Archived Responses: 


Halloween Activities for a Toddler?

Oct 2009

i love halloween and want to take my 11 month old to some kind of costume parade or baby friendly activity. anybody have any ideas for halloween type activities for an 11 month old, preferably in the day time???? Aisha

Hopefully, you will receive many recommendations on charming, age-appropriate daytime activities for 11-month old babes and parents. My daughter is much older and I'm not up on the activities for wee ones. I do have a bit of (hard-earned) advice, which you no doubt may already have a sense of: Halloween for your child's age group is more for the parents (and the photo album) than for the children.

It's true that there is nothing sweeter than donning your year- old in a ladybug, tiger, bunny costume and having her/him walk to the 3-4 neighborhood houses for a 5:00 PM trick or treat fest--after tons of photos are taken. Or going to a farm or pumpkin patch (such as the lovely Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont - (510) 797-5621)and enjoying the colors and bounty and harvest of the season. And no doubt, any/all experiences for any/all age groups is registered in their minds as ''experience'' from which to grow/learn/enjoy.

All that being said, please avoid my early mistake: don't take your little one to places that are favored by older kids. I made the mistake of taking my 4 year-old toddler to Russell Street in Berkeley and I think she'll be in therapy for years because of it (we were there @4 minutes and fled with my little one in tears at the first mummy that jumped out of the ground up at her--oye vey). From your email request, you are no doubt smarter than I was. But this stands out in my ''bad mommy'' repetoire and I wanted to share it.

Also, in costume choice: prepare for both very hot and very cold weather in your choice of costume. How many years my daughter sweated or froze her way through Halloween; it can be 95 or 55 degrees on October 31 (usually has been hot).

How much fun for you to begin the wonderful customs we enjoy with our children at this rich time of year! Linda

All That Candy

Oct 2007

Halloween is coming and I am wondering what other parents do with all the candy their kids bring home. I have a three year old who gets the occasional treat. (Like at a birthday party, grandma's, a friend house) She is so looking forward to halloween and the candy this year, but I just can't imagine letting her eat all of what she collects. I don't have a problem with a few pieces Halloween night but what do parents do with it after that? I like Halloween and don't want to be a scrooge but I also don't want a sugar deranged child. anon

Let her eat as much as she wants on Halloween night, then put the bag in the pantry and let her raid it for maybe a week thereafter -- subject to reasonable rules about having candy only AFTER a healthy snack or meal. Then quietly get rid of whatever is left after she's more or less forgotten about it.

Kids who are allowed to control their own candy consumption tend to self-limit much more than those for whom candy is a ''forbidden pleasure.'' And gorging on the stuff in a short period of time is actually better for their teeth than eating one or two pieces at a time over a longer period. Holly

I am a kindergarden teacher (currently caring for my own baby). Many of the parents in my class invite the ''Sugar Fairy'' to their house after Halloween. You see, she only eats sugar, so by leaving the candy you collect out for her, you are helping to take care of her and she will certainly leave you a special gift as a thank you.

If you are not opposed to your little one having some candy, the Sugar Fairy could leave a few pieces behind along with the non-eatable gift. Going trick-or-treating becomes an act of helping and caring for the Sugar Fairy instead of a mad rush of consumption and greed. Lyssa

We've always allowed our kids to have all the candy they want for a week. They quickly get sick of it and the rest gets thrown out. Our dentist suggested that rather than stringing all that sugar on their teeth out over months. anon

I steal it. I eat what I want and throw the rest away.

Well, sort of...I make it very clear before we go out trick-or-treating that I need to go through their basket before they eat anything. I immediately take out anything that is a choking hazard and throw it away. I let them pick a few pieces in which to indulge that night. After they go to bed, I throw away more and eat some. Hey, who doesn't like free mini-snickers? I stretch this out over the course of the week (though I have usually stopped indulging my own need for mini-twix bars by the second or third night). They get to 'finish' it, so they don't go to bed with some in their basket and wake up with it all gone in the morning. I would hate to be fingered by my children as a candy thief. After a week, we can usually transition into full bore 'lets get ready for Thanksgiving' mode and Halloween is forgotten until the following August when costumes start showing up in stores. Oh, NEVER, EVER, EVER, suggest that you 'count' the pieces of candy. You'll get caught. jan

Our dentist will buy the candy for $1.00 a pound (or such.) You can also do the ''switch witch'' and let your daughter keep a few pieces of candy and switch the rest for a special treat or a small toy. Our daughter always knew the switch witch was me, and she was happy to switch for a toy starting at age 3. anon

I read about this in a magazine and developed my own version. You let them eat what they want after Trick or Treat, then you have them leave the candy outside for the Switch Witch. The Switch Witch leaves them a gift in exchange for the candy. I made up this poem for my girls to read when they left out the candy. Switch Witch Poem Oh wise Switch Witch, Take away this bag. Switch it with fun, Please be a good hag. We had lots of fun, On our Trick or Treat night. So now do your trick, Take our treats out of sight. We enjoyed eating the sweets, Our Halloween is complete. Thank you oh Switch Witch, We are ready for the new treat. Jeanne

Last year, when my son was 3 1/2, we introduced the ''Halloween Fairy''. The concept is, you pick some candy from your bag and leave it for the Halloween Fairy, who will leave you a present in exchange for the candy. The more/better the candy, the better your chances of getting a cool present from her. My son left half his candy out for her and ''the fairy'' left him a nice gift and a thank you note. He's already excited for her to come this year. Finding someone else to dump the candy on is another story...putting it out at someone's office usually works. Good luck! Halloween Fairy

Return it. The big chocolate companies buy from the Ivory Coast who use CHILD SLAVES to harvest their chocolate. Send the candy back the manufacturer with a letter that states your feelings on child slavery. Here's a good article by John Robbins

Here are their addresses: Hershey Foods Corp. can be reached at 100 Crystal A Drive, Hershey, PA 17033; (717) 534-6799. Mars, Inc. can be reached at 6885 Elm Street, McLean, VA 22101; (703) 821-4900. Tell them that you expect something to be done immediately to ensure that cocoa imported into the U.S. is not harvested by enslaved children. Jennifer

My son went trick or treating for the first time last year at 2 yrs of age and even though we only went to about 7 houses in our neighborhood, he got half a bucket of candy. He didn't get to eat any of his candy because we wanted to delay chocolates and other sugary ''treats'' for as long as we could, and some of the candies were choking hazards. Instead, I threw 2 boxes of raisins into his bucket, and allowed him to pick 2 things from his bucket to have (one treat for each hand). He at first went for a snickers bar because it had flashy wrapping and I made a yuck face so he put it back in his bucket and since he recognized what the raisin boxes were, he picked the raisins for his treat. We put cool stickers on the boxes and prominently displayed the boxes in our kitchen, next to the basket with ''approved'' snacks. I ended up taking the rest of the candy to work so that my husband and I didn't end up eating the candy ourselves.

I think I'll utilize the same ''trick'' this year, but allow him to pick out a few more items...(almost) anything he can put into a snack-size zip lock baggie, dress up the baggie and place it next to the snack basket in our kitchen. He still has to ask permission to take a piece of candy for snack time. mai

We have a very simple approach. Trick or treating is an end in itself and is very fun just for saying the words trick or treat and seeing what you get. We let our daughter do full trick or treating and when we get home we sort it out and make an event of seeing what she got. She is allowed to keep 5 pieces of candy after having one or two that night. The next day she will usually ask for one, and after that I say maybe later that week and it generally sits in a cupboard and we eventually throw it away. I should say that we don't have desserts every day and candy very rarely, so it really is a treat to get the candy. Anon

We use the ''magic pumpkin'' approach. It goes like this: On Halloween night my son is allowed to eat some reasonable amount of candy. The rest is put on the front porch for the magic pumpkin, who comes, takes the candy, and leaves a toy. (The candy then goes to mom's office to get it out of the house). It has worked since he was two years old, and though he is now 6 and beginning to suspect that mom is behind this, he is still happy to do the exchange. I've also heard this called the ''Switch Witch''. Good luck! No Cavities yet!

When I was a kid, my dad had a rule that my sister and I could pick out ten pieces of candy from the trick-or-treat bag and the rest went to charity. We dutifully complied -- whether the candy actually was donated I don't know. In any event, I instituted that rule for my son, who is now 8, and he, like me, has dutifully complied. This works in part because he knows that candy is not grow food and is bad for teeth and body. Not a Rebel

The Great Pumpkin (kind of like Santa Claus in reverse) comes to our house a day or two after Halloween. The kids get to eat all they want that night, then they leave the rest on the porch for the Great Pumpkin. The candy disappears and is replaced by a cool new book. Very exciting... a believer

My friend swears by the ''Switch Witch''. The kids can keep 4 or 5 of their favorite treats, or you can let them eat what they want for a day or two, but then, at night, they leave their Halloween goody bag at the foot of their bed at night, and the Switch Witch brings them a toy that they've really wanted, in exchange. You could also leave money, I guess, but the toy is an instant disctraction from the candy, which disappears. Heidi, mom of 3

I too have this issue, but I decided in the end that a bunch of candy isn't going to hurt the kid a couple times a year (halloween and easter.) I remember how happy I was that my parents never limited the candy after halloween. I could eat as much as I wanted. I could make myself sick if I wanted (never did-although I should have with all I ate!) I would eat tons of it and was fine the next day. (Theres acually a bunch of studies that show it isnt' the sugar the riles kids up but the excitement of the event where they get it.) So I just let my daughter eat 5-10 pieces then go to bed that night. I just don't let her have it for breakfast or before meals.

If you really want to limit it but not be a scrooge, just let them eat x number of pieces that night, and say they can have x number every day. And after they go to bed, take a few pieces out and throw them away, and do this every night. After a few days, it will all be gone! Non-scrooge mommy

We let our kids gorge for Halloween night and the next day. We figure this is worthwhile suffering, because we value sharing in the childhood traditions, and we value our own memories of swimming in the forbidden fruit. (We don't let them eat unlimited amounts, just a whole lot.) Then we ask them to choose a non-food treat that would be reasonable to trade for the rest of their candy, and buy it for them. This is maybe at $15 item for the five- and seven- year olds. We do this along with explaining how we share their love of candy, and how it's simply not healthy to fill a week or a month with it.

When they were smaller, we pulled out a handful of candy for each of the two days, instead of letting them choose.

I'm not big on materialism, but the pain of forgoing a long tradition that all surrounding kids are enjoying is a real pain for the kids, and I feel fine giving a gift as consolation.

Also, Halloween is our only big candy holiday. At Easter, for instance, their baskets are filled with small toys (like Christmas stockings are), and they know ahead of time that sugary gifts from others will mostly not be eaten. Happy Halloween.

I'd love to find some (organic? eco?) alternative to all the junky candy that is given out on Halloween. Last year we went trick or treating early with the kids, and got back home around 7ish. We let them keep a small percentage of the candy, but had more than enough leftover to give out to trick or treaters that showed up later that evening!

If your kid is 3, you'll probably be able to sneak the candy away and throw it in the trash... or to be nicer you could have your child trade it in exchange for a decent toy or something better - then throw all the crappy candy away! (ok I do actually like the almond joys)

The best ideas I know of are buying the candy from your kid then bringing it to work-it will be eaten and probably appreciated there! At 3, your daughter won't even notice most of it missing, and she'll forget a lot of it. My 5 yr old even forgets still. (I've been known to skim the good stuff for myself...) Give her a treat or two now and then, only after she finishes a really good dinner or lunch, of course. And ask if she wants to sell it for a favorite item (which maybe you would have gotten her anyway). The other thing I've done is hand non-candy treats to the neighbors we visit for trick or treat, so she gets mostly what I actually give her. (and at 3, it won't even seem strange to her that you hand things to people right after they open the door)

When my kids were in preschool, a parent picked up all the candy parents brought in and donated it to a shelter. The kids there don't get to trick or treat, and really enjoyed it. Don't recall which shelter, but I believe many of them will take any wrapped candy. anon

We let our kids collect as much as they do and then go through it all at once after the evening is over. We read ingredients together. Vanillin, an artificial vanilla flavoring, is a petroleum byproduct. High-fructose corn syrup is nasty stuff, and partially hydrogenated oils are also horrible for children's bodies. So are artificial colorings. Sorry, but just because we ate them as children doesn't mean they were good for us. We let them pick a good amount of the candies that aren't filled with the above nasties and then they get to trade in the worst ones for candy and treats at the natural foods store where we shop. Organic, fair trade chocolate (no child slave labor involved), real licorice, flame raisins, sesame chocolate bars, etc. They actually prefer the taste of the ''cleaner'' candies anyway, but of course it's fun to open and eat from the Halloween cache once a year. After a few days of it, they forget that they even have candy around and then it just ''disappears'' (I'm always amazed at how quickly it all goes when we leave it out for adults at work).

I can imagine the comments that my posting might draw, but this is how our family does it, and our kids enjoy the process. It's fun to watch them throw the really nasty ones into the Nasty Pile with a grimace: ''EW! This one has high fructose corn syrup AND vanillin AND chemical colorings!'' We eat healthy meals and try to model good food choices for them every other day of the year, why should it be different on Halloween? I want them to be able to feel like they have the information they need to make better choices and this is a good time for that since they don't even see those kinds of products otherwise.

Halloween can be fun and healthy at the same time. Happy Halloween

A couple of years ago someone gave me this great suggestion for dealing with the candy issue AND the ''not in the spirit of the thing'' Trick or Treaters:

A few days after Halloween she puts the remaining candy away in a forgotten cupboard somewhere...then the FOLLOWING Halloween she has two bowls of candy -- one fresh, for children in costume, and one of year-old candy for the large number of high school students who wander our neighborhood without even dressing up.

Chances are the kids don't even notice if the candy's stale, but it takes care of the surplus treats problem, AND she gets to play an coy little prank on the people who would otherwise annoy her.

Perfect! Trick with Treats

I was intrigued by the post suggesting to send the candy back to the manufacturer. I would like to investigate that further. In the meantime I throw it in the garbage, vs taking it in to work. This country produces more food than we need, I think there are 3000-3500 calories per person produced, and many of us only need half of those calories. Food manufacturers are trying to sell as much as possible, we don't have to cooperate with their marketing by eating it! dietitian

Just a comment on all the replies to what to do with Halloween candy. Our kids get to have a some candy every day for a week. They know that at the end of that week, it all goes back to our elementary school. From there it goes to a local homeless shelter. My comment has to do with the concept of the giving the child a gift in return for giving up candy. We have never subscribed to this practice as I felt it rewarded the child yet more for already having received something free - usually in great amounts. It is important that children accept limits without rewards. And Halloween itself is one big reward! My two cents

I've got an idea! Why don't we give away stickers this year, instead of candy? Many of you recommend throwing the candy away, and that seems like such a waste of money. I also only give away one piece of candy, not an entire handful. hate to waste

I was not going to respond, but then I heard about the tricks to get kids to give away their candy.

I believe the same as Holly, kids who are able to regulate their sugar intake regulate themselves more than if an adult does it for them. Since my daughter has been younger than 2 she has had her own ''snack cabinet.'' There is - dare I say - Zero Regulation by adults. When we're ready to go grocery shopping we ask her if she needs anything for her snack cabinet, she usually wants Trader Joe's trail mix and she likes us to mix in about B< cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. She has asked that candy be bought for her occasionally, we buy it, she stores it, sometimes eats it, sometimes not. For Halloween she keeps all the candy and treats she receives and eats them as she wants.

Here's the rub, we do ask her (ask her, not demand of her) that she empties out the previous Halloween candy before putting this year's candy in the cabinet. She usually has 7/8 (thatbSESutherland151 [at] s nearly all of it not 7 or 8 pieces) of it left over from the previous year.

What I do know is that her two best friends make a bee-line for the cabinet every time they come over. The end result is my daughter has excellent eating habits, is a proportionate weight for her height, zero cavities at 8 years old and one friend has poor eating habits and 5 cavities and the other has mediocre eating habits with 7 cavities. Both have trouble regulating their own sugar intake. Trusting My Daughter's Ability to Regulate Herself

I don't know why, but your question bugged me. Really just let you kid be a kid for one night and eat the candy that she wants! What is so wrong with just letting our kids go for it every once in a while. Come on don't you remember how fun it was to get all that candy and what an accomplishment it was to pour it all out when you got home and look at ALL that candy and know that you pounded the pavement for every little piece. Well do ya? It was great! Let your kid be a kid. It a simple pleasure once a year! They will have fond memories of the one night Mom let me just eat all that candy I wanted. Signed a Mom who still remembers!

One way to keep the amount of candy to a minimum (allowing you to feel better about letting them have as much as they want) is to take them to just a few houses. When they are very little, they have no concept yet of the expectation to hit every house in the neighborhood. Also - you can remind them to take ''just one'' at each place. I always include some non-candy items (little tops, stickers, etc.) in the bowl for trick-or-treaters, and many of the younger kids opt for those. R.K.

Whatever you decide to do with your halloween candy, do NOT take it to the homeless shelter. Sometimes people are so arrogant: ''I don't let my child have any refined sugar, so I'll give it to some poor homeless child and then pat myself on the back for doing a good deed.'' Lynn

Two ideas:

The ''Switch Witch''...let your child pick a few pieces to keep (you decide quantity) and explain that on Halloween night the Switch Witch will come and take away the surplus and leave good boys and ghouls a specical spooky toy (again you decide what is appropriate).

We don't pass out candy anymore. We pass out Hotwheels, stickers, pencils and all the cheap toys we have accumulated over the year from birthday party goodie bags. I have never heard a complaint, even from the older kids who believe it or not still like Hotwheels and pencils apparently.

Please people, don't bring the candy to work. I will eat it because I have no will and I am already busting out of my size 14's. I beg of you on behalf of my thighs, no candy at work! spooky and chunky mama

Without getting into a long, unconstructive thread about this, I am the person who posted about donating Halloween candy to a shelter - not out of arrogance and because I don't let my children have refined sugar, but because the shelter director mentioned to me that the children don't usually have the experience of going out for Halloween, get very little candy and it is actually a treat for them. I would not dream of just dumping unwanted candy on them and was assured that it was indeed welcomed.

Oct 2002

My son's dentist recently handed out the following information regarding the Three Day Rule on Halloween candy. I thought that parents who had not seen this might find it helpful.

The objective of this rule is to allow your child to join in the merriment of Halloween without causing a lot of dental problems. The worst thing a child can do with his or her Halloween candy is to save it and eat small portions each day for several weeks or months. This daily dose of sugar will raise the bacteria count in the mouth tremendously. The bacteria that cause dental decay are nourished by whatever we eat. Their digestive systems are not sophisticated, so they depend on our salivary enzymes to turn the food we eat into simple sugars before they can ingest it. If we eat unsweetened food, the bacteria have to wait before they can begin their meal. This is a good thing because it gives us time to swallow the food we put in our mouth and hopefully go and brush our teeth to remove most of the remaining food. However, when we eat a food that already is a simple sugar, the bacteria do not need to wait for our salivary enzymes to convert anything. The bacteria can immediately start their own feeding frenzy.

When one eats candy, the bacteria in your mouth are given a dose of nourishment which sets off a round of cell diversion, multiplying the numbers of bacteria. If one eats candy every day this quickly gets out of hand, and it's no wonder that decay occurs.

So, when the kids return with their candy they can eat as much as they like before bed that night, and as much as they like for two days after Halloween. Then before bed on that third day the children must hand over any remaining candy for discarding. There is rarely any left! Why is this good?

1. The bacteria count has been raised for a short time - not long enough for a cavity to form. After three days it can slide back to normal.
2. You have avoided the stigma of prohibition.
3. You have allowed the child to experience overindulgence and the discomfort or even revulsion that accompanies it.
4. You have avoided all that nagging, and those self doubts about the quality of your parenthood.

Good luck and happy halloween!


A neighbor of mine did not give her son (age 2-6 when we lived near them) any refined sugar in his diet, but wanted him to be able to enjoy the whole trick-or-treating thing with his friends. So she used to buy the pieces of candy from him after he collected it (he usually was allowed to eat 1 or 2, but wasn't really into it--called chocolate a wierd brown thing that tasted kinda interesting). Then she would take him to a toystore where he could pick out a toy to buy with his money. He loved it. heidi

Handling Halloween with a child w/ food allergies

Sept 2006

I'd love some advice on how to navigate Halloween with our two- year old son who has food allergies. Since he has a peanut and milk allergy (so nothing made with milk, cream or butter ... so most candy is out) his choices are limited and I'm not sure how to handle trick-or-treating. When he is older I will send him with a Unicef box and he will know what he can and can't eat ... but in these early years when he is interested in going to a few houses in his costume I'm not sure what to do. Since we try to limit sugary stuff I know it will be novel for him to have access to candy, and I'm not sure how to approach it without making him feel deprived and frustrated. Do you just politely decline when you see what each house is offering if it's not safe for him? Do you skip trick-or-treating completely? I was wondering about maybe trading his candy for a small toy or books ... any thoughts? Anon

Maybe it's too early, but I have a friend whose daughter leaves the things she can't eat for the Halloween Fairy who then leaves a great toy in exchange. Still works at age 5

I give the kids party favor type toys that I put into a basket. Whistles are especially popular as are individual stickers, New Year's noise makers, fun pencils, little containers of bubbles, etc. Most items are non gender specific. I can hear the kids squealing with delight as they come up to the front door that 'this is the house that gives the toys'. I provide an assortment, they get to choose one, most everything is too large for a young child to swallow. The price is a bit more than bags of candy, but I go to party supply stores, $ stores, Michael's, find stuff on sale, etc. to buy in packages/bulk. I think the noisemakers not only provide a way to let off excess energy and excitement, they help keep the kids safe crossing streets.
No Guilt About The Refined Junk

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)has in the past had articles about handling Halloween in its newsletter. So I would check its website. How we've handled trick-or-treating for our son who is severely allergic to peanuts (but doesn't have dairy allergy): Our basic ground rule is that he is not allowed to eat any of the treats while trick or treating. When we get home, mom or dad takes his bag and clears out all the unsafe treats (about 75%-80% of them, since chocolate carries too much risk of cross-contamination). What he's left with are basically some hard candies and fruity-type candies (believe me, candywise this is plenty!). If a person is handing out something that obviously has peanuts (e.g. Snickers or Reeses), he won't take it and will explain that he has peanut allergy (he loves telling people about his allergy). For class parties, etc. we make sure he has his own treats, so that he can avoid baked goods. Of course, we always make sure to have an Epi-Pen and backup on hand, and keep a close eye on him. He loves Halloween and has a great time

Most of the fun for kids is in collecting the candy, so I say to let you child trick-or-treat. Don't decline to take the candy or try to explain food allergies at every house. Just take it all home, and edit it for the bad stuff when you get home (just like you would go through it for open wrappers, etc). Perhaps, as you mentioned, trade the items your child cannot have for a book or toy. Or just throw it out. Chances are that a 2-year-old will not miss it

We dealt with this last year for the first time (peanut allergy). I let my daughter accept anything that was given to her (although if she was asked to choose from a bowl, I helped her pick something without peanuts). Once we got home, I sorted all the candy and gave away (to my brother) all the peanut candies. I would have loved to keep them for myself, but we're a peanut-free home and I don't need the calories anyway! That left a small selection of things that felt safe for her.

This year, I am more concerned about cross-contamination, so I will probably go to the store and buy candy that is nut free and not made on shared equipment with peanuts or tree nuts so that I have the benefit of all food labeling. I may also make some treats, like rice krispie treats, etc. Then, I will make a halloween bag for her and trade candy bags when the night is over. Not a secret trade - I will explain why she can't have the candy from trick-or-treating and why she can
have this candy anon

Seed your neighborhood. Candy/treats that he can eat, and some small toys. Go to your neighbors 30 minutes before you trick-or- treat and ask them to give him the treats you provide. You probably can do this through 4 years old, by which time he will already be VERY aware that he can't eat what others can happy halloween!

My 4 yo son has multiple allergies as well (dairy, egg, beef, nuts, fish and until 1 year ago, wheat). I've always let him trick or treat, but he trades candy with his older sisters--things he can eat for things he can't eat. When he was smaller and couldn't eat wheat (which restricted many, many things because of modified food starch), I just went through his bag of treats and replaced stuff he couldn't eat with stuff that he could (not one-to-one, because the little ones simply don't need to eat many sweets, IMO). We have a firm rule that no candy is eaten while we are out trick or treating. We also just have the kids the candy for a few days (as much as they want after lunch and dinner) and then I ship it all off to Daddy's office.

Personally, I'm not a fan of the idea of having kids go out and ask folks for candy and throwing it all out and giving them a book or toy. Seems like a waste of other people's money to me. If that's what people want for their kids, just go buy your child a book or toy and leave the candy at your neighbors house for other people to enjoy.

Hope this helps. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions. Halloween has never been a big, tramatic event for my son. He understands now that he feels bad when he eats things he is allergic too and when he was too young to understand that, he simply didn't know what he was missing! Good luck!

I had a neighbor child with multiple food allergies. His parents traded some with him for small toys/games and some he traded with other neighbor kids for what few things he could eat
-- halloween fun

I don't think a 2 year old will really be able to keep track of what candy he is getting at each house, but he will probably enjoy going house to house and getting something at every house. He probably won't be able or want to go to more than a dozen houses or so. Why not buy a small assortment of candy he can have and other treats like small toys ahead of time? Then after trick or treating you can replace the candy he can't have with stuff he can. (Our kids don't have allergies, but we don't let them have all the candy they collect either.) --Have
a Happy Halloween!

My sister's son has many severe allergies. So what she has done for Halloween is to go to a few neighbors she is friendly with and give them treats that are safe for her son to eat ahead of time. THen when he goes to their door, they have something to give him.

Your idea about trading candy for toys reminded me of another idea though. What we have done with our chidren (since we try to keep candy out of their diet altogether) is tell them they can leave their Halloween candy for the ''switch witch'' (I don't remember who I got the idea form originally). The Switch Witch loves candy if they leave their Halloween candy outside their bedroom door for her as an offering she will ''switch'' with them and will leave them a wonderful surprise (i.e. a fun toy we bought at a garage sale) in place of the candy. Our children have been very happy with this and even have mentioned to others they see with candy, ''You know, if you leave that outside your door for the switch witch...''

I have a 6 year old child with food allergies and we've always handled the candy thing this way...when he was 2 he didn't really get the whole candy thing so we just took it away and gave him a lolly pop. beginning when he was 3 i ordered candy from a nut free website, and he collected candy with every one else, and then we swapped it for his collected candy, which i made my husband take to work and give away. he does not want a recurrence of his horrible reaction, so he's very compliant. there are organizations that fund raise and educate around this issue, in lieu of candy. i don't have the specifics, but google around and they show up.
no nuts for we

My son has a metabolic disorder and I belong to a listserv and one of the suggestions for Halloween is to go around to the neighbors the night before and leave with them some candy (or non candy items, stickers, pencils) that your child both likes and can have. Another idea is to trade candy..have a container at home with various treats your child can have and he or she can trade the halloween candy they get for treats in the container one-for one, gives them some choice and control also the amount they come home with is what they end up with.

My son (now in high school) is allergic to nuts and peanuts, and we've handled Halloween with ''tradeouts.'' First, be sure that whatever you give out for trick-or- treats is something your son loves. When going door to door I don't think you should refuse things your child is allergic to. That would be awkward and take away the most fun part of trick-or-treating. Make sure your son understands that he can't eat anything until you get home. When you get home, spread everything out on a table and explain to him that some candy can make him sick (which I'm sure he already knows.) Tell him you'll take the ''bad candy'' away and give him something in its place. (You might want to think about doing the trades one piece at a time so your child knows he's not getting ripped off - 2 year olds can get testy when you take their stuff.) Then trade out each allergen containing candy and give him something from your stash of safe stuff. Then run to your basket and take the candy you just took out of your son's pile and give those things to the next trick or treaters that come to your door. Any left over contraband goes out the door the next day with whoever's going to work. That way, nothing gets wasted and you don't have any unsafe candy in the house.

If you decide to try this, you might want to start explaining tradeouts a few days in advance. I know this could be a little tricky with a 2 year old, but that's the age we started doing this with my child. If you start now, as he grows up he'll understand that this is what makes trick-or-treating safe and fun for him. Good luck!
Happy Halloween

From the mom of my allergic neice: has tons of helpful ideas. A few thoughts:

1.FAAN has its own box to collect money for FAAN instead of UNICEF. Her child might understand that enough next year to want to help others like him.

2. At that age, I was gave out safe candy to houses belonging to friends or neighbors that knew my daughter. We only went to those houses. When they answered the door, they handed her treats that I had supplied.

3.As she got older, that didn't fly anymore. She wanted to go to houses of people I didn't know. We let her collect all the candy she wants, then bring it home and sift through. Anything safe for her she can eat. All other candy is traded to us for either safe candy or trinkets. Other friends have had success picking out a ''real'' present in advance with the child and telling the child they can trade their candy in for that present at the end of the night.

4.As of last year, we don't even really need to worry about it much. My neighborhood started a great event to take the focus off of candy. Instead we have a parade/party/costume contest.

We enlist ''judges'' in advance all over the neighborhood willing to judge the costume contest. We give them tickets before Halloween. On Halloween, all the judges have flags in front of their houses so the kids know where to go. All the kids march around the neighborhood in a big parade. Then, while trick or treating, whenever you stop at a judge's house you get tickets (the better the costume, the more tickets you get). At the end of the night, you all meet at a designated spot for a big party (we even had a DJ) and the kids trade their tickets for prizes (cheap trinkets purchased online but you'd be amazed how the kids love 'em). By the middle of the evening, my kids were yelling ''forget trick-or-treating at that house, there's no judge there!!'' They had forgotten all about the candy and instead wanted just to get lots of tickets for prizes. The plan worked brilliantly but took a lot of effort on the part of the organizers. I just found out today that my neighborhood is doing it again this year, yay!
Aunt Ruth

Am I the only person who HATES Halloween?

Sept 2003

Am I the only person who HATES halloween? I hate everything about it but find it hard to protect my children from it. I would like some help and advice on how to go about it short of locking everyone up in the house! I hate the fact that it is the second biggest holiday marketing ploy. I hate the fact that kids at an early age are exposed to masks of melting faces or blood gushing out of their eyes or worm crawling out of their brains/ears. I hate that my kid's very PC elementary school will set up a haunted house in which to scare little kids out of their skulls and in a school led camping trip, will incorporate spooky stories around the campfire. I think our movies and music get more and more violent each year because people get sensetized to more and more at an earlier age. I have no idea what socially or morally redeemabe value comes out of scaring kids. Even in early elementary school, some kids can have a hard time differentiating between reality and fantasy and even as adults how many of us have been spooked for a while after seeing a scary movie? If there are other parents or parents of sensetive children - out there, I would love your help in figuring out how to deal with a tradition that is here to stay. Thanks.
spooked by halloween as a child

Yes, I also HATE halloween. I agree with you on every count. If one more person asks me what my kids are going to be for halloween, I'll scream! I am not sure what good advice I have to offer. We always go out to dinner and then come home and leave the lights off. Keep fighting the masses, is what I say! Andrea

Clearly you don't like Halloween, but I'm not clear whether your child is scared of it or you just think that's possible. It's of course fine to dislike Halloween, but it might change your mind to think of Halloween as a ritual of inversion, when the world and rules are turned upside down. Kids get to go to out at night, to strangers' houses, and ask for candy! The scary is no longer scary (at least in theory!). These rituals actually serve to resolidify the ''real'' rules of society. That said, if your kid is scared or you are opposed it's fine to turn off all the lights in the house (so the trick or treaters don't know you're home) and hide with a non-scary video. You don't have to go to the haunted house, parade, campfire....

Your child might enjoy being involved in a way that feels safe. Passing out treats (doesn't have to be candy--stickers, bouncy balls) at the front door can be fun. I think every family should do each holiday in a way that works for them, but I'm a Halloween fan (could you tell?) and think you should give it a chance! Deborah

Call up East Bay Waldorf School and sign up for the Wanderer's Way. This is an event they hold on Halloween Night, where you pay a negligible fee and are led by an angel through the school grounds, with your way lit by jack-o-lanterns, stopping at different locations where fairy tale scenes and vignettes are acted out. At the end you get a hot drink and cookies. It is really quite magical and lovely, you get some ''Halloween'' through the pumpkins, the crisp fall evening, and the dressing up, but none of the scary stuff. It is a drive though, since the school is in El Sobrante, but it is worth exploring as an alternative Halloween tradition. Sonya

The world is full of many dangerous and frightening things as well as many safe and beautiful. It may be that ritualising the frightening, the terrifying, may give us some means of handling the fear, of controlling it. Children are aware of terror in the world - it comes to them in their dreams, not just on television or through exposure to violent images. However safe, wonderful and protected their lives, fear is there - if only the fear of losing their safety, their parents...And the fact of being alive, and being human and conscious, exposes us to the threat of loss, death, terror, horror...

My daughter is today reading some Grimms' fairy tales, and I am reminded of just how gruesome and frightening they are! Play has many functions - assimilation, understanding, integration are certainly there. There are real dangers to children in this world.

I saw Anne Rice on television saying she'd show the movie ''Interview with a Vampire'' to a child, and was shocked - then I remembered how she lost a daughter to leukaemia, wondered how that must have shaped her writing - and what it must mean for a child to face death, to go through that.

So perhaps the Mexican Day of Death, Halloween, Grimm's tales all have some sort of positive function...not that terror can be tamed, but maybe some sort of map can be made, a potential map that could help if (heaven forbid) a child must meet real terror? A map of potential actions to avoid danger, or of the internal stucture of psyche, of ways to control fear, and act effectively in the face of the unthinkable?

The commercialism of Halloween is another matter - but then that is a problem with Christmas too... Janice

I have always adored Halloween and here is why. I think it is a time to be creative! I always figured out a costume from what we had around the house as a child. My mom sewed as well and would help me out. Carving pumpkins was also creative and cheap. I have always had a sweet tooth and found it a fun time to indulge. As the parents of small children (three and five), we are now doing these things. One of my children hates ''scary'' things including even clowns and dogs. I know to avoid big kid activities. What we always do each year is my friends and I have a party where we bring the kids (all tots) all dressed up to one of our houses. We always have so much fun and it is so darn cute. Try to avoid the scary stuff (for now anyway). Don't feel like you must consume as the media tries to get you to do to have fun. And with any holiday, only celebrate if you want to. Your kids are probably young eneough where you can still get away with it! HL

The East Bay Waldorf School in El Sobrante has the best Halloween night. Groups of children and parents are met by someone dressed as an angel, and taken around to various stations which are enactments of special, meaningful, and sometimes very funny stories by one or two people. At each station each child gets a special small gift that relates to the story. At the end there is a table with apple cider and treats. You have to sign up for a time slot, and there is a fee that as I remember is not that much. The first few timeslots are not completely in the dark. El Sobrante is no more than 15 or 20 minutes away if it's not commute time. The phone number is 510-223-3570. Susan

Well, I am one of those people who LOVE Halloween, but you do make some good points. Yes, it is a big marketing ploy for retailers and can introduce grotesque and frightening images to young children, but I don't think it needs to be dreaded. I really believe it is all in the approach.

I have a 3 1/2 yo and I have also been thinking about how I will explain some things to her that were easily glossed over last year. Things like ghosts, witches, etc. My daughter is very open to the power of suggestion. If I say that something is scary, she gets scared. If I say the same thing is silly or bizarre, she follows that train of thought. If I were you, I would try to approach the gross masks and things like this.

Also, I think it might help to look at how the holiday came to be and has evolved. I'm not sure how old your kids are, but my daughter is unfortunately very familiar with death. We also celebrate Dia de los Muertos which is akin to the true Halloween holiday, and I will be using this years celebration to talk about some of the potentially scary images (ie. skulls and skeletons are very commonplace in DdlM imagery) and how it relates to death (but is truly a celebration).

The haunted house and scary stories seem like a different issue, and I would address them with your school. If things aren't too scary, they can be a way for children to learn about dealing with fear. If they are too scary, it is probably not appropriate, and this should be discussed with teachers, administrators, etc.

Hope you can make it a good holiday this year! Elizabeth

The values you want to impart to your children is clearly important to you so you should dictate how Halloween is spent in your household. Let your kids know how you feel about Halloween and the reasons behind it and they will probably be more understanding than you think. Maybe you could have something like a 'Fall Celebration' on Oct. 31st and stay home, bake and do some special activities the kids would enjoy that aren't materialistic. Leave a note in your front yard letting trick-or- treaters know that you don't celebrate this holiday. The same goes for the school. If they would like you to volunteer for Halloween activities, let them know you do not celebrate and offer to help in some other fund raising campaign. - anon

In light of the fact that it may be unrealistic to shelter kids from Hallowe'en, perhaps you can change perspective on it and turn it into a more positive experience. There are certainly many non-ghoulish aspects, and you might consider focusing your kids on the more lighter aspects of it. For instance, it's a great time to collect for UNICEF if you go trick-or-treating; Make it a role-playing day -- a day to dress up and act out fantasies of being something or someone grown up, too: a cowboy or a fire fighter or royalty. Perhaps have a ''no monsters'' hallowe'en event with your children and their friends where you bob for apples and carve pumpkins and make roasted pumkin seeds with the innards. We have a party each year (no haunted house) and everyone from babies to pre-teens comes and has a great time in their constumes, carving pumpkins and decorating cupcakes with orange and black decorations. I confess to not sharing your feelings about Hallowe'en, but then I was never taught nor did I ever focus on the more scary aspects of the day. If none of this seems like a good option for you, you might look in to faith-based organizations, which often provide alternatives. Not sure how to combat the influence of school celebrations of the day. Best of luck. T

SOunds like your son has what is a very common childhood phobia. I recently found out that 70% of all children have some sort of phobia (also considered anxiety disorder) to some extent but ony 30% of those phobias are ever identified and worked with. There is help!!! (see Anxiety Class at Kaiser for the rest of this review)

Healthy Halloween Treats


This is a response to Nils Ohlson who would like some ideas on healthy trick or treats. I have seen snack sizes of something like trail mix. It comes in a large bag with several smaller cellophane packages--about the size you would put in a lunch box. If I remember correctly, the packets contain sunflower seeds with raisins and carob chips. I don't remember the brand name--but you should find it alongside other snack items such as Cheese 'N Crackers, etc. Liz

One friend of mine has handed out school supplies alongside of some very minor candies. So for instance, one year she had a supply of erasers, and also some small hardcandies. The kids could choose a combination as directed at the door. Other things she has handed out were pencils and crayons. Dawn

Have you considered just handing out quarters? I think the older kids might really like it. You could have a few treats for the three-and-under crowd. Beth

This is a message to the person who asked for ideas about non-surgary items to give out at Halloween which were packaged and therefore safe as opposed to raisins. I don't know of an item to suggest, but I would like to suggest that Price/Costco would certainly be a place to check. They have LARGE amounts of things at LOW prices. They, of course, have an aisle of standard packaged Halloween candy in large bags at the best prices around, but they also have lots of other items which could include types of granola bars (they may have chocolate chips, but they're packaged, would be an improvement over straight-up candy, and many kids like them). I'll bet you could get them for under $.50 each, as you were wanting. Good luck. Write back about what you find/decide to do. I'm always looking for new ideas about Halloween alternatives. Tamara

Regarding Holloween Treats, have you heard of the Oriental Trading Company? They put out a great catalog of gifts and gadgets at VERY reasonable prices. The inventory is similar to that of a party supply outlet. We've ordered a gross of pencils, rubber spiders, ect. for less than $20. The catalog is seasonal and includes most holidays.
Oriental Trading Company, Inc.: 1-800-228-2269 Laura

We are very concerned with the treats given on Halloween but we do love the holiday. What we have done in the last few years is to give out $0.25 wrapped in saran wrap and tied with an orange bow. We get about 100-- and although the kids probably spend the $ on candy--my hope is that this way the parents have some control. We spend about $25 Robi

I share your concern about handing out sugary treats. I've tried different approaches in different years.

One year I ran out of candy, and in desperation I handed out apples that I happened to have on hand. I was amazed at a bunch of kids who were really excited to get them!

The last few years I've been handing out a combination of a very small piece of candy (because my husband thinks it's necessary), such as the tiny Reese's cups, combined with some non-candy treat such as a single sticker, a tiny inexpensive plasic toy, a tiny pad of paper, or a colorful-looking pencil. Cute, cheap doodads can be gotten at places like Paper Plus on San Pablo Avenue a couple blocks north of University.

The kids have been enthusiastic about the non-edible treats. Maybe their parents are like I am, and let them have all of the toys that they collect, but only a fraction of the candy. In any case, the kids don't seem to mind.


I just got my issue of Nutrition Action News today and here's the Tip of the Month: This Halloween, consider giving pogs, wiggly worms, or other tiny toys. If you're stuck on candy, skip the chocolates. Lollipops, licorice, and similar candies are full of sugar, but at least they're not fatty. Judy