The highlight of Halloween is always the candy. From super-sweet chocolate to fruity, chewy treats, candy is not the ideal snack for a number of reasons. Most candies are made with dyes, additives, and preservatives, which we know are not good for our bodies. Short-term, the effect of a high intake of sugar usually results in hyperactivity, which sometimes fosters poor behavior in children and then extreme exhaustion once the energy has faded. As a parent and a teacher, you can encourage healthy alternatives to the typically too-sweet celebration of Halloween.
While food is almost always a big part of a celebration, you can offer children some healthier snacks this Halloween.
Family Fun magazine offers a great idea for a simple fruit snack. Make "snack-o-lanterns" by cutting a hole in the top then hollowing out a navel orange, "carving" a jack-o-lantern face, and filling it with fresh fruit.
Want a scary treat? Cut rice cakes into the shape of ghosts, cover them with hummus or white bean dip, and use raisins for the eyes and mouth.
Try a healthy alternative to the pudding-based "worms in a cup" snack by using oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon or crushed bran cereal. Slice a banana into thin pieces, about 2 inches long, and place them in the bowl as if they were burrowing into the dirt.
There are plenty of delicious apples available this time of year to create creepy "apple teeth." Leaving the skin on, cut the apple into fourths and cut out the core. Cut a segment in the middle of each piece, creating an open mouth. Use slivered almonds for the teeth, which can be easily stuck into the apple.
While you may be of the school of thought "everything in moderation" it's also important to incorporate fun activities that do not involve food.
"Pin the tail on the black cat" is a Halloween version of the classic game. With their eyes closed or blindfolded, have students take turns trying to pin a construction paper tail onto a large picture of a black cat. Use chart paper so the cat is big enough for everyone to have a fair shot at winning the game. This game usually lasts awhile because children really enjoy the challenge of completing the task with their eyes closed!
"Halloween Bingo" is a simple and easy-to-make game for children of all ages. For younger students who don't yet read, make a variety of game boards by placing Halloween pictures, like ghosts, witches, and cats, on a homemade bingo board. For those who do read, use Halloween words like trick-or-treat, spooky, or costumes. Be sure to have five rows across and five down, with a pumpkin in the middle for the free space. Use buttons for markers on the board.
Still have pounds and pounds of candy lying around? Consider using it as a donation to a local charity. The schools in River Edge, New Jersey participate in Trick-or-Treat for Tay-Sachs each year to honor Emma Rabinowitz, a resident who passed away from the genetic neurodegenerative disease in 2011 at age 8. Students bring in candy they collected on Halloween, local dentists pay for the candy by the pound, and the money goes to the Cure Tay-Sachs foundation. It's not too late to organize a similar fundraiser in your community.
From healthy snack alternatives to charity donations, there are plenty of ways to shift the focus from sugary snacks to healthy fun on Halloween. Be creative and encourage your children to try something new this holiday!
Jennifer is an educational consultant who works with families and educators to establish healthy and productive routines in the home and school. Adapting behavior management techniques she implemented for years as a special educator, she helps parents and teachers adopt these tools to fit their unique needs and priorities. In addition to her one-on-one consulting work, Jennifer speaks to parent and education groups on current topics in education and children's health. For more information, go to www.jennifercerbasi.com