Why I Don’t Hand Out Candy On Halloween

The other day on my Facebook page I said, “What is everyone handing out for Halloween this year? We’re doing our usual – glow sticks. I’d love to feature some of your new and creative (non-candy) ideas on the Charlotte Today show later this week!” And I got a barrage of comments, many of which simply answered the question, but also included some of the following…

  • “I’m sorry, but it’s Halloween and they’re children. We give out candy.”
  • “This crosses the line. Too much. It’s once a year!”
  • “If you don’t want to hand out candy, replace it with a healthy alternative treat. But substituting junk food with junky plastic crap isn’t much better in my opinion.”

First of all, I NEVER said my kids don’t get to eat candy on Halloween night. The problem is this: When some people hear that I hand out glow sticks instead of candy they make assumptions and then say (in the comments), “Oh give me a break Halloween is just once a year so let kids be kids!” But when you eat gobs of candy on Halloween night and then continue to eat the rest of the candy for weeks (or months) to come how is it still counted as “just one night?” I have no problem with my children OD’ing on whatever candy they want on Halloween night – and that’s actually what they do – with no limits or constraints from me. But then we actually live up to Halloween being “just one night” and get rid of what’s left (with the exception of maybe 5 or so pieces for “later”).

So my thought process is that children will still get PLENTY of candy on Halloween even if a few of us decide to hand out something different. Not to mention there are lots of FUN alternatives to candy (see below) that I doubt will deprive any child from just being a “kid.” Now, that’s just my two cents on the topic. I occasionally have a hard time when commenters criticize me for something I don’t even do (i.e. not let my kids trick or treat for candy) – so just had to vent about that for a moment. :)

Secondly, how many kids actually EAT every single piece of Halloween candy? Don’t the uneaten pieces (along with the wrappers from the others) end up in the land fill anyway? I promise I’m not personally a huge fan of little plastic “made in China” gadgets either, but I didn’t invent Halloween and like it or not it’s all about handing SOMETHING out. I personally have a hard time seeing how a little skeleton paratrooper is a whole lot different than gobs of candy wrappers in the land fill. Your thoughts on this?

Anyway, now that I got that off my chest let’s get into the fun alternatives that I had a chance to share on the Charlotte Today show yesterday!

Candy-Free Ideas for Trick or Treaters

Candy-Free Ideas for Trick or Treaters on 100 Days of #RealFood

  1. Festive Toys: Witch Fingers  (8 cents/each) and Skeleton Paratroopers (28 cents/each) – found at Party City or Target or online.
  2. Online Finds: Finger Lights (12 cents/each) and Syringe Pens (22 cents/each).

  3. Themed Jokes and Trivia: Lunchbox Love Cards – something different (20 cents/each)!
    And since they are a partner of ours you can get 20% off with coupon code “100DAYS”

  4. Coins: Mostly pennies – mix in some dimes and nickels and tell them to close their eyes before picking!

  5. Glow sticks: My personal favorite and what I am handing out again this year (7 cents/each) – found in the dollar section at Target.

  6. Drinks: Small bottled waters (81 cents/each) and/or organic juice pouches (75 cents/each) because we all know those trick or treaters get thirsty running around the whole neighborhood.

  7. If you still really want candy: How about organic lollipops (9 cents/each) or fruit leathers/twists (83 cents/each) without artificial dyes or other questionable additives?

  8. What do to with all that candy at the end of the night? Invite the Switch Witch over! A big thanks to blog reader Catherine for sharing this poem with us.

The Switch Witch Halloween poem

What are your plans for Halloween night?

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415 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Hand Out Candy On Halloween”

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  1. I like the non-candy ideas as well. I had a friend ask us all to consider non-candy options this year because she has a child with severe peanut allergy. She just sat and cried last Halloween because he couldn’t eat most of what he got anyway. What mom doesn’t feel bad when their child cannot participate or is left out which is exactly what happens when he cannot have what he received. I’m giving away Halloween tattoos this year as well as a tootsie roll option because both of these options work for those with peanut allergies. I had never thought about the treats from an allergy stand point before and am glad she brought it to my attention. I will always give a non-candy option from now on.

  2. We are a creative REUSE center and we have made cute, inexpensive diy kits for the kids. Six craft sticks, 5 rubber bands, a milk cap and hot glue or a glue dot makes a catapult. Some yarn, a plastic fork, scrap fabric and sequins, buttons, etc. make a doll. An envelope, some scrap paper and googly eyes makes a monster bookmark. Loads of ideas for some creative fun.

  3. So you’re handing out a bunch of plastic garbage that will take up landfill space for the next 800 years? Great solution.

  4. Oh my goodness! I love the switch witch! That is an awesome idea! My little one is celebrating her first Halloween this year, so the candy will not be an issue yet, but I am saving this idea for years to come. It sounds much more fun than just taking away the candy.

    Also, Thank you for the fresh, non food ideas. Halloween can be a hard time for kids with food allergies and I think it is nice to have trinkets for them as well.

  5. I totally agree with the earlier posters! My son is allergic to eggs, wheat and most nuts. The safe candies available to him are pretty limited. The food-related holidays can be frightening for parents of children with food allergies. I am so happy when he is included by someone handing out little notebooks, flashlights, bracelets, etc.

    We had a teal pumpkin on our porch last year and many kids chose to have a non-food treat even if they did not have food allergies!

  6. Two of my 4 kids have severe nut allergies. Halloween is a frightening holiday!!! Ever looked for a Halloween candy that is “safe?” I was quite torn when my son was in Kindergarten last year and ALL of the kids with food allergies were placed in that class. The room was deemed “Food Free.” No parties, no treats, for any holiday or special function. At the end of the year, I asked the teacher what she thought. She said it was the best year ever. She loved not having food be the focus and the kids loved it too. I think adults are a little more concerned about the treats and letting kids be kids. They just want to have fun.

  7. Have you heard about the teal pumpkin campaign? With the rash of allergies and food sensitivities there are lots of parents who are doing just this. This year (maybe others too but this is the first year I’ve heard of it) if you are handing out non-candy treats you place a pumpkin, painted teal on your doorstep so parents know you’re “food safe”.
    I love this idea – kids still get a cool treat …… and it lasts longer too :)

    1. Kristin, I’m SO glad you mentioned this! I was thinking the same thing. I also saw the email that just came through on Lisa’s list-serve with peanut butter bars and was thinking “Darn, I wish she’d use Sunbutter!”. We just found it at Costco even, then they’d be safe to take to school with the allergy kids too. I’ve followed this blog for years, implemented the meal plans at home and have been so grateful for all your hard and shared work (Lisa!:). This allergies are becoming epidemic so embracing and/or relating to that audience (1 in 13 children now) would not only be appreciated but darn good marketing!! Loves <3

  8. A lady in our neighborhood gives out bottled water. The first year, the kids were like “Whhaaatt?!?!” Later, they got thirsty and were very happy to have that in their bag.

    Every year since, they have looked forward to “The Water Lady” because they are always thirsty.

  9. Your ideas were great and creative. I think people don’t realize kids like other things besides candy. So I loved your suggestions. If people don’t like it, then they can go stuff themselves with candy and reap the benefits.

  10. Lisa – we have handed out Halloween favors – bracelets, tattoos, etc for a long time!! The last and are great for ALL ages!! I absolutely LOVE the idea of decorating clementine oranges that is fabulous another great idea for all ages.

  11. Even though we don’t *celebrate* this particular holiday in our home, I love most of your ideas for Halloween treats. However, I have one concern — the syringe. If there’s one thing I wouldn’t want to do is to give small children the idea that a syringe is a *toy* especially if one lives in a city where actual used syringes can be found daily in city parks and open spaces. Can you imagine some child who got a *toy* syringe for Halloween going to a park and find a real syringe (ie left there by some drug user) and thinks, Oh, a free toy! That is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Please, please, DON’T give out toy syringes as treats this Halloween! And encourage all adults (parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, etc.) to teach all children that syringes (play or otherwise) should be treated just as if they were firearms — Stop! Don’t touch! Run and tell an adult!

  12. I LOVE this idea! Glow sticks would have been so fun as a kid! I’m shocked at the comments you’ve gotten…it’s not like you handed out toothpaste! I actually got that one year as a kid!

  13. We hand out toothbrushes and floss haha!!! Yes I am a dental hygienist!!! But we also hand out candy along with it…. But tell them to be sure and brush their teeth!!!! We let our kids eat their candy for a. couple days and then either throw it away or hide it for when we go to the movies for the next few months!!! Happy Halloween!!!

  14. I usually hand out candy, the good stuff like Snickers, but since we were out running around taking my son to see his grandparents last year (it was his 1st Halloween) we didn’t even get home in time to turn our light on so I’m not even buying any this year. We end up snitching out of the candy before Halloween anyways and don’t need to do that, if it’s not in the house there won’t be any temptation.

  15. We hand out clementines that are decorated with black sharpie as pumpkins!! I was SO shocked last year at all the kids that were actually excited for that. I thought for sure a bunch would not be happy– but only one teenager was grumpy about it and didn’t want it! I’ll continue doing this for a long time!!

    1. What a great idea! My kids would love decorating them for the trick or treaters! The only drawback would be the cost….I don’t know about the US, but here in Canada, clementines can be pretty costly. Maybe it would be an idea better saved for a school Halloween party, where the number needed would be less? Love the idea, though!

  16. When my kids were little, we just limited the area in which they trick-or-treated. They didn’t get to go to enough houses to collect gobs of candy. They always loved it; they didn’t ever ask to keep going. It’s always cold here on Halloween! When they got older, they didn’t care to go. To this day my (now very much grown) sons are not big sweets eaters.

  17. Last year I told my husband I didn’t want to pass out candy. With a smile on his face, he told me we would get egged and that it wouldn’t go over well. So I bought some candy (the good stuff like snickers, etc.) AND a bunch of temporary tatoos, fake insects, and stretchy bracelets. I put them all in one big bowl and when the kids came to the door I let them pick. To our surprise, 2/3 kids picked the non-candy options!! It was such a hit! So that’s what we do know, a few candy options (switching to organic lollipops this year) and non-candy options (LOVE the glow stick idea!!). Happy haunting! :)

  18. I didn’t read all the comments so this may have been said a million times but we donate the remainder of our candy instead of throwing it away. I’ve sent it to the troops overseas and I’ve donated to a local women and children’s shelter.

  19. “Don’t the uneaten pieces (along with the wrappers from the others) end up in the land fill anyway?” Uhhhh, noooo. They end up in my mouth….

  20. I have conducted a little Halloween experiment over the last few years: having pencils, glow sticks, spider rings, and a little candy in our cauldron of treats. At the end of the night, the candy is always left and the other items go fast! Kids do not need gobs of candy. We are pairing “sweets” with “special occasions” and we wonder why we see so many low-energy, overweight children. Don’t say, “my kids won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets or pizza” when you haven’t taken the time to restrict processed foods. Kids will eat what you put in front of them… when they’re hungry enough, they will eat broccoli/carrots. When you put broccoli beside potato chips.. which would you fill up on? Don’t make processed foods an option on a regular basis. Reframe your thinking and recognize that it is you, the parent, who has facilitated unhealthy eating. Spoil your child with love and attention.. not foods that negatively impact their cognitive, behavioral, neurological, and immunity functions. Can you tell I’m a School Psychologist? …..

  21. Hey Lisa!

    Our family lives in Nee Brunswick, Canada and we gave out glow sticks and reflector bracelets this year! And to my surprise, my children decided last minute they would give their candy to the Switch Witch!! Yay!!! However, since it was last minute and adopted part of a poem online and incorporated my own and left them money instead of a gift. (Everything was closed by te time they decided)

    Here’s my link… Hope it works!


    Thank you for all that you do and share!


  22. I would still consider most of that stuff junk :/ I’m sorry! Like, witch fingers and syringe pens and all that stuff… Even the glow sticks… I know sugar is not ideal but we’re giving out little bags of fruit snacks. For the school, I got Annie’s organic ones; For the trick or treaters, generic ones from Target (it’s just too expensive to go organic on the trick or treaters). Yeah, red dye #40… I know it’s not great. But at least it’s not a bag of m&m’s, right?

    But you know what’s most important? Being intentional on a holiday when most people seem to be just on frantic autopilot for some reason. So that’s awesome. Keep it up. :)

  23. Loved the poem super cute! My daughters favorite trick or treat stop this year (our town did our TOT early last sunday) was a house that had a little table set up out front with rings bracelets stencils and Halloween pencils for the kids to each pick out one thing, they loved it and definitely weren’t complaining that they didn’t get candy there!

  24. Southern Cali girl

    I like your idea but we get several hundred kids a year so cheap candy is all we can afford. I feel it is up to the parents to control how much of the stuff the kids eat. I never let my children eat much candy. I would have liked them getting glow sticks.

  25. We enjoy the trick or treating immensely. We then divide up a few for later. Our biggest fun is going through it all to take out Gingerbread House candy for Christmas which we save in the freezer.The rest goes to our dentist who donates the kid’s loot to the USO. Kids get the fun and then it goes to our troops as a treat.

  26. I think handing something other than candy out is a great idea. Kids are so spoiled with treats and sugar these days! One less fructose riden treat makes this mom happy! All these holidays are getting further from what they are truly meant to be celebrating

  27. We stopped giving candy 5 years ago. My Oldest son is highly allergic to 95% of all candy out there. It was too hard to have it in the house when it made him so sick. So we started giving out non-food items We did and still do necklaces, glow bracelets, play rings, Finger puppets, Plastic animals and insects. The Kids that came to the door loved it and I got several neighbors that really appreciated it do to children who had allergies too they got to have something that they didn’t have to take away They could be “normal”
    foodallergy.org are encouraging people to join the teal project for kids with allergies so they can have Halloween to. Basically if you are a family who has a non food alternative at your house put a teal pumpkin on your doorstep. Parents then know their child will have an item they can actually enjoy from your home.
    want to know more check out their site. https://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project
    So all this to say is there is another reason to have a non toy gift at your house. Ya Halloween is just one night and there is a lot of candy given out but what will one day hurt…For children like my son and may others one piece is dangerous and being left out is miserable maybe yours can be the house that makes that child smile because you are different. Just another perspective on Halloween candy.
    Have a safe Halloween how ever you decide to go.

  28. One house in our neighborhood gives glow necklaces, and it is WAY more exciting to my kids than candy, because it is different!

  29. We live in the country, so we don’t hand out anything. I buy some of my son’s candy back from him. He gets a penny for each piece he can’t have yet, anything hard, too chewy(dots,gum) or anything with whole peanuts. Anything other candy he picks to get rid of he gets a nickle. He then gives the candy to his teenage cousins who are too old for trick or treating. The rest he keeps but shares with his dad and I. He still has plenty of candy left over from a parade we attending right after 4th of july. I think of it as a reward since he likes healthy food and can’t eat all that candy. Plus I’d take away the stuff he can’t eat anyways so I might as well reward him for being a good sport. Also I think glo sticks are great!

  30. we have several neighbors and good friends who have various food allergies. We hand out little playdough containers. I have to say that the teenagers in my neighborhood are definitely thrilled when they see what they are getting!!! Lol this year, we are participating in the teal pumpkin project so the kids know we are an allergy safe house for trick or treat.

  31. Instead of the Switch Witch, consider donating candy. Our school holds a candy drive at Halloween and Valentine’s day and then sends the non-meltable candy to soldiers overseas and takes the chocolates to local police officers and fire fighters. Our dentist also holds a Halloween candy drive. You could hand deliver to local emergency response workers if no candy drive exists in your area, our initiate a candy drive yourself. We involve the kids in this, because it is a good lesson to teach that we share our excess. If candy disappears magically at night, they don’t learn how to handle excess when they are older.
    We rent a bounce house for trick-or-treaters and pass out pizza to adults and kids alike. Glow sticks are a great idea!

  32. The most popular house in the neighborhood hands out little bags of Tim’s Cascade potato chips every year. My kids love getting them and are so excited to pack them in their lunch the next day (you can tell we don’t eat a lot of chips around here!). I love that it’s something different and, as far as chips go, Tim’s Cascade aren’t a terrible choice! Even beyond the health issues around all that candy, the child slavery issues around chocolate make this a very difficult holiday to negotiate.

  33. Jerry Springer complimented Carrie Keagans bust and bustline.

    I am sorry earthlings decided to be stupid calling whistling,staring and compliments hassling insults.

  34. Thanks for the insight with a great perspective on this. Halloween is one night when it can be fun to let any kid have a great time with candy. The enjoyment is likely more beneficial to them than the harm of one night of sugar (if we can put up with the sugar rush emotions later on of course).

    Surf Sweets watermelon Rings taste great and are colored with Organic Black Carrot Juice Concentrate and organic lollipops by Yummy Earth last a long time and can even fool those little trick or treaters into thinking they are having just sugar!

    Kind Food Bars are an expensive treat if handed to a lot of kids, but a great food sack treat for a smaller number of children. Everyone have a safe and Fun Friday.

  35. I love that you hand out glowsticks- I decided to do the same this year. They get PLENTY of candy- my kids would be thrilled to get some “toys” like glowsticks instead!