Halloween is just like any other social engagement with kids after going gluten free: it’s hard! Let’s talk about a few things that can make it a little easier this year.
Allow kids to collect any treats during holiday parties or when trick or treating. Find fun and engaging ways of separating these after they are done. And make sure they know ahead of time they will not be able to eat anything before you verify it is safe.
Just like any social situation, food comes into play. Get prepared and prepare your kids before the holiday. There are plenty of fun things to do that do not involve food! For ideas on making exchanging candy fun, check out this article I wrote about it with 13 great ideas!
How To Survive A Gluten Free Halloween As A Parent
So, let’s talk about this. You are the parent of a kid with a need to be gluten free. Whether it is Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, or other health challenges, the struggle is the same.
Our goal for Halloween is the same as any other social situation we find ourselves in: let the kids have a normal experience.
Ugh! If only it were that easy.
So first, let’s try to take any unreasonable expectations off of ourselves. We aren’t here to be Pinterest-perfect. Let’s make great memories with our kids.
Take a look through this list and find some things you can do to help create those memories.
We aren’t here to be perfect; we are just trying to get through it and come out with some memories.
Your expectations as a parent should not be higher because of food allergies. Your children will not remember that they can’t have a particular piece of candy. They will remember the time you spent together.
Non Food Halloween Traditions
Costumes There is so much fun you can have together a family by picking out and creating your own costumes! Make it a fun family project, or just let them pick out a pre-made one from a costume shop or department store. As far as gluten free goes, this is one of the safest things to do.
Carve a Pumpkin Not exactly food free, but certainly gluten free! Let the kids get gooey, sticky, and gross, scooping out the inside of the pumpkin – it’s a natural sensory bin! You can even paint if you don’t want to carve.
Corn Maze Again, slightly food-related, but decidedly gluten free. Head out to your local farm and get some fresh seasonal fruits and veggies. Let the kids get lost in a corn maze. For older kids, there are some great scary corn mazes you can find as well!
Hayrides This is the riskiest of the non-food traditions since hay can contain gluten. However, most are done with straw bales, which have most of the grain stripped from there. Enjoy the ride without concern, but make sure they wash their hands well before eating anything.
Pick Out A Pumpkin Have the kids go out to a farm and pick out their own pumpkin! They are always extra proud of the result when they get to see where it grew.
Grow Your Own Pumpkin Alternatively; you can grow your own pumpkin. Even if you are already too late to get a pumpkin this year, try planting a squash seed in a cup and watching it grow with your kids. Squash seeds sprout very easily and are easy to grow into small plants.
Parade Find a Halloween Parade they can watch or participate in! The same rules apply to candy there.
Halloween Art Get out the paintbrushes, paper, glue, and all the other art supplies and let the kids create their own masterpieces! You can even make this into a holiday tradition and compare their skills as they age.
Find A Fun Way To Exchange Halloween Candy For Gluten Free Kids
I wrote up 13 fun ideas to exchange your kid’s candy on Halloween to get more ideas, but here are a few of them:
- Get your children’s favorite gluten free candy and have it ready to exchange
- Exchange it for money (many dentist offices offer this to kids after Halloween)
- Make it a game
- Use candy to purchase things around the house
- Exchange for non-food treats
The most important thing to remember here is to make it something fun.
No matter how you feel about doing this, make sure you make it fun for them. Fake being excited, or create something you will actually feel excited about.
Please don’t feel guilty for doing this; we do what we have to do to keep our kids healthy.
Worry About Gluten Free Later – Let Them Trick or Treat
Don’t skip out on the Trick or Treat experience if you would otherwise have done it to avoid the potentially unsafe candy for your gluten free child.
The candy and treats give out are almost all wrapped up. Even homemade treats people give out are typically individually wrapped.
If anything is being given out unwrapped, have your children decline it. Make sure to discuss this ahead of time with them.
Worry about what candy they are getting later on.
Non Candy Treats For Halloween
If you are looking for non-food treats to hand out or replace their candy with at home, there are some great ideas.
- Stickers You can get all kinds of stickers for every type of kid. In my experience, kids do not particularly care what is on the sticker or ever claim they have too many!
- Rings There are plastic rings with all kinds of things appropriate for Halloween such as spiders and skulls.
- Necklaces The same idea as the rings – lots of easy, inexpensive things. And they are something kids will wear as many as they can fit on their bodies!
- Modeling Clay or gluten free playdough. Remember that PlayDough is made with wheat flour and is not a safe option. If you are giving it out, slime is a fun option, the horror part is from the parents!
- Glow In The Dark This could mean glow sticks, but you could also do glow in the dark stars, jewlery, and more.
- School Supplies Pencils, pencil grips, erasers, etc are a fun and useful item to give out. It’s always good to know it will get used up!
- Bubbles These are another fun and gluten free option. Another one that kids and pets never seem to tire from.
- Stamps Stamps can be so much fun and a fairly non-messy option for craft supplies.
- Art Supplies Any kind of creative, fun, and crafty thing can be a great addition. Pipe cleaners, crayons, colored pencils, water color sets, and more can be fairly inexpensive and a great treat.
Make Some Gluten Free Halloween Treats!
It may be easiest to skip Tick or Treating altogether and spend some time making treats you know will be enjoyed and enjoyable to make.
You can also choose to replace the candy they lost with fun treats made at home instead.
If you choose to do this with your kids, it will help create amazing memories, even if the mess factor is exponential.
Here are some of my favorite fall treats and fun Halloween food crafts.
- Caramel Apples If your kid is dairy free as well as gluten free, I’ve had some luck using coconut cream (not coconut milk) as a substitute to make it dairy free. I love making these and you can even top them with some pretty outlandish treats. You can also go the easy route and make the caramel and cut the apples to serve as a snack.
- Apple Cider Donuts These are typically baked in a pan and not fried, which makes these easier. I have had a lot of luck making these gluten free.
- Rice Crispy Treats Make shapes or even use frosting to make these fun. Just be sure to use the Malt-o-Meal brand instead of Rice Krispies brand when making them. One of my favorite Halloween versions are tiny pumpkins.
- Teeth Treats Apple slices, peanut butter, and mini marshmallows make for a Halloween treat.
- Eyeballs Make cookies, cake pops, or other round treat and paint them like eyeballs. If your kids are artistically inclined this can get really scary!
- Witch Fingers For something that isn’t overloaded on sugar use celery, peanut butter, and almonds to make witches fingers.
- Spiders Get some gluten free pretzel sticks and mix them with melted chocolate chips and peanut butter. Arrange them in perfect or not-so-perfect piles. Use white chocolate and food coloring to make them look like monsters instead!
- Jelly Treats Get some silicone molds and make a thick jello mixture to put in them. Pumpkins with orange jelly maybe? Monsters with grape jelly?
- Ghosts Cut a banana in half so it stands up on a plate and use chocolate chips and rasins to make a ghost face.
- Pumpkins Take mandrin oranges and stick a small piece of celery in their top. I like to leave them in their peel so they don’t dry out if they aren’t all eaten.
Whatever you decide to make, have fun!
Bring Along Gluten Free Food When Trick or Treating
It can be really tempting to let the kids enjoy a treat or two when walking around but resist it. It is better to have full light when going over the candy haul and deciding on safe options.
Some brands of candy are safe in one form and not in another. For example, Reese’s peanut butter cups are typically safe. However, their holiday branded ones are not made in a different facility on shared lines. This is one thing that is easy to overlook when looking at the candy in the dark or with a cell phone flashlight.
Here are a few ideas of things to bring with you:
- String Cheese
- Pepperoni Sticks
- Half Sandwiches
- Safe Candy
- Apples or other fruit
- Gluten Free Pretzels
- Any other snacks or special things they enjoy
I like to bring snacks with protein in them to fill them up without spiking their blood sugar. Because whatever treats they have later on will be plenty.
If your kids are always hungry and your theme song at this point is “mom, I’m hungry,” make sure you have some snacks ready for after the candy gathering is over.
Make Sure The Halloween Makeup Is Gluten Free
This one might be surprising or something you don’t think about. After all, it isn’t food.
Halloween Makeup oftentimes covers the entire face and goes right up to, or even on top of, the lips. This could lead to ingestion of it, which means we have to check that gluten free factor.
I know that I got some of it in my mouth as a kid!
If you would like to order some gluten free face paint, check out this link to order on Amazon.
But you don’t need to go out and spend much money either. If you already have some lotion and dye-free food coloring at home, you can make your own face paint. Just add some gluten free starch like corn or tapioca to it as well. I wouldn’t recommend adding food coloring (i.e., Red 40) because it tends to stain more than vegetable-based colorings.
Find A Gluten Free Candy List
Please don’t rely on ingredient lists alone, especially because many candies handed out do not come with their own ingredient lists.
The Celiac Disease Foundation puts out a list of gluten free candy and keeps it updated. You can find a link to it here.
Get familiar with the list and look up the manufacturer’s websites as well before collecting candy. Be prepared for your candy gathering experience, and your children’s desires to eat their candy will far outpace your ability to research it.
The best source for every candy will be the manufacturers’ websites. It can be tedious to go through, but the only way to make sure. Any list you will find online could be outdated.
Whether candy is made in a gluten free facility, or shared lines, or any other designation will change over time, and the people who make these items are the only ones who can say for sure.
Sometimes it is easier to go with homemade treats together instead of the candy made by others.
Go To Parties, Even Ones Without Gluten Free Options
This may seem counter-intuitive, but don’t surround your kid in a bubble where they don’t get a chance to experience social gatherings solely due to their Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity.
You may need to prep them ahead of time with expectations but go anyways.
Let them know that they will not be able to eat everything there, and there will be things that contain gluten. Make a rule where they need to ask you first before eating anything at the party.
Bring food with you, so you know there are some safe options, and you won’t feel obligated to have them eat something that may have gluten cross-contamination.
Look For Teal Pumpkins
Follow this link for the Teal Pumpkin Project and the amp (when available).
The Teal Pumpkin Project is not exclusively for gluten free kids but all kids who suffer from allergies.
The idea is to provide treats that are not food so all kids can enjoy them.
I love this idea, especially since going gluten free and seeing all the places where gluten and other food allergies are.
Kids don’t need another house handing out candy, and most would be just as happy with anything from the list of non-food treat options above.
I have never seen a kid upset to get some stickers.