Halloween can be an overwhelming time, especially if you have a child who is newly diagnosed with food allergies. All through October, we will be talking to parents and experts about how to stay safe at Halloween and have fun, too.
Stephanie Von Dehn’s nine-year-old daughter Katelyn has multiple food allergies. “Halloween is celebrated a bit differently at our home,” says Stephanie. “That being said, she absolutely LOVES to trick or treat!”
From her daughter’s first foray as a toddler dressed in a zebra suit, Stephanie’s family has been coming up with creative ways to take the focus off the candy and keep it on the celebration and community. “It helps that our neighbourhood knows how to celebrate Halloween,” with elaborately decorated houses that attract kids from throughout the city.
Stephanie’s family does a candy switch-out that they call the “Great Pumpkin”—a magical pumpkin who comes in the night and exchanges the bag of candy for a toy. It takes some preparation to find the right toys for the switch, but it has been a hit since they first began it.
Stephanie’s younger daughter Maya, who does not have food allergies, also does the Great Pumpkin switch. Says Stephanie, “When my daughters are trick-or-treating, I often hear them say, ‘The Great Pumpkin is going to love all this candy, let’s get more!'”
Every family is different. Some families do a candy sort-out, where a parent can go through the treats and separate the safe ones from the unsafe ones. For families like Stephanie’s who are managing multiple allergies, almost all the candy is going to be switched out. Stephanie prepares by buying safe treats of their own that the girls can enjoy at home after trick-or-treating.
Many families use a “Switch Witch” or Great Pumpkin theme to magically switch the candy for a toy or something their child wants. Even after the kids get older, the Switch Witch/Great Pumpkin holds its power, as the exchanges get more personalized. Some older kids go with their parents to the store to pick out their exchange before Halloween night. Some families also do the Teal Pumpkin Project®, where they paint their pumpkins teal as a way to show they have non-food treats available for children with food allergies.
This year, Stephanie and her family are looking forward to celebrating Halloween with the Great Pumpkin. Says Stephanie: “For my daughters, the Great Pumpkin is still one of the best things about Halloween.”
The TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT® and the Teal Pumpkin Project® logo are registered trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).Tags: Halloween, Stephanie von Dehn, Switch Witch, Teal Pumpkin Project