Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. I love holidays in general, and even though Christmas will always have a special place in my heart, there are some pretty big expectations wrapped up (pun intended) around December 25. Big extended-family get-togethers, possibly involving travel, a fancy dinner – of which our children living with FPIES may or may not be able to eat a single thing without major modifications – and choosing (and paying for) the perfect presents. All of that can definitely add some stress to the joy of the season.

But Halloween… dress up, eat treats, and hang out with our kids? Yes, please. Up through my twenties, I was all about the candy. I was almost as excited for the day after Halloween, when all the sweets went on sale. But now, after having had two kids with FPIES, and having to restrict my own diet in ways that rule out most commercial candy, we celebrate in different ways, but enjoy it even more. My kids are a few months from turning 3 and 5, so what works for our family may not work for yours, but I hope you can find some ways to keep the focus off the candy and on having fun.

We do Halloween/pumpkin/fall crafts throughout the month, mostly card making. Making cards has got to be my favorite craft of all time, because it’s relatively cheap, easy for me (I provide supplies and some ideas, then my involvement is limited to occasional help with scissors and reminders like “don’t put stickers on the dog”), and the finished product helps us stay connected with family and friends who don’t live close to us. We haven’t decorated very much in the past, but I hope to start next year. We also are going to paint some pumpkins teal to put on our front porch in honor of the Teal Pumpkin Project.

But what about the day itself? And what to do about trick-or-treating? For some families, not participating in trick-or-treating may be the best option, but we have always let our kids participate. We only took them door-to-door for the first time last year, but the preschool they attended had a trunk-or-treat event every year during the school day. All kids are different, but we found that before the age of two, they had fun but didn’t really get the concept, so we just quietly went through their bags for any non-food items they may have gotten (like bubbles), made a big deal out of those, and took all the candy away.

What we did last year, and will do again this year, is to start off by giving them a small basket of treats. I love those little tin pails that come in different colors from craft stores, so I put some special things in those. We participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project, so I often include a few of whatever we’re handing out for that. This year, they’re getting an orange-and-black mini notebook, a Halloween pencil, a glow stick or two, a Spiderman toothbrush, an orange matchbox car, a jumping spider, play dough, a small coloring book, and some safe treats. (I’ll list some ideas at the end of this post for homemade treats, though obviously this will look very different depending on what your safe foods are.)

Then we take a similarly small bucket and trick-or-treat. Our children are young, so we go early, and don’t visit very many houses. Honestly, sometimes it can be hard to watch my FPIES kid trick-or-treating, collecting candy that I’m going to have to take away from him, but knowing that he has some non-food and safe treats he’s excited about waiting for him at home really helps both him and myself. When their buckets are full, we come home, and get set up on the porch to hand out treats. I think this was the favorite part of the day for all of us last year. The boys, extroverts to the core, acted as hosts in handing out our candy and non-food treats, played with the new things they’d gotten from us, munched on sugary snacks they don’t eat very often, stayed up past their bedtime, and just generally had a ball.

My oldest has outgrown FPIES, and my youngest has recently added a particular brand of chocolate to his list of safe foods, so my oldest will get to keep his loot from the night, and we will trade with my youngest for some safe things. I know some families do the Switch Witch, where they leave all or some of their treats in a special place, and the “Switch Witch” comes by sometime in the night and leaves a present in exchange for the candy – like a book, movie, stuffed animal, or so on. Older kids may enjoy donating their candy to the troops or utilizing a dentist buy-back program.

For us, Halloween has been a fun, no-stress time of hanging out together as a family, and the fact that for most of our Halloweens together so far we haven’t been able to give our kids commercially produced chocolate hasn’t impacted that at all. We focus on the fun of dressing up, getting some special surprises, visiting our neighbors’ houses, and ending the day by playing on the porch, handing out treats and getting to see all the costumes that other kids are wearing.

How does your family handle Halloween?

Homemade Safe Treat Ideas:

  • Lollipops – I made this with just sugar, water, and cream of tartar, and I suspect they’d work fine without the cream of tartar.
  • Animal cookies – I’m going to make these with a jack-o’-lantern cookie cutter.
  • Marshmallows – homemade marshmallows are surprisingly easy to make. I substitute cane sugar syrup for the corn syrup and skip the powdered sugar/cornstarch topping. When the marshmallows are ready, I melt them in the microwave, mix with a safe cereal and a little safe oil, then pour into an oiled pan to make Rice Crispy Treats.
  • Chocolates – if you have a safe chocolate chip, or even chocolate bar, you can melt the chocolate and pour it into silicone molds to make fun shapes. Or just eat.
  • Gummies – I haven’t made these myself, but if you have juice and gelatin as a safe, the steps are fairly simple.
  • You could use silicone molds to freeze purees or juice (or even water!), or to bake muffins or cupcakes in.

You could use cookie cutters to make cookies, or cut shapes out of soft foods, such as fruit or homemade granola bars.

This post was written by FPIES Foundation guest blogger volunteer Janie. Janie Dullard lives in Pearland, Texas with her husband and two children, both diagnosed with FPIES as infants, though her oldest has now outgrown it. She works as a freelance editor and has written a children’s book, available here: https://www.amazon.com/Elephants-Tour-Yellow-Umbrella-Company/dp/0990799522/ . Her days are spent chasing after her two preschool-aged children, working, and concocting strange FPIES-friendly foods that her children will sometimes even eat.