Halloween ideas for kids with food allergies or sensory challenges

pumpkinWhen you hear the word “Halloween” do you think of candy? Chocolate? Fun costumes? For children with food allergies or sensory issues, Halloween can be a frustrating evening. The thrill of getting treats can quickly become a letdown if there is nothing that your child can eat. And, the thought of wearing a costume may be the last thing your sensory special child will want to do.

Non-foods gain in popularity

Years ago, in my neighborhood, we knew of a child on our street who had food allergies. As a result, some moms decided to have an assortment of other acceptable treats to give out, so that the child with food allergies could enjoy Halloween, too.

We offered the kids non-chocolate choices, such as bags of pretzels, crackers and pops. But, surprisingly, the most popular alternatives were non-food items. Crayons, tiny notepads, little cars, plastic jewelry, glow stick necklaces, stickers, and other inexpensive but fun playthings soon became an equally desired treat for many children. I was surprised to see kids who did not have food allergies choosing stickers instead of a chocolate treat. Their eyes lit up when they saw my bucket filled with non-candy gifts. The best part is that you can get most of these items at dollar stores or discount centers, so offering alternatives won’t be a costly venture. Just be careful that you do not get tiny toys, as they can be a choking hazard to small children.

My colleague here at the March of Dimes said that the “best” house for trick or treating in her neighborhood was the one where they gave out quarters instead of candy. She and her friends loved it, as they could buy whatever treat they wanted. (But again, be careful you don’t give coins to young children as they are liable to put them in their mouths.)

When you stop to think, it makes perfect sense to widen the net of Halloween treats. Food allergies are becoming more common, so offering non-food treats is a perfect way to keep Halloween safe and yet be tons of fun. Why not think about offering non-candy treats this year and start a whole new tradition? But watch out – you may well end up being the most popular house on the block for trick or treaters!

Can’t wear a costume?

Little Red Riding HoodIf your child has sensory issues and can’t fathom the idea of putting on a costume, don’t fret. Just yesterday, a little 2 year old in my neighborhood toddled by my front steps as I was sitting there enjoying the sunshine. Her mom told me that she is sad because her daughter refuses to even try on a costume. I suggested she create a “costume” out of her regular clothes. For instance, if she has a red dress or a red hoodie, she can carry a little basket and be Little Red Riding Hood. (True confessions – I did this for my daughter when she was about that age!) Here are more ideas on how to prepare your child with sensory challenges for Halloween.  Also, you can ask your child’s Occupational Therapist for specific ideas that can make him comfortable.

Just remember, the most important thing is that your child is comfortable and safe, and has fun on Halloween.

What tricks have you tried to help your little one have fun on Halloween? Please share.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also see a Table of Contents of prior posts, here.

If you have comments or questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We welcome your input!

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