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

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  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 love these ideas! I have a child with food allergies who can’t eat most of the candy that people give out on Halloween, so I ❤️ when people offer something other than candy! I think some of the naysayers have probably never had to deal with a child who is devastated because they can’t have what everyone else is having. Glow sticks get top billing on my book!

  2. I applaud you for handing out something other than candy. I’m so sick of Kids being given candy at every turn throughout the year. At school, church, bday parties, etc…. you can’t escape it. Sugar and all the unnatural things in candy is horrible for our kids’ minds and bodies. Any negative comments are probably coming from people that are either uninformed about the effects of sugar, dyes, etc on the human body or haven’t had a child with a health crisis due to externals such as diet. Keep up the good work!!

  3. We also do the Teal Pumpkin Project, and we have glow sticks, temporary tattoos, and mini bubbles along with our candy options this year. I love the idea of the Switch Witch and will definitely be applying that this year as my kids always end up with so much candy every year.

  4. I prefer to give something other than candy for Halloween. This year I have little puzzles in cute tins for children in primary grades and individual bags of pretzels for those the puzzles won’t appeal to. I have given out Halloween pencils and mini containers of Play-Doh in the past.

  5. I m so sorry that people were mean in the comments. They made me sad – had to stop reading. My son can’t eat those dyes…and they aren’t REAL candy anymore (just chemicals & dyes). AND it’s not just 1 night- it’s Halloween, Christmas (gingerbread houses), Valentines Day, and Easter. It’s forever. Who came up with we must celebrate children with candy? THANK YOU for alternatives.

  6. I love it! I usually do 2 buckets… one with candy and then one with non-candy alternatives as part of the Teal Pumpkin Project. This year I’ve got bouncy balls, bubbles, and pencils as my non-candy goodies.

  7. I love your ideas! This year along with chocolate I am also giving away glow sticks and play doh. My kids think I’m nuts and know how strict I am about junk food every other day of the year, but I just wanted them to know there are choices we all make and maybe, just maybe, whether it’s an intolerance or allergy etc, some child will be so happy that they can choose something other than junk food. Well done!

  8. I love the idea of giving out a non sugar filled treat! The kids end up with so much sugar it’s ridiculous. Beyond having the few houses that give away a candy alternative you have the houses that overcompensate and give you handfuls of sugar. My issue is this. Why do we a a society feel the need to trick our kids and constantly come up with fables and excuses for them not to eat or do things that are bad for them?! The switch witch is just another example. Last year 2 days after Halloween while swinging outside I told my 5 year old about operation gratitude. He stopped swinging, went inside and willingly gave up 95% of his candy for a terific cause. Then raced to the bathroom cabinets for unopened toothbrushes. We made a thank you letter to the soldiers and the $10 that it cost me was well worth it. I did not lie to my kid to get rid of his candy and he learned some good life lessons about kindness, giving and the sacrifices others make for their country. This year he is already collecting floss and toothbrushes for our care package. So maybe be honest with your kiddos and they may surprise you because like one commentor stated, it is not a one night activity. There are treats and sugar loaded surprised around every corner.

  9. All year long, I collect all of the “gumball” junk toys my son gets at parties, events, etc and give those out during Halloween. We get rid of the cheap toys he doesn’t play with anyway and as a bonus, they don’t go in the landfill and don’t cost me anything!

  10. We give out little bags of pretzels, goldfish, fruit gummies, or other semi-healthy snacks, along with Halloween pencils.and mini-erasers we get from Rebecca’s (like Oriental Trading but they are local to us). We also have a bucket at the door with iced-down mini water bottles and fruit punch (bag or box style, whichever is available). Many of the kids don’t even want the other stuff – they just go for the drinks and say that’s enough for them. We offer water to the parents as well, It can still be quite warm during the trick-or-treat hours here in Texas, so staying hydrated while walking around for a couple of hours is important!

  11. I think these are great ideas! We give out coins – we can’t trust ourselves with candy around the house. I think it’s sad to see food as the center of any holiday. It’s that mentality, unfortunately, and the unwillingness to change “traditions” to something more healthy and radiant, that keeps us unhealthy and makes old age unpleasant. Good for you for forging a new and better path!

  12. When my kids were younger, the first stop we made was the house that gave out glow sticks and pencils with Halloween decorations. We passed several houses to get to “The Halloween House”. My kids loved the glow sticks and I loved them being more visible. My kids love candy, but they were always more excited with the more creative ideas.
    I ordered several things from Oriental Trading for Halloween parties at school for my kids. What ever was left over, I put into the Halloween candy for Trick-or-Treaters. The non-candy items were the first to go and kids were always exuberant when they left my house.

  13. Last year I gave out mini play-doh containers (BJs and Christmas Tree shoppe sold halloween themed colors). The kids loved them and the parents looked pleased too. I did give out candy to the older kids (didn’t think they’d love play-doh) but this year Im going to try out the glowsticks!

  14. We have done Switch Witch the past 2 Halloweens. The kids also pick a handful to keep for later and pick a few pieces to have the night of. Thanks to a giveaway I won the book and witch. We also hand out candy and non-candy items, ie pencils, bracelets, mini notepads, stickers, etc. for those that have allergies and sensitivities to food dyes. I agree there are many days with parties, birthdays, school things were candy is handed out. Not just a one day a year.

  15. I applaud another glow stick Halloween hander outer. I grew up in a family that handed out the sugar free candies one year, apples another, and pennies a year after that. Talk about the sad house. But I hand out glow bracelets lip whistles. The lip whistle is something that will last long after the candy is gone, unless candy gets stuck in it. I will not discourage you from handing out something other than candy! Last year my then 5 yo DS had 5 1/2 lbs of candy in his bag alone. Come on! I also appreciate a local dentist office is having a buy back option at a dollar a pound. You’re preaching to the choir!

  16. I would say, it shouldn’t matter to others what you give out on Halloween. The kids will get a ton of candy anyway, so who cares. Also the “once a year” statement is ludicrous. You can say that about Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentines Day, Every Birthday you’ve celebrated for every friend and relative and co-worker, and don’t forget about the bad day you had, the great day you had, the weekend, get togethers, movies, rewarding yourself, celebrating something, etc etc etc…oh and don’t forget “in moderation” so what does that add up to? Maybe 250 “once a year” or “once in a while” times you eat things that aren’t health promoting.

  17. I’m sure someone has mentioned this already but thought I’d mention. We have a fun Candy Auction a few days after Haloween. The kids get to pull out a few pieces of their favorites then they sort and display on several TV trays in the family room. We decorate and make it really fun by inviting a few neighbors and grandparents over. The older ones of us bring our change jars and then the kids start the bidding! When finished, the kids have $ to spend and the parents take the candy to work to share! My children talk about the auction more than trick or treating!

  18. I agree that candy just ends up in the landfill anyways….especially if it’s “less junky” candy. :-(
    Kids love glow sticks and they add safety/visibility. The damage to the environment is not that big compared to the rest of the landfill fodder of the holiday (and the energy that went into producing it)
    After Halloween each year I grab a bag or two of novelty toy giveaways on clearance. They are overstock that the store is just trying to recoup their losses on, and will keep for a year. That way I have a nice variety for cheap, spiders and glowing bats and pencils and notepads and who knows what else. A very popular option are those little rubber duckies that are themed. Don’t tell, but the teens love them!
    I also buy a small amount of candy that is safe for my kids; when done trick or treating (if they are still T or T; they are getting old for it), we switch it out for whatever they bring home that isn’t safe. There’s candy for the picky kids, but most take treats. And there was at least one who verified with her mom whether or not the toys would count as one of her limited “keeping” treats. (After some confusion, she learned that toys were freebies)

  19. I love the idea and have always had 2 buckets one for candy and one for trinkets the kids pick one from each if they want or they can pick two things from one bucket. We let our girls have all they wanted one Halloween and the next year they decided they really only liked chocolate, suckers and chips and the rest goes away :). Happy Halloween

  20. Hi!
    My mother used to let us eat all the candy we wanted on Halloween night and we threw the rest way. I am sure my parents kept a little for themselves. That was back in the 70’s. I do really like the idea of giving non-edible treats for halloween. There are many kids now that have severe food allergies and kids that have feeding issues. I will also be displaying a teal pumpkin on my door this year, so families know that I have an alternative for them. Halloween IS for the kids, and the kids need to be safe. Does it matter if their treat is edible or not?

    1. Julie, I completely agree with you. It’s about getting dressed up in their favorite costume and having fun, after all, their child hood is only for a short time. I say let them enjoy.
      Yes, there are some kids that have food allergies, but that is their parents responsiblily to monitor what their kids can have and not have.
      Just my thoughts.

  21. When you choose an alternative to candy, please be mindful of the impact on the environment. Most glow sticks are not recyclable and pile up in landfills. The amount of energy used to make these one-time-use products is huge. Just a thought…

  22. I am 42 yrs old and still have a Get-A-Long Gang plastic picture frame I got as a treat, trick or treating when I was 10 or so. I am all about Halloween candy, one reason to take nieces & nephews trick or treating…. but different is awesome. Children love wacky stuff as much or more than candy. If one is going to participate why not think outside the box or at least support others in their creativity. It is a holiday, it is supposed to be fun, bring joy, all that good stuff. There is more than one way to do things. ( If you can’t be nice, Be quiet. Sorry had to put that last quote down, I saw it in the hallway of a middle school today. Good Advice for everyone. )

  23. I gave out glow sticks last year (and candy) and the kids (and parents) loved them! Every kid that came to my door, ran back to their parents saying “We got GLOWSTICKS!” Plus, glow sticks make kids easier to see in the dark.

    1. Our orthodontist paid the kids per pound of candy the redeemed at his office. The kids got half of the money and half went to charity. The candy was sent to our troops overseas as their “treat”. My kids usually came away with about 10 dollars each. I always let them keep their favorites and they gave me my favorites, but then we didn’t have to worry about the big bowl that lasted for MONTHS.

    2. There is nothing wrong with glow sticks. Besides, what child does not like them.
      My mom used to wrap up pennies, I saw nothing wrong with that either.
      Everyone has their own thing they like or believe in. Some people say, Halloween comes only once a year. Will, so don’t Christmas, so are those people saying their kids only get gifts then and only then?? I’m guessing not.
      We will hand out candy dressed up too.

  24. I’m giving glow sticks this year because lots of kids can’t eat candy. I’m putting a cut-out of a teal pumpkin on my door so those kids know they have a safe alternative at my house.

    1. I’m also a believer in providing candy AND an alternative to candy. The ‘Teal Pumpkin Project’ was started because of food allergies. There are many reasons why providing a non-food item alongside the standard candy mix is a great idea. Kids with true medical issues like food allergies, swallowing conditions, diabetes, braces (no chewy, sticky, gummy or hard candies), etc. My son has a heart condition and can’t have chocolate. He was always so sad on Halloween when his bags was 3/4 full of mini chocolate bars that he couldn’t have. So, honest is there a downside to providing an alternative? Not really. The rest of the neighborhood with provide them with more than you can tote anyway. :-)

  25. Oh, man…my kids, nieces, nephews love glow sticks. I think it’s a great idea to sub this for candy knowing all those little recipients are already going home with a boat load, anyway. Holy cow at the leftover Halloween candy that just gets tossed or given away in our house. Then you have to purge to make room for Christmas candy…and then Valentine’s Day…it’s never ever “just one night,” I don’t know why people even say that. My second grader has come home talking about getting birthday cupcakes at school about every week for over a month and one day they had TWO birthdays to celebrate! It’s overwhelming. I don’t think replacing candy for “just one night” is going to put anyone’s kids in therapy later in life. Happy Halloween!

  26. I am grateful for all your wonderful, creative ideas – even the ones I may not plan to use! You are enabling people to make changes in their lives for the better. People who aren’t interested in these options should move on instead of bashing. Sadly, people would rather put their negative energy out into the universe, where it does no one any good. Keep doing what you are doing because there are so many more of us who appreciate it than not!

  27. Decades ago, I started giving out packets of hot chocolate one night after running out of candy. The trick-or-treaters were very happy with that, so I gave those out in future years and became known as “the hot chocolate lady” of Halloween in that neighborhood. This year. . . I haven’t decided yet. Thank you for the ideas.

  28. I used to give out mini tubs of play-do. The teen chaperones especially loved them. Now we get no trick-or-treaters, at all, after several years of fewer and fewer. :(

  29. Years ago when my children were young I made my own advent calendars for Christmas. Simple little cloth sacks with ribbon strong or wool to draw them closed. I had a Christmassy screen print cloth Scene I mounted on stretcher bars and sewed on small plastic rings for the bags to be tied to. Twenty four pieces of the candy they got from trick or treating was used for each child. ( the good ones). They never missed the candy from their stash. If anyone has ever looked at the contents of the chocolate advent calendars they will be looking for an alternative. We have since continued this tradition with the grandchildren. Worked for is every year.

  30. I let my kids eat candy on Halloween and pick a few of their favorites for special treats in the few days to come. But then I buy the rest of the candy from them. They are happy to hand over the candy, and I am happy they won’t be eating all of it. I like your ideas for other treats instead of candy too!

    1. Sharon in Surrey

      When I was a kid & Hallowe’en was a safer time, we didn’t always get candy. We got tons of home baking like fudge – oh man, we LOVED that fudge house!!!, cookies in Hallowe’en shapes, fruit, rice crispy squares were another popular goodie, fruit leathers & money – one house gave each of us a buck!! Yeah, we got lots of candy bars, chips, remember those awful brownish yellow wrapped candy lumps – the stuff no one liked – not even the dog & packages of peanuts – my dad’s favorite. But, we loved the stuff that lasted more than one night. One house gave out seed packages for weird plants & veggies. I think I got my first loofa seeds on Hallowe’en!! So it wasn’t just about candy – although, we stuffed our faces until we were sick. Today, I know everything has to be prepackaged & nut free – too bad. That fudge & all those cookies were great . . . . But why do you have to give out candy??? I think the glow sticks & witches fingers are great!! Kids also love simple games, dollar bills, Diamond rings!! Spiders. Worms. And anything ‘glow in the dark’.

  31. I love these ideas! Not sure if you have Philly Pretzel Factories in your area or not, but ours has 25 coupons for a free Philly Pretzel for $5.00. So for me, it means something other than candy for later down the road. It relieved my guilt of “candy” option.