Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays to celebrate with my children. Our tradition, which started with my oldest, Jayden, includes dressing up in our costumes and cooking an array of delicious fun foods like nachos, mini hot dogs, and mini meatballs. Then I would surprise the kids with a delicious dessert that we would all make together. For example, we would bake and decorate themed cookies and cupcakes, or the playful dirt cups. This would be followed by trick-or-treating, of course. Once Peyton was born and diagnosed with multiple food allergies, our tradition of celebrating Halloween became rocky territory.
Starting out, after we found out we had a child with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, egg, and dairy, I remember thinking, “She can’t possibly go trick-or-treating. How can I make sure that the candy that she receives is safe for her to eat?” The only thing I could think to do to keep Peyton safe was to not let her partake in the full Halloween celebration; she dressed up in a costume, but she did not go trick-or-treating.
When Peyton started kindergarten, and started forming friendships with her peers in her class, we decided to let her start going trick-or-treating with a friend group. At an early age, Peyton understood the concept that she always had to check her candy before eating it. I remember Halloweens of the past (and not so of the past), Peyton would come home from trick or treating, dump her bag out in the middle of the living room floor. All the unsafe candy, often the majority of her bag, she would give to her grandfather, uncle, and brothers. It started off as being FUN to share her candy with everyone. But the older she got, the more she realized how much less candy she had then everyone else. That made her upset. Rightfully so.
It wasn’t until much later that I found out about the Teal Pumpkin Project and Halloween started to take on a new tradition at our house.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was started in fall of 2012 by Becky Basalone (the director of a Tennessee food allergy support group). The goal is to bring awareness to food allergies during this season by displaying teal-painted pumpkins (the color for food allergy awareness), and handing out non-food items, and allergy-friendly treats.
Teal Pumpkin Party
Every year, my best friends and I host a Halloween party with our daughters where we paint teal pumpkins. We proudly display them on our porch on Halloween night, as we serve allergy-friendly treats to trick-or-treaters. Peyton loves the Teal Pumpkin Project because of the awareness that it brings to food allergies on a holiday that affects food allergy kids so much. She can spot a teal pumpkin on Halloween at a front doorstep and know that the treats at that house are safe for her to take. The Teal Pumpkin Project gives me, a mom, a sense of security when my daughter is out trick-or-treating. Also, to see that my neighbors took the time and energy to provide safe Halloween treats for the kids with food allergies gives me comfort to know that people do care.
There was a time when I didn’t have anyone to advocate for my daughter and my family, someone who I could turn to with questions. That’s the reason why I turn my yard teal every year in October. I fill my porch with teal pumpkins for all those parents, teachers, and neighbors who have questions but don’t have anyone to turn to. The Teal Pumpkin Project allows me to continue to advocate, educate, and spread inclusion for all with food allergies.
I often get text messages from friends and family members during the month of October asking me what some safe Halloween options for children with food allergies are. First of all, I recommend staying away from chocolate as much as possible. But there are many other options! Unlike 10 years ago, thanks to the advocacy that the Teal Pumpkin Project and others have done for the food allergy community, we now have options as consumers when purchasing safe Halloween treats. This is a list of the kind of things I pass out on my teal porch on Halloween.
Candies that are generally free-from the top 9 allergens (always read the label to double-check):
- Enjoy Life Halloween Chocolate Minis Candy Variety Pack
- Ring Pops
- Dum Dums
Non-food treats to pass out on Halloween:
- Themed Mini Stamps
- Halloween Pencils
- Foam Spiders
- Mini Note Pads
- Mini Stickers
- Slap Bracelet
You can visit Teal Pumpkin Project to learn more. If you visit in the month of October, you will see a Teal Pumpkin Project Map, that will allow you to map across the country where your child can find safe non-food options for Halloween.