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Halloween is such an exciting time for families and children. However, for those families with children who have food allergies, the thought of going trick or treating can be very stressful or downright terrifying. Having a sick child or being sent to the hospital is not on everyone's list for a fun Halloween!
Even if your own child does not have food allergies, there will most certainly be a child or two who does have allergies within your neighborhood. Children want nothing more than to be included and for little ones who need to be aware of every single ingredient they put into their mouth, the thought of being left out on one of the most fun nights of the year can be heartbreaking. Including all children on Halloween can be as simple as a quick trip to the nearest bargain shop.
The teal pumpkin project was created by the Food Allergy Research and Education and is going into it’s third year. It has been building momentum to help promote non-food treats for Halloween for children with allergies. The idea is to paint a pumpkin teal to signify that your home has alternative, safe options for those children with allergies. You can still hand out candy for those but have a separate bowl tucked away for those who need another option. This is also a wonderful opportunity to teach your child about inclusion and empathy towards others.
There are all sorts of things you can use as a substitute for food items on Halloween! They certainly do not need to be big or expensive items: a little goes along way. Things like tattoos, crayons, erasers, stickers, bouncy balls, whistles, note pads, modeling clay/dough are all great ideas that children will love. Some cities such as Ottawa, Ontario have a booklet that comes out around Halloween with passes for free swimming and skating. These are a really great price and an amazing option to offer as an alternative to food treats.
Going door to door and collecting treats is so much fun but coming home and knowing that they are limited in what they can eat or can’t eat can be quite hard for them as well. Some children with dairy or wheat allergies or intolerances may be able to swap with a sibling, a neighbour or with mom and dad. There are some that cannot eat anything in their treat bag and for those, using the Great Pumpkin or Witch Switch may be needed.
This involves leaving the candy outside or on the table to be replaced with a special toy or book by the pumpkin or witch. This can either be done before they arrive home from trick or treating or left overnight to wake up to a surprise in the morning. This way, they still get to participate in the Halloween night festivities with their siblings and friends but do not need to worry about getting sick or having an allergic reaction. This is also a great idea for those that are too young to indulge in all of their candy or for the families that limit sugar. We are all for having a fun night and indulging on Halloween but having a pillow case or two of candy at their disposal may not be something all families are comfortable with.
Whether it’s the fire department, the mall or a friends house, there are events around various cities that provide Halloween fun without treats. Attending or planning a Halloween party with games, crafts and non food activities can help a child with allergies feel less left out. If you are planning your own party and know that a child attending has food allergies, here are some tips to help you plan a successful and inclusive party.
Remember that Halloween is supposed to be fun and that fun should include all children. Taking an extra step or making a little more of an effort to help all children have a fun and safe night not only benefits the child with allergies but our own children as well. Teaching all children about inclusion, empathy and doing a good deed without a reward in return are all positive attributes we want to instill in our future members of society.