When it comes to Halloween treats, it’s hard to break the chocolate-filled mold. Even dentists — dentists! — hand out candy, according to a recent industry survey.
Mom blogs abound with healthful, DIY alternatives to Skittles and Snickers: peeled banana “ghosts” with chocolate-chip faces; mandarin oranges with celery-stick stems that resemble mini-squash; homemade pumpkin-spice Play-Doh. They’re enough to make a candy-craving kid roll a bloodshot, disembodied eyeball.
But there are ways to skip the corn syrup and still make kids feel like they’ve been treated, not tricked. You just have to think more creatively than the classic boxes of raisins or nickels.
Here are a few of the best non-candy Halloween handouts — and a few to avoid if you don’t want to risk disappointed trick-or-treaters or a TP’d yard.
Pencils, erasers, bookmarks and other school supplies don’t embrace the holiday’s spirit, even when emblazoned with bats and spiders. Yo-yos frustrate younger kids, who turn them into weapons. Silly straws are impossible to clean. And please don’t give out kazoos, whistles or other noisemakers, unless they’re accompanied by mini bottles of alcohol for the adult chaperones.
Better to go with more playful goodies: slap bracelets, bouncy balls, stampers and gliders. Or single-use prizes that kids go through quickly, such as stickers, bubbles, temporary tattoos and glow sticks.
Masks, wax lips, slime or those old-school cellophane fortunetelling fish are great ways to play up the spooky factor. Or, best of all, plastic spider rings and vampire teeth are still favorites with which to frighten Mom and Dad.
The most coveted of Halloween toys (the equivalent of the king-size candy bar) are Lego monster-themed Minifigures. But they’re not cheap: The build-your-own mad scientists, witches, skeletons, zombies and other creepy creatures cost about $5 apiece.
Food and beverage
Some healthy Halloween proponents have replaced the popcorn balls and caramel apples of yesteryear with oranges with a drawn-on jack-o’-lantern face or, worse, bottled water. Don’t.
Stick with packaged foods that kids tend to find special, such as mini-packs of crackers or fruit snacks.
If there’s anything lamer than the Halloween toothbrush, it’s Halloween hand sanitizer.
If you’re going to make Halloween about hygiene, at least go with character-emblazoned adhesive bandages. But not to worry if you’ve got a sweet tooth. There are Candy Land-themed ones.