For parents of children living with food allergies, Halloween is a real minefield. Food is such an important part of the celebration and you want your child to enjoy all the treats available, just like everyone else. Unfortunately that isn’t possible, but your child can still have a great Halloween and get treats that are safe. Here are some tips to help guide you through the holiday:
- Be prepared for school parties. Unless you’re volunteering to help out, you can’t be there to watch your child during school. Make sure the school and teacher are up to date on your child’s food allergy action plan, understand his or her restrictions and have a supply of medication on hand if needed. If treats will be served at the party, send in appropriate snacks for your child in advance so she won’t be left out of the fun. This is also a good chance for a refresher talk with a younger child on what she can and cannot eat.
- Look for the teal pumpkin. Trick-or-treating is the number one joy of Halloween for most kids, and yours doesn’t have to miss out just because of allergies. The Teal Pumpkin Project from Food Allergy Research Education (FARE) has become popular in recent years and means that more and more families are offering allergen-free Halloween snacks to trick-or-treaters. Look for teal pumpkins at houses in your neighborhood and ask for the allergen-free treat.
- Switch out candy. Let your child enjoy the process of trick-or-treating and then trade him his collected candy for your hand-picked allergen-free Halloween candy and other non-food treats. Make it a fun exchange and offer plenty of things he likes so he won’t feel cheated. If you have children without food allergies, you might want to consider doing a swap with everyone so all the kids have the same experience.
- Sort candy together. If you let your child go trick-or-treating, sorting through the loot can be a good learning experience. Before she gets to eat any of her treats, sit down together and go through the candy. Make a pile for safe foods and a pile for those that may contain allergens. Have some extra safe treats on hand to replace the pile of treats she can’t have.
- Read labels very carefully. Most food allergy parents don’t need to be told this. You’ve probably been doing it for years. With all those small pieces of candy floating around, though, some may get lost in the shuffle. Be extra careful and vigilant about reading labels for ingredients and allergen warnings. If you have children without food allergies collecting candy, keep the treats separated from allergen-free candy and watch out for pieces left out around the house.
- Take the focus away from food. Treats are a major component of the holiday, but candy isn’t the only fun thing about Halloween. Kids also love dressing up, carving pumpkins and decorating the house. You can take the emphasis away from candy and spend more time on these non-food activities to make your child’s holiday fun but safe. Spend extra time on creating an elaborate costume together or carve multiple pumpkins. Participate in costume or carving contests to add another element of fun.
- Throw your own Halloween party. Parties are becoming a bigger part of Halloween, and for some children they are even replacing trick-or-treating. Even parents who don’t have to worry about food allergies appreciate alternatives to the tradition. Holding a party for your children and their friends (and parents) means you get to control the food that is served. Just be sure to let parents know that you will be supplying all the treats.
The idea of facing Halloween with a child living with a food allergy can be frightening, but the holiday doesn’t have to be scary for that reason. Plan ahead, talk to your child about what is appropriate, provide safe treats and reroute the emphasis on food to safer activities, and you and your child can enjoy a fun and safe Halloween.