Halloween hack: Give toys instead of candy

One way to avoid leftover candy is to avoid candy altogether. Says Judi:

No candy at our house.  Stickers or doodads from Oriental Trading instead! Anything leftover goes into the arts and crafts bin for use throughout the year.

Bonnie and Gina mentioned this particular hack in earlier comments, and Mark suggested handing out mini Play Doh canisters. I like the idea (especially the Play Doh) but I wonder how much of that stuff contributes to our collective junk pile? But then, is junk inside the kid any better? Hmmm.

Another thing to add to the list of worries: many cheap toys may contain lead. (When I posted that notice last year, it didn't have the impact it has on me now, in the wake of the massive toy recalls.)


Related: Can we call it "regoodie-ing"?

More: Easy Halloween tips


  1. wdskmom says

    We’ll be giving out candy. While I like the idea of ‘inedibles’, kids that come to the door – esp the older ones, want candy. It’s up to their parents to monitor how much they eat, etc, not me. My oldest got some trinkets & things different times & quite honestly, they just went in the garbage.

  2. mamacita says

    All that stuff from Oriental Trading goes straight into the garbage! Parents can always choose to just throw away whatever candy is left after one or two days. At least the candy will not still be sitting in a landfill this time next year.

  3. Melissa says

    I am slightly alarmed at the amount of plastic “kitsch” on that site you linked to. As wdskmom said, I support the idea of giving out something besides candy but I cannot support the large amount of plastic that continues to fill up large holes in our planet (or floating out to sea as it were).

    Pencils or erasers, or juice boxes and fruit leather are all great alternatives. Or how about just giving out LESS candy? I seem to remember as a kid getting one or two small pieces per house. Now I see fistfulls given out, or even worse – full sized candy bars bought for cheap at Costco.

    Believe it or not, my 12 year old actually appreciates the juice box as a way to wash down the candy he’s eaten.

  4. mel says

    Craft stuff or stickers could be cool, but I’ll add a resounding NO! to little plastic toys. We’ve collected quite enough, against our will, since my daughter’s teacher uses this kind of dollar store junk as incentives in the classroom.

  5. Jill in Atlanta says

    Another option is snack sized packs of pretzels or crackers. One hot (Atlanta) Halloween my children loved the bottles of icy water a neighbor passed out more than any candy they received! Hot cocoa is a great one. I’ll just go eat all my Halloween candy and then buy cocoa next!

  6. MamaChristy says

    We’re doing pencils. Those go to school and get used rather than cluttering a house or adding to childhood weight problems.

  7. Julie says

    We give snack packs of goldfish crackers and they are always a big hit (this will be our 3rd year). The first year we did half crackers/half candy and the crackers went first. Kids who missed out on the crackers were actually disappointed!

  8. lk says

    The juice box/water idea is GREAT! My kid loved it. He got very thirsty running from house-to-house.

  9. none says

    Thanks for the food for thought, everyone. I’ve been considering toys/trinkets as an alternative to candy but see now that it wouldn’t really be a great tradeoff. We’ll definitely do pencils or juice or pretzel packs instead.

  10. Kathy says

    Yeah, please no more non-biodegradable, possibly lead-infested, plastic, meaningless STUFF.

    I think I’d rather see a balled-up piece of paper in my kid’s Halloween basket than some plastic doodad. At least she’d play with a ball of paper, and paper doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of me…or maybe that’s just until they tell us that there’s something in paper lurking there to poison us. Sigh.

  11. andrea from the fishbowl says

    Ack! No plastic toys! We have enough.

    I also think that it’s up to the parent to control candy retrieval and consumption. If they don’t want their kids to eat candy they should find something else for them to do.

    In the past we’ve made “witch finger” cookies and caramel apples to hand out to the children we know. I do like the idea of the cocoa packets and the fish crackers, but I think I’ll stick to packages of licorice and chocolate bars.

  12. jozet says

    As the mother of two elementary school girls, I’d like to nix the plastic crap AND the pencils unless they are the plain yellow Ticonderogaa. Those cheapie pencils don’t sharpen well and we happen to have 4,654,789 of them in our house right now from school parties, birthday parties, scout activities, etc. Everyone gives pencils. I say stick with candy, pretzels, goldfish crackers, juice boxes, etc.

  13. Jen says

    As I put together our goody bags the other weekend, I mentioned to my husband that next year I would like to ditch the candy and give kids a homemade card that had a message inside … “Happy Halloween! In lieu of candy, we have made a donation to the local food pantry,” or something to that effect. Never too early to start teaching kids about altruism!

  14. wdskmom says

    Jen – as much as I like the idea of what you’re saying, I think it’s the wrong venue for such a lesson. The younger ones will be very disappointed not getting a treat – they won’t understand. The older ones will be ticked… I’d be afraid my car would be egged. ;)

  15. kittenpie says

    I agree with the above commenters about general crap not being welcome. I think useful things like pencils, erasers, or pencil sharpeners would be a nice alternative, but might be best plain or in unisex designs.

    Tattoos are cool with most ages and both genders, as long as they aren’t flowery, though I think stickers have a smaller audience.

    To limit the candy at our house growing up, my candy was always picked over, and I was allowed to choose the stuff I most wanted, then the rest went ot as extras to other kids still out gathering.

  16. Darryl Papa-sensei says

    I was really intrigued at a local discount store, they had a bag of 20 small PlayDoh containers!

    Fun, safe, and easily disposable.

  17. Jennifer says

    I think unless the toy is useful (the play-doh is, in fact very popular at our school) or durable, candy is preferred. At least the sugar provides calories, while the toys just cause more landfil sludge and are rarely p[layed with. Plus, there’s the whole issue of who nis making these throwaway toys- other children.

  18. Sylvia says

    Yeah, some people sort of mentioned this, but if you buy anything from Oriental Trading Co they will send you a bajillion paper catalogs every other month of all their plasticy shlock… I’ve been trying to get off the list for quite a while! This is a good idea, there’s got to be a better company to manifest it…

  19. Melissa says

    We offer a variety of treats at our house. On offering this year: chocolate candy (like twix and kit kat), raisins, granola bars, and stickers.
    I try to balance out other things with the chocolate, and then let kids pick two, so if they want something other than candy, but aren’t able to forgo the temptation, they can get some balance. It really does work!
    Pencils are also really great here, and also cheap from Oriental Trading.
    The way to combat the bajillion catalogs from OTC is to sign up with a service like Green Dimes (http://www.greendimes.com/). I never get the catalogs now.

  20. Melissa says

    Oh, and as a librarian where we have stickers at the front desk for the little kids, I can assure you that kids OF ALL AGES love the stickers.

  21. Jim says

    I have heard of some people handing out change to the kids. Instead of spending all that money on candy, each kid would get a dime or quarter.

  22. reen says

    Lots of really good ideas here. The juice boxes/water sound great, but the packaging contributes to the waste stream just as much as the plastic toys. Even stickers, play doh, tattoos, and candy do to a lesser extent. It’s hard to come up with ideas that don’t! Coins seem like a good alternative. I mourn the days when apples and cookies were acceptable and not considered a vessel for poison and razors.

  23. Marg says

    We’re giving out Lucky Paper Stars, and maybe a few other origami goodies, not candy, for Halloween.

    One, with the fire and the subsequent power outage, we lost a lot of food, so candy isn’t in the budget. Two, we hate having to take nearly all of my son’s goodies away because they are either too artifical or too damaging to his teeth, so i wanted to give something neat and parent-okay (also, the paper stars will just pass through if eaten…).

  24. says

    This year I’ve bought Hot Wheels and Matchbox toy cars for treats, and some sugar free gum for little girls who don’t want cars. The Halloween toy items are mostly cheap crap.

  25. MaryAnn says

    Bought some summer toys that was 75% off at dollar store like frisbies and sidewalk chalk giving out stuff like that hope the kids like it