I’m deathly allergic to nuts. Halloween has always been my least favorite holiday because of the torment it caused me as a kid. Do you know how infuriating it is to have to give your bully older brother over half your trick-or-treat candy because you can’t eat it? It’s pretty much devastating for a child — especially a chocolate addict like me.
If your child has nut or other serious food allergies or sensitivities like I do, you probably know how disappointing it can be for them to feel left out of Halloween traditions, like collecting candy and eating all of the treats that other kids get to indulge in each holiday season. The good news is that you can do a few things to make it easier for your child to enjoy themselves and feel included.
This Halloween, try these 5 tips for a safe, fun and allergen-free trick-or-treating experience:
1. Host an allergen-free trick-or-treat event
While trick-or-treating can be challenging with food allergies, it’s still a super-fun event that every child should experience. Food allergies and sensitivities are, unfortunately, becoming increasingly more common, so your child probably has many classmates and neighborhood buddies who are also dealing with this difficulty. Why not organize a special trick-or-treat with pre-approved treats and a map of neighborhood participants? Or a trick-or-treat candy potluck party where participants all bring their own assortment of allergen-free treats? At the very least, it can’t hurt to inform neighbors of your child’s allergies and hope they offer a few allergen-free candy options.
2. Trade candy instead of banning allergens
A week before Halloween, let your child pick out a few movie-theatre sized boxes of their favorite candies. This way, your child knows that for every candy they receive on Halloween that they can’t have, there is an even better substitute waiting for them at home. Let your child pick a few friends that they will give their extra candies to as a present. Forcing them to give their siblings the forbidden candies can cause tension, but if your child wants to do this, let them distribute their candies to their brothers and sisters as a fun activity.
3. Make trick-or-treating about giving, not receiving
“Seemingly allergy-free candy can be manufactured in the same facilities as peanuts, wheat and other allergens, causing cross-contamination,” says allergist Richard Weber, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). If your child’s allergies are so severe that they cannot even touch suspect candies, try including them in the process of trick-or-treating by having them distribute treats to neighbors instead.
This can be a great tradition and can help your child learn that giving can be just as fun as receiving. Spend time baking cookies with your child, or helping them pick out a treat at the store, and then give them out to your favorite neighbors.
4. Gamify detecting allergens
Sorting out the candies your child can and cannot eat can seem like an accidental punishment, especially if they are young. While you could take your child’s candy and do this for them, it can be a great learning experience for them to identify the candies they cannot eat and teach them what they should avoid in the future. Make a game out of sorting the candy into groups, and award prizes if they identify a certain number of candies they can’t eat. You could even let your child guess how many candies will be in the “allergic” pile at the end of the night, and award them for guessing correctly.
5. Try offering toys instead of candy
For some kids, candy just isn’t a feasible option. Maybe you’re afraid of cross-contamination, don’t allow processed sugars or simply want a healthier option. “Spread treats out on the kitchen table and swap out dangerous treats for ones they can enjoy or offer non-food items like inexpensive toys,” says Alexia Chianis, a parenting expert with SafeWise.com.
You can try trading half their candy for a toy to cut down on sweets, or to allow them a fun option for trading in the candies they are allergic to without feeling like they are losing anything. You might find that even children who don’t have allergies will be a fan of this arrangement!
While trick-or-treating can be harder for kids with food allergies and sensitivities, there are plenty of creative things you can do as a parent to make sure your child not only stays safe, but also has a fun Halloween. Whether you decide to host your own special event, or adapt the tradition to meet your child’s unique needs, these five tips will make it easier to take the food-allergy-fright out of even the spookiest Hallows Eve.
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