There's so much to love about Halloween, like seeing toddlers in adorable fuzzy bunny costumes or watching older kids flaunt their own wildly inventive disguises. Carving pumpkins, drinking cider and hanging fake spider webs from the bushes add up to an enjoyable fall holiday.
But there's another side of Halloween, that's not so sweet. Some estimates indicate that Americans spent more than $2.1 billion on Halloween candy last year. And much of that candy gets thrown away a few days later when parents sneak the trick-or-treat bags away from their little bats and ghouls. It adds up to the possibility of cavities, unhealthy eating habits and environmental waste.
But what's a parent to do? You don't want to be the cranky lady who passes out carrots and broccoli and awakens to find her trees covered in toilet paper. Even worse, you don't want the organic apples you distribute to end up in the trash. Don't fret. We have some ideas that will help you and your child make the most out of Halloween:
Invite several families to join you for Halloween fun. Include healthier alternatives like sliced apples, roasted pumpkin seeds and popcorn. You can also shift the focus to active fun. Dance to "The Monster Mash." Make it a game of Halloween Freeze Dance. Whoever is caught moving after the music stops is out of the game. The last person dancing wins.
Keep things lively with ghoulish games like:
If you don't feel up to hosting a whole neighborhood of costumed tricksters, join together with three of more families to plan a progressive party. Dressed in costumes, the kids can go from house to house, where they'll still enjoy the fun of ringing the doorbell and shouting "Trick or Treat!," but they'll find something much more interesting than candy.
The first family can offer a simple craft, like decorating trick-or-treat bags. The second house can sponsor some of the games listed above. The third family can serve some healthy treats. The fourth can offer a cauldron of bubbling witch's brew (also known as hot cider) and so on.
One of the great joys of Halloween is showing off costumes. Young children love to dress up, and grown-up neighbors enjoy the show. Spread the word in advance and invite children to assemble to walk down your street, through your condominium complex or around your apartment hallways at an appointed time. The parade should take place in the morning or late afternoon, before trick-or-treating begins.
Get teens and older kids involved in creating a haunted house in your backyard, basement or garage. They can set up a terrifying tour with a few simple tools. Lighting and spooky music are the most effective special effects. Use flashlights, colored light bulbs, spotlights and nightlights, so that it's still safe enough to move around.
Dim lighting means that you can turn old cardboard boxes into gravestones and a kitchen pot into a witch's cauldron. Use live "actors" dressed in costume to add a focal point to each room. Don't forget to tone it down for younger children or have them participate in other activities.
There are plenty of worthy Halloween charities to consider. Ask older children to suggest a cause they would like to raise funds for such as the local animal shelter, a children's charity or medical foundation. You might also try trick-or-treating for canned goods to donate to a community food bank. Because food collections can get heavy, you'll need an adult to come along in a car or to pull a wagon.
If your child plans to trick-or-treat for charity, you may want to give some of your neighbors advance warning, so they don't stock up on too many treats.
Whatever you plan, most kids will end up eating some candy on Halloween. And while a few miniature chocolate bars are fine for most kids, you'll have a happier and healthier holiday, if you shift the focus to other forms of fun.