Halloween is supposed to be nothing but fun for kids.
Yet there are some scary statistics out there right now about our children.
For one, this is the first generation of American children whose life expectancy is now shorter than their parents.
And for another, if the current trend continues, one in every three children will develop diabetes in her lifetime.
“But Halloween is only one holiday. Why can’t we let kids eat all the candy they want?” some might ask.
If candy were only doled out by the handful once a year, it might be all right. (Even then, some parents would prefer moderation and still, we would face the issues of the unhealthy chemicals in the candy.)
But the fact is that many of our holidays have turned into sweetfests-Valentine’s Day and Easter, for example, to say nothing of kids’ birthday parties and other celebrations throughout the year. Add to this the candy children receive if they accompany you to the bank (even the doctor!), the dry cleaners or pet store. Some teachers even hand out candy as a reward for good behavior.
So it’s not about once a year. It’s about recognizing the impact of our national sweet tooth (and our reliance on artificially derived and modified ingredients), and how we can help our children to enjoy healthy and safe alternatives, even when celebrating.
What to give instead?
If you don’t want to hand out conventional candy this year, what can you substitute? Lots of things.
You can choose from an assortment of organic candies, and/or those made without dyes and preservatives, and that use juice or fruit for sweetening.
Or consider honey sticks, a favorite among kids of all ages. (But do not give honey to children under the age of two.)
If you’d prefer to skip the candy altogether but still want to offer food-how about real fruit strips and rolls, dried organic fruit, whole food bars, raw or toasted nuts (check with parents of young children due to allergy concerns), natural gum, organic crispy rice bars, or pumpkin and other seeds. (For a longer list with specific brands, check out www.GreenHalloween.org)
Treasures instead of treats?
Another alternative is to substitute “treasures” for treats.
Think about it this way. When you empty your kids’ pockets before doing the laundry, what do you find? These are things your children think of as precious even if you do not-bits of shiny paper, rock crystals, acorns, for example.
So when it comes to treasures, don’t dismiss them just because you think kids will turn up their noses. Ask them! You might be surprised that they would be happy to receive stickers, friendship bracelets, coins (who doesn’t love money?), polished rocks, sea shells, cookie cutters, or other small items. (Lots more treasure ideas at Green Halloween.)
Enter the bowl
To ensure you offer something children will like, fill a bowl with a variety of treats and treasures, then invite children to take their pick. You will no doubt be surprised at their choices.
At a Halloween event a couple of years ago, we placed a bowl filled with feathers on a table in our booth. Adults passed by without a second glance. But as kids approached, their eyes grew wide and they asked, “Can I have one?” So many wanted a feather that we ran out in an hour. They blew them into the air, they tried to tickle themselves (or their siblings), or lightly brushed the feathers against their cheeks. Boys, girls, teens and tweens all had the same reaction.
Who would think that today’s children who seem to be entertained only when they are plugged in, could enjoy something as simple as a feather?
So this Halloween, offer lots of choices, allow children to pick their favorite instead of taking a handful (which, no matter what is chosen, is not only better for kids’ health, but also should cut down on your purchase costs) and feel great about providing the children who come to your door with a healthier Halloween.
Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at www.CelebrateGreen.net