It’s October again. Guess what the Engineer has on his mind? Yup, Halloween. That time of year when we go ring the door bells of random strangers and ask them for candy. Sounds rather weird when you put it that way. He’s so excited – not just about the candy possibility, but about making a fun experience for Halloween visitors. He wants to decorate everything with skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, pumpkins, and spiders. We went looking for fake spider web at Target, and while we were there we finally found a (fake) teal pumpkin. Yay!
You’re probably thinking “what? Why do they need a teal pumpkin?” Put simply, a teal pumpkin is a visual cue that you’re handing out non-food treats for kids with allergies. Parents and kids can be sure that their kid will get something fun that they don’t have to promptly give up because they can’t eat it. It’s tough enough being a kid with allergies but holidays make it worse. Every kid they know is chortling over the huge bag of treats they got during trick-or-treating, and the allergy kids feel left out.
So, teal pumpkin. If you want a longer explanation, go to the Food Allergy Research & Education Website to read about it and print out a free sign to post with your teal pumpkin. Make sure that you display your teal pumpkin ahead of time so that families with allergies know you’re participating: it’s hard to see teal at night!
Practically speaking, what does this inclusive teal pumpkin signal mean? You stock non-food treats with your candy treats and let the kids choose, or you do what we’re doing and go completely candy-free. Sounds tricky and expensive, but I’ve discovered that when we go candy-free our costs actually go down. If you hand out candy, kids expect a handful of the stuff. If you hand them an LED finger light they’re excited, even though the cost is actually less than candy.
We came up with a list of non-food treats when we first started doing this, but found that kids overwhelming prefered the LED finger lights because it’s dark and they look cool. Go figure.
- Fake tattoos (cut up sheets into batches of 3-4 to lower costs)
- Stickers. And watch the parents give you a sickly grin when you hand those out.
- LED finger lights
- Glowstick bracelets or sticks
- Flashing LED squishy rings
- Rocks. Not kidding. It’s more fun if you paint them or do cool tumbled rocks though.
- Bouncy balls
- Money (a handful of pennies makes a huge impact to a little kid!)
- Spider rings and various party dreck
- Pencils or erasers (and be prepared for eye rolls because boooring!)
- Little animals or dinosaurs
- Magic water beads (buy in bulk, get a pack of tiny clear plastic bags, and print a little insert)
- UV + Glow-in-the-dark pony beads (also buy in bulk and separate into little bags)
- Little puzzles
Make sure that you don’t chose things like Playdough (contains wheat) or balloons (contains latex) because those items are not safe for kids with wheat or latex allergies. If you’re doing candy and non-food, try to keep them in separate bowls to avoid contamination.
It’s wonderful to see the excitement on a kid’s face because they know they don’t have to worry about allergies. They won’t go away empty-handed. Or like us, the parents won’t have to sort through their kid’s bag and “trade” safe candy for the unsafe ones and hope that they didn’t miss anything. No child should have to feel left out at the most kid-targeted holiday possible.
The only problem with participating in the Teal Pumpkin campaign is that you have to plan ahead. You can’t grab a bag or two of candy the night before Halloween and be done: you actually have to search for some of this stuff. Which is why I’m posting it now. It seems like a lot of work for us, but it’s much less than families with allergies must do to keep their kids safe every day. I’m ok with a little more work for me if it makes a kid feel included and happy.
So go teal this Halloween. You might like it so much that you’ll skip the candy altogether!
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Here are a few links for some of these things – it can be hard to find things like UV beads or LED lights!