What colour is your pumpkin this year? No, it's not a trick question! Ours will be teal, the colour of food allergy awareness.
The teal pumpkin project, which launched in America in 2014, has slowly grown and now it's great to see more and more teal pumpkins around the UK. The idea behind it is to offer non-food treats, alongside the usual Halloween sweets, to make trick or treating more inclusive.
When a child has a food allergy, events like Halloween which are focused around food, can make them feel excluded and frustrated. Unfortunately, a lot of the traditional food handed out, like chocolate, is not safe for children with food allergies, or even if it is, still needs to be checked by an adult. This takes a lot of the excitement and spontaneity out of the occasion.
Why offer non-food treats?
Offering non-food treats means every child can enjoy them equally. There are lots of reasons, as well as food allergies to offer alternative Halloween treats:
- It's healthier. Think about the amount of sugar a child consumes on Halloween! Switching up some of the treats for non-food ones means this is reduced.
- It's inclusive for everyone. There are other medical conditions, like diabetes, which mean children might not be able to have chocolate and sweets, or dietary choices like being vegan. So non-food choices makes it more inclusive for lots of people.
- The fun lasts longer. Of course, getting sweets is great but once they are eaten, it's all over. With non-food treats you get to extend the fun beyond the initial sugar rush.
- It's less wasteful. Rather than lots of discarded sweets and chocolate wrappers, giving non-food treats means it is better for the environment and they are likely to be reused and kept for longer.
- You won't eat all the leftovers! There's no excuse to need to finish off your child's stash or the treats you didn't get to distribute, as they can be kept for next year.
Some ideas for popular non-food treats include glow sticks, straws, stickers, spooky teeth, pencils, notebooks, crayons or colouring pages.
You can paint your own teal pumpkin, buy plastic ones from selected stores or just print off a poster to put in your window so people know you are taking part in the teal pumpkin project.
If your child has food allergies, then why not encourage your local community to join in by sharing leaflets, or taking a teal pumpkin to your child's school or community group to hand out non-food treats and explain what it's all about.
Keeping your child safe
Of course, not every house is going to know about the project or join in, so you will still have to navigate regular trick or treating. It is tempting to avoid it completely but instead of missing out, it can be helpful to follow some simple safety rules along the way.
- Don't eat any food until you get home
- If you can't see the ingredients list, you can't eat it
- Use the switch witch – have safe treats ready to swap out for any unsuitable ones
- Always take your medication with you
- If your child is contact allergic, consider building gloves into their costume.
If you still don't feel comfortable with it, why not throw your own party instead! That way you can make sure any food is safe and show others how easy it is to throw an allergy-friendly, inclusive event.
Emma's book about parenting children with allergies can be found here:
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.