Halloween is traditionally centered on one thing: candy. Many parents are stepping up and choosing alternatives for their children and the trick-or-treaters who visit their house. Whether your concern is the overload of sugar, health needs for diabetic children, or just the desire to be different, there are many non-candy treats to celebrate with this Halloween. In fact, many of the non-candy treats are cheaper than name-brand candy. If you get a lot of trick-or-treaters, consider some of these alternatives before stocking up on candy this Halloween.
1. Silly Bandz are the latest cultural phenomenon among teens and pre-teens. Silly Bandz and Fun Bands are shaped rubber bands that can be worn as bracelets. When you take them off, they pop back into their original shape. Rubber band bracelets are ridiculously cheap, averaging 10 to 25 cents each. They usually come in $2 packages with 10 to 20 bracelets based on shape themes: fruits, animals, travel, religious, fashion, etc. For sports fans, you can find generic sports shapes, or pay a little more for officially merchandised logos from your favorite college and professional teams. For trick-or-treaters, buy generic mixes in bulk and drop a handful in every child’s bag. Since it’s hard to see the shape until you lay the bracelets flat, don’t worry about spending more for Halloween themes. Most kids and even older teens will love the bracelets. Even if they don’t get the shapes and colors they want, they will enjoy trading them with friends.
2. Glow-in-the-dark jewelry, like bracelets and necklaces, are a hit with kids of all ages, even the older teens who get dragged into babysitting their younger siblings. Beware the glow sticks stocked at supermarkets, which average about $1 each, and think ahead. Order in bulk from Ebay or Oriental Trading where you can easily get enough to last all Halloween for around $20.
3. Bubbles now come in tiny, one-use bottles. Wal-Mart keeps bulk packages stocked in the craft section as wedding favors. Decorate the bottle with Halloween stickers and younger kids will love this non-candy treat. Older kids may not enjoy the idea so much, so may sure you have one of the more teen-friendly options available too.
4. Mardi Gras beads are always in fashion, and even older teen boys enjoy the beads. (Just don’t question what they plan to do with them.) Order necklaces in your favorite team colors so you can use leftovers on game days, or get them in the local high school’s colors.
5. Individual boxes of kid-favorite cereals give kids something different to snack on. Yes, most kids’ cereals still have tons of sugar, but they also have added vitamins and fiber. Grab a bulk, variety pack of General Mills favorites like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops. Ration one per child to keep this alternative cost effective.
6. Mini cans of Play-dough, play slime and other weird, gooey materials make for fun non-candy treats kids can enjoy long after Halloween. Buy online, instead of the box stores, to avoid mark-ups and save money. Again, skip the Halloween-themed cans, which are usually marked-up in price, and go generic. Add two or three Halloween stickers to each can to decorate.
7. Happy Meal toys, still in the package, are perfect for special trick-or-treaters. Opting for children’s meals, instead of adult combos, is a popular way for adults to enjoy fast food without the calorie overload. But what does an adult do with Happy Meal toys? If you indulge in the occasional Happy Meal, toss the toys into a basket and save them for Halloween. Make sure you leave them in the original package. If you only have a few, save them for the grandkids, nieces and nephews, or favorite neighborhood kids.
8. Fake vampire teeth! Do I really have to explain this one?
9. Kool-Aid packets are dirt cheap, surprisingly, many kids will grab for these over candy in a mixed-treat bowl. Yes, Kool-Aid is still candy, but it’s a treat the entire family can enjoy. Also, Kool-Aid packets may be kept long after Halloween, and some kids collect the Kool-Aid points for extra prizes.
10. Toy sampler packs are a little more expensive, but work great for special trick-or-treater guests. Look for party-favor packets of Legos, Littlest Pet Shop and other small toys.
Halloween pencils are a favorite non-candy treat….but only by the people who give them. Most kids, and even parents, don’t want regular wooden pencils. As a teacher, my students rarely use wooden pencils because they have to be sharpened so often. Halloween-themed lead pencils are ok, but only if you give them with something more fun as well. Instead of pencils, look for miniature glitter or gel pens. These are a fun novelty kids will enjoy using right away. Scented markers and highlighters, shaped crayons (for younger kids), and glow-in-the-dark pens are also a hit.
By the way, if you’re wondering what the worst non-candy Halloween treats are, CandyAddict.com has rated them: pennies, apples, raisins, canned food, coupons, toothbrushes, microwave popcorn, stickers, and home-made treats. Note: CandyAddict doesn’t like stickers, but many children do, so it’s your decision based on your kids’ advice.
Also, skip balloons as non-candy Halloween treats. Balloons are a choking hazard for most young kids, and older kids are less than thrilled at the idea of blowing up a balloon for their fun. Also, little kids are likely to steal the balloons from the older kids’ bags, and can choke when they try to blow them up. When inexperienced balloon blowers inhale, they often suck the balloon into their windpipes. So, beware balloons.
If you like the idea of non-candy treats, plan ahead for next year and you can average pennies per treat. Wal-Mart usually puts the Halloween stuff on sale the next day. Bulk packages of Halloween cards games, spider rings, Halloween sticker books, and other non-candy Halloween themed treats go for less than $1. Stock up and next year you’re all set.