When we were kids, my siblings and I had big, plastic pumpkin baskets with thick black handles. These orange spoils chests were what we lugged from house to house on Halloween night. When our trick-or-treat rampage was over, we’d upend the bulging tubs onto the kitchen table, pouring out pounds of sugar. After our parents inspected everything, the free-for-all of trading, arguing and gorging began. Thinking about it now makes my teeth ache. If the thought of helping children ingest gobs of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and blue dye #4 makes you a bit queasy, you might want to consider some non-candy options for trick-or-treaters.
The Internet is cobwebbed with ideas for healthy trick-or-treats. Little bags of peanuts, individual servings of pretzels or sacks of seeds are recurring themes. These snacks are fine, if you’re hungry and stuck in a traffic jam. But here’s the problem: they’re not that exciting. You want to walk the delicate line between things that are bad for kids and things that are boring. We’ve compiled a list of items—unusual, artsy, and none of them edible—that you can drop into trick-or-treater’s bags this year.
You can get petite versions of everything from classics, to fairy stories, to the US Constitution. Promote literacy and indulge the love a lot of kids have for small things. For a cool DIY spin, let your own kids create the books, making up stories or sharing events from their lives. Younger authors can make picture books. A few staples later and you’ve got a family of zinesters. For a twist, use heavier paper stock and try to make flipbooks.
It sounds like a threat for bad behavior, but think about how excited you were to find a really sparkly, shiny or weird rock on the ground. If you and your progeny hike, camp or go to the beach a lot, this is an option for you. Double points if you happen to have a rock polisher. Gather some special pebbles—or downsize your current collection—wash them off, and hand them out. This can also work with shells or intriguing beads.
Give the gift of curiosity! Small, plastic magnifiers come much cheaper than you might think. In some cases they are even available at party supply stores. If you want to involve your own mini-scientists, have them spend an afternoon in the yard or the kitchen, inspecting the tiny details of their worlds. They can then write little lists or descriptions of what they saw, to attach to the magnifying glasses you hand out.
One way to do this is to go to a used bookstore and find a cheap volume by a favorite poet. You can then tear out individual poems, (make sure the author’s name is written somewhere on each one), fold them up into little packages and tie some orange and black ribbon around them. You can also type poems or hand-write them on colored paper. Think about what your own kids like. Shel Silverstein would be a winner for all ages. Some creepier stuff from, say, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, would be appropriate for later elementary and up.
You could go in multiple directions with this category. Crosswords or Sudoku booklets and other written brainteasers are an easy find. There are also uncounted versions of the two metal shapes entwined together that slide easily apart if turned just the right ways. Look at you, helping kids form new pathways in their brains!
Depending on your own proclivities and how much you’re willing to spend, you can use run-o’-the-mill six sided dice, or get fancier. The imaginations of children are infinite, as are the play uses they will find for dice. If you want to point them in a starting direction, you can print or write the rules to some dice games and wrap the trinkets up inside. Dice makers Chessex even offer bulk dice by the pound, which includes a random selection of various die shapes and colors.
There are so many options in this category, and all of them spark creativity. There are crayons shaped like bones, bats and dinosaurs, which are especially Halloween appropriate. Tiny watercolor sets, mini boxes of colored pencils and even micro canisters of Play-Doh exist for the giving. Surely neighborhood parents will appreciate the time their kids are absorbed in making stuff, and you can feel good knowing you’re bolstering the next generation of artists.
Check out our other Halloween articles: