Have you heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project?
As a person who suffers from so, so many food allergies and sensitivities, I got really excited about this project when I first heard of it last year. As a child, I just ate all the Reese’s and Mounds and Smarties and felt sick afterwards, and didn’t think much of it, because that’s how I always felt. Doctors had recommended that I might have sensitivities to dairy, wheat, and sugar, but we just didn’t know then exactly how much a food sensitivity could affect your overall health, and I kept right on eating it all through my mid-twenties.
But we’ve learned better now. More and more kids are being diagnosed with food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities (Yes! Those are all different things!). There is some debate as to whether the incidence of these food issues is actually on the rise, or whether we’ve just gotten better at diagnosing them (though it’s now been shown that the rate of Celiac diagnoses has now risen so much that it couldn’t possibly be attributed only to better diagnosis). But whatever the cause, between the allergies and the Celiac and the rising rates of childhood diabetes, we’ve got a lot of kids running around who have to be careful about how they indulge on Halloween night.
The Teal Pumpkin project is about giving these kids a way to participate and have fun, even if they can’t eat the sweets. And I’m 100% behind it! Since last Halloween, my youngest child has been diagnosed with lactose intolerance. While her digestive symptoms really improved after we took her off dairy, they haven’t resolved, and the poor kid has had to eliminate soy, sunflower seeds, raspberries, and bananas, as well as currently trialing a gluten free diet. She also has to watch her fruit intake, or, well, we won’t go into details. Needless to say, Halloween is going to be tricky for her this year. I’m going to have a supply of safe treats on hand to trade out for the questionable ones, and I’ll be offering cold cash in exchange for complete surrender of sweets. But, being an average 5 year old and also having ADHD, she’s liable to pop some chocolate in her mouth on the sly and end up paying for it later. Kids with deadly allergies, of course, pay for exposure with a lot more than a rash and extra time on the potty. I would love to see the Teal Pumpkin Project take off, so that all kids can really participate in Halloween fun without endangering their health. Even those lucky kids who can cram their faces with Starbursts without worrying about causing a major health issue could probably benefit from a few more non-food treats mixed in with all that sugar.
I’m looking at this as a chance to get creative. I’ve been working on giving up little stamped out slave-wage plastic toys from China that entertain the kids for maybe two minutes before they end up in a landfill, so I went and made a list of fun non-food Trick or Treat items that would provide the kids with lasting fun and/or use natural materials. I had three other ground rules: all treats need to be inexpensive (comparable with the cost of candy), and anything crafted has to be easy (I’m thinking easily making 30 in an hour is a good guideline), and no Pinterest-related guilt allowed! We’re not looking for perfect. We’re looking for fun and realistic. You, a hot glue gun, a bowl of googley eyes and a few dozen pom poms. My nine year old daughter approved this list herself! Can you add to it?
1. Plastic gems. We put these in with the candy one year, and they disappeared in minutes! Almost every kid chose them over the candy.
These big 1-inch gems are on the expensive side at about 50 cents apiece, but you can go far less expensive if you grab a discount coupon for your local craft store and hit the autumn-themed vase filler.
2. Beads! Dolphins, basketballs, flowers, stars–there are plenty of store-bought choices to delight Trick or Treaters of all ages. For DIY, use air-dry Crayola Model Magic or FIMO and Sculpey polymer clays for an economical way to churn out lots of quick Halloween goodies. Roll into balls, and roll balls in glitter or seed beads, then poke through the center and dry as directed on the package. Or try these beautiful polymer clay heart beads by Candace Jedrowicz. Beads can be inexpensive, and you can make lots of them quickly, making them a great non-food DIY alternative for Halloween.
3. Bouncy balls, because this:
4. Nose pencil sharpeners, 12 for $6.
Other kinds of pencil sharpeners would be great too, of course. But after seeing this, I personally couldn’t bring myself to buy anything else.
5. Pencils and erasers, of course!
Halloween-themed pencils and erasers are always fun, but for something the kids can have fun using once Halloween is over, you can’t go wrong with glitter. Ever.
Pencils offer a great alternative for kids young enough to choke on things like gems and bouncy balls.
Forget useless plastic “toys” that will just end up in a landfill next week (some of those things my kids bring home from the dentist’s “treasure box” should never have been manufactured). Here’s something that’s fun for the kids and actually good for the planet! Heck, they can throw it out if they want to, and it will still grow. It’s just paper pulp and seeds. Plant them, water them, and they grow!
Instructions for DIY versions:
Here’s a DIY for making your own pumpkin kits! You could do this with any kind of seed, but of course pumpkins are the Halloweeny-est.
7. Charms, keychains, and pendants
These could be expensive to buy, but they have a lot of DIY potential. You could make your own candy corn charms on a Rainbow Loom or with polymer clay. You could mass produce stamped polymer clay pendants quickly and with little expense.
Add a metal keychain ring for something the kids can hang from their backpacks.
8. Nail polish jewelry. You can buy dozens of blank adjustable rings for just a few dollars. Add inexpensive flat gems (another candidate for getting discounted with a craft store coupon. I’m all about the coupons) and a few layers of glittery nail polish on the back, and for under 25 cents (and in not much time) you’ve got a Halloween goodie the kids will be treasuring long after the ghosts and goblins go home.
10. Dried and painted acorns or pebbles. This is one the kids could have a lot of fun helping out with! A lot of those acorns may have the caps separated by the time you find them, but you can easily re-attach them with hot glue after baking. These are an especially great way to turn out enough treats for all the neighborhood kids within a reasonable amount of time without emptying your wallet. And, bonus, these ones have minimal environmental impact.
These would be great with inexpensive pin backs glued on. That way the kids could wear their colorful acorns all autumn long. In fact, if you dry them out in your oven first (see instructions from Home Stories A to Z), those acorn pins should last Trick or Treaters for years to come!
As for pebbles, you could do treat-sized versions of these painted eyeball rocks by Daisies & Pie:
Or try monsters:
Or flowers, shapes, messages; anything you think might appeal to young haunters.
11. Pom Pom Critters. Talk about easy! My favorites are undoubtedly these sparkly soot sprites, a la My Neighbor Totoro.
All you need are some pom poms, hot glue, and googley eyes.
These are, of course, just a few options. There are so many other things we could use make Halloween safe and fun for all kids! This year, please consider putting out a teal pumpkin (or a printout of one) and keeping a few non-food goodies on hand for the kids to choose from. And help spread the word by adding your ideas, and sharing this post and the Teal Pumpkin Project site.