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Safe and Alternative Halloween Family Activities
by Ashley Smith, FAACT-recognized Support Group Leader and FAACT Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Board Member
Happy Fall! October is here and that means cooler breezes, leaves are displaying a beautiful array of vibrant hues, and everyone’s favorite spooky holiday is quickly approaching. But what will Halloween look like this year? As many families are searching for ways to safely celebrate Halloween amid the Covid-19 pandemic, this collection of socially distant Halloween ideas will ensure that you too can create your very own Spooktacular Halloween!
Virtual events are a great alternative to in-person gatherings that allow families, friends, and school communities the opportunity to come together while staying apart. This is also a particularly fun way for relatives that live far away to join in on the festivities. Host a virtual mad scientist event, magic show, costume parade, or jack-o-lantern carving showcase. How about a virtual escape room? (Teens and adults, that suggestion is for you!)
Surprise the kids with a family fun Halloween party! Planning parties is one of my favorite things to do. Here are ways to create a fa-boo-lous at-home Halloween celebration this year.
Decorate your home! Whether you would like to roll up your sleeves and do some fun DIY projects, invite your young ghouls and goblins to craft and display their best Halloween art displays, or turn your home into a haunted house, decorating will definitely get everyone excited for October 31st to arrive.
Plan Halloween movie nights or a weekend movie marathon! Select a special day once a week (or one weekend) to sit down as a family and watch a Halloween movie together. My kids are old enough that they enjoyed helping me pick out which movies we will be watching.
Carve/decorate pumpkins! A classic Halloween tradition for many families. Allergy-friendly alternative if someone has an allergy to pumpkins - purchase a styrofoam or cardboard pumpkin to paint teal and decorate it. You can also print out a pumpkin template or draw a pumpkin to decorate and display around your home. Did you know that teal pumpkins represent inclusion for all trick or treaters with food allergies or other conditions? More information about the Teal Pumpkin Project® can be found here.
Bake allergen-friendly Halloween desserts! Halloween can be a very scary holiday for families managing food allergies but this year my kids are particularly excited to help bake and decorate allergen friendly sweets. Even if you do not have allergies, spending time together and teaching the kids new baking skills is a fun way to spend the day. Check out FAACT’s Allergy-Friendly Recipes Pinterest Board for more ideas.
Don’t forget to dress up! Halloween would not be complete without costumes! Grown-ups, let the kids help pick out or create a costume for you to wear too.
Play Halloween games! Kids will love these traditional games with a Halloween Twist. Pumpkin Ring Toss. Instead of ‘Simon Says’ play Frankenstein Says. Monster Mash Freeze Dance, Halloween Bingo, and there are many more ideas online (thank you, Pinterest) if you need some extra inspiration. You can also check out FAACT’s Halloween Pinterest Boards for fun, allergy-friendly ideas.
Create a Halloween-themed art project! Assemble a foam or wooden haunted house, get messy with finger paints, or have fun counting down the days until Halloween by creating a paper chain.
Conduct your very own mad scientist experiments at home! - Younger kids might enjoy simple science projects such as investigating pumpkins, float or sink, or maybe the leak proof bag experiment while older kids might prefer making slime or trying the elephant toothpaste experiment.
Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating
Pinatas! My family is doing a Pokémon Halloween theme this year, so I am overly excited to surprise my kids with their very own pokeball pinata to break open this year in place of trick-or-treating.
Scavenger Hunts! Pinterest has many free scavenger hunt printable ideas that are Halloween-themed. Make it a treasure hunt with non-food items or allergen-friendly treats as the hidden surprise! *Note: FAACT’s Teal Ghost Non-Food Fun Halloween treats can be found at your local Walmart.
Glow in the dark egg hunts! Reuse those plastic Easter eggs by filling them with either non-food favors or allergen friendly candies. Tip: use a sharpie to draw jack-o-lantern or ghost faces for an added Halloween touch.
Having trouble coming up with inclusive non-food Halloween treats this year?
As a FAACT-recognized food allergy support group leader for the Los Angeles area, hosting allergy friendly/non-food events for my community has been such a gift to me. I find myself unable to appropriately convey how meaningful it has been for me to see so many families over the years safely enjoy what can truly be a frightening holiday. Here are some allergy-friendly non-food treats that are sure to be a hit.
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) and Walmart have made it easy for anyone wanting to offer a fun array of FAACT’s Teal Ghost Non-Food Fun treats such as ghosts, yo-yo’s, bubbles, slime, pencils, teal skeletons and pumpkin cups, and more. Just look for FAACT’s Teal Ghost logo on the display cases and packaging in the Halloween section of your local Walmart.
Other ideas you may want to consider: a new book or puzzle, glow sticks, Rubik’s cube, spin tops, slinky, invisible pen with notepad, bookmarks, stamps, flashlights, mini footballs, beach balls, squish balls, keychains, mini plushies, bracelets, yo-yos, LEGO Minifigures, and more!
Whether you are staying home or just looking for allergen friendly alternatives to celebrate Halloween, I hope this collection of ideas will help you create a safe, but spooky good time this Halloween!
FAACT's Halloween Resources
Halloween can be scary – and we’re not just talking about decorations. Avoiding unsafe foods at school and other celebrations is often a challenge for children with food allergies.
FAACT created resources to help families have more fun and less fright this Halloween, including blog posts, Pinterest boards, podcast episodes, and activities to help educate your community.
FAACT's Halloween Safety Tips
Set the stage for a fun Halloween with these safety tips:
- Bring epinephrine: Carry two epinephrine auto-injectors while trick-or-treating, to parties, at the mall, and anywhere else there may be Halloween candy.
- NO snacking: Give your child incentive to wait until they get home before eating treats. Switch out unsafe candy for safe treats, toys, or even money.
- Dress up: Can your child wear gloves to help avoid direct contact with allergens? Accessorize costumes with teal buttons, stickers, or other awareness items to let other parents know about food allergies.
- Speak up: Have fun with a little role playing. If they see candy they know they can have, teach them to ask for it. If someone offers something they can’t have, they can say, “No, thank you. I have a food allergy.”
- Discuss candy to avoid: It’s one thing to tell your child to avoid candy with peanuts, but do they know what the wrappers look like so they don’t accidentally grab one? Teach them to scan candy bowls for allergens and even avoid safe treats if they’re surrounded by unsafe candy.
- Look around: Watch what other kids are eating nearby and scan for any candy/wrappers thrown on the ground.
- Read ALL labels: Sometimes snack-sized candy is manufactured differently. Ingredients and manufacturing processes change. NEVER assume an item is safe just because it was safe last year. You may need to research some ingredient lists online.
- Hand out non-food treats: Halloween-themed pencils, glow necklaces, rings, and temporary tattoos ensure every child can enjoy the fun. Avoid items like Play-Doh that contain food ingredients (and potential allergens).
- Set up safe stops: Place small bags of safe candy at a few neighbors’ houses so your child can go there and get it. It also gives you a chance to educate neighbors about food allergies.
- BYO treats: When friends or neighbors host a Halloween bash, bring allergen-free treats for the whole gang so your child won’t feel left out. (Be sure those treats are kept away from other foods.)
- Sing about it: Kyle Dine created a cute and catchy song, “Food Allergy Halloween Safety,” to teach children about safety.
- Read about it: The No Biggie Bunch wrote a cute book, “Trade-or Treat Halloween,” about kids swapping the candy that contains their allergens.
Shine TEAL In Your Neighborhood
Teal Ghosts and Pumpkins are such a great way to include children with food allergies and help them enjoy a safe and happy Halloween. It helps include children with other dietary restrictions too!
To increase awareness about food allergies this Halloween:
- Sign it: Let others know you support people with food allergies and have non-allergic treats. Download and print FAACT’s FREE “Non-Food Fun Ghost” and “Non-Food Treats Available Here” posters.
- Treat with teal: Hand out non-food treats such as FAACT’s Teal Ghost logoed fun and colorful prize packs, available at Walmart stores across the U.S.
- Educate parents: Hand out food allergy information to parents of trick-or-treaters, such as FAACT’s FREE downloadable flyer, “10 FAACTs about Food Allergies.” Maybe next year you’ll have a neighborhood filled with teal pumpkins!
- Color the classroom: Talk to your child’s teacher about bringing “teal” into the classroom with a non-food or allergy-friendly party. If you’re able, help out at the party and offer ideas for allergy-friendly activities. This allows you to watch over your child during the party and show others how easy it is to have fun celebrating Halloween without allergens. (If you need ideas for games and crafts, check out FAACT's Halloween Pinterest Boards.)
- Go for the whole school: Ask the principal to place a teal pumpkin at the school and offer parents information about food allergies. If you’re able, supply the school with a list of ideas for non-food and/or allergy-friendly items, such as FAACT’s Bookmarks and Posters.
- Make it profitable: Ask local businesses to help spread the word with a teal pumpkin and informational poster. Not only are they helping children with food allergies, it’s a great sales tactic. They can place sales items next to the pumpkin so customers can easily purchase these items to get involved. For example: At a home improvement store, have teal paint and brushes. At stores like Target and Walmart, have small, non-food items.
Preparing for Holidays with Food Allergies
Holiday gatherings are usually filled with family, friends – and food. Here are some tips from FAACT for traveling during any holiday season, as well as dining in/out to help you avoid any potential dangers, so you can have a happy holiday season!
Traveling during holiday seasons:
- Plan your route for traveling and note any allergy-friendly restaurants to stop along the journey.
- Eat a good meal before leaving to help keep everyone full for a longer period of time.
- Bring a cooler full of allergy-friendly snack items. Keep the snacks fun and be sure to include a variety of sweet, salty, crunchy and soft.
Dinner at your house:
- Plan out in advance what others will bring. Assign dishes that are less likely to contain the allergen.
- Are they buying the item or making from scratch? Discuss label reading and recommend certain brands you know are allergen safe.
- Have them take a picture of the label and text or email you if they have any questions.
- Gently, but thoroughly, go over how to avoid cross-contact in the kitchen.
- Be in charge of all the baked goods to reduce any issues and remind them to not bring the allergen as a gift.
Dinner at a family member or friend’s house:
- Contact or have them contact everyone and politely remind them not to bring any unsafe items.
- Offer to go a little early and help clean.
- Offer to help the host cook the food.
- Have your child eat a snack before you go, so they’re less tempted to grab food when you’re not watching.
- Bring separate dishes that you know your child can eat.
- Remind your child about not eating anything that you haven’t OK’d first.
Dining out during the holidays:
- Research restaurants to find out if they’re allergy-friendly.
- Call ahead to speak with the chef and/or manager and address any concerns.
- When at the restaurant, let your server know about the allergy. Ask to speak to the manager and/or chef so you have no doubt the kitchen has been made aware.
- Consider eating at a time that is less busy.
Wishing you safe and Happy Holidays all year through!
Alternative Halloween Traditions
Consider changing up Halloween to put the focus on giving to others and bringing them joy. Whether your child stays home and passes out the allergy-friendly treats or goes trick or treating and donates all their loot, they can feel good about helping others.
- Donate: Some dentists and other businesses offer a “Halloween Candy Buyback” and send the candy to U.S. troops overseas. Your child can even send a letter of encouragement to our troops!
- Celebrate: Make it a family holiday. Have something fun for dinner, dress up in costumes or silly pajamas, and eat your favorite treats while watching a movie together.
The excitement you bring to the idea will determine their excitement for doing it! You could say it like…
“I have a great idea. What if we make Halloween…Famoween (or something silly)? We can watch all the kids come to the door and see all their cool costumes. It will be like a parade that comes right to our door! We can even pass out flyers that tell parents about food allergies. Then when it’s all over, we’ll make some popcorn, eat a bunch of your favorite candy, and watch your favorite movie together.”
Not only would this be fun and safe, it would build lasting family memories.
FAACT Crossword Puzzles & Word Searches
You won't want to miss FAACT's Halloween-themed educational crossword puzzles and word searches. These are fun puzzles to do at home or share with your classmates and friends.
Download 10 FAACTS About Food Allergies to answer questions contained in the crossword puzzles and word searches.
Download our fun crossword puzzles and word searches:
- FAACT's Halloween Crossword Puzzle 1
- FAACT's Halloween Crossword Puzzle 1 - Answer Key
- FAACT's Halloween Crossword Puzzle 2
- FAACT's Halloween Crossword Puzzle 2 - Answer Key
- FAACT's Halloween Word Search 1
- FAACT's Halloween Word Search 1 - Answer Key
- FAACT's Halloween Word Search 2
- FAACT's Halloween Words Search 2 - Answer Key
- Walmart Teams Up with FAACT’s Teal Ghost for Halloween
- Let's Celebrate A Very TEAL Halloween
- Safe and Alternative Halloween Family Activities
- 12 Teal Ways to Increase Awareness and Safety this Halloween!
- FAACT’s Halloween Safety Tips
- Tips to Create a Safe & Teal Halloween
- How Halloween is Opening the Door for Food Allergy Awareness
- Halloween with Food Allergies
FAACT's Roundtable Podcast Episodes
- Episode 14: Self-care and Coping Skills Tips for You and Your Family
- Episode 22: Food Allergy Anxiety and Depression
- Episode 58: The Hershey Company, Taking the Mystery Out of Manufacturing
- Episode 88 (coming 10/13): Trick or Teal Treat: Halloween Prep Made Easy