Friday, October 26, 2012

Five Tips for a Great Gluten Free Halloween

Yesterday I wrote on a more personal level about my own anxiety around ensuring that my son has a safe and happy Halloween despite his gluten and dairy issues.  Today I'm offering a few quick tips and ideas for making this Halloween great, and of course, gluten free!

1- Think outside the loot bag:  Every year, we engage in some GF treat making at our house.  I rarely choose anything too time consuming or difficult, because I like my son to be involved.  Two of the simplest ideas: a) mini muffins decorated like miniature pumpkins, or with Halloween themed sprinkles and shapes.  I also have a skull shaped cupcake mould that I use to create fun treats.

My sister made these particular pumpkin cupcakes and they look great, but kids could easily make something similar.  Orange icing and sprinkles, and they're good to go!

I use a boxed mix (usually Betty Crocker gluten free cake mix) to make things really simple. 

Looking for a no bake option that's so simple a preschooler can make it?  Try these dipped marshmallows.  1- Melt high quality gluten free chocolate (we use the good stuff because it has to be dairy free too) in the microwave and let cool slightly.  2- In small plastic containers or cupcake wrappers place different toppings.  We used coloured sugar crystals, sprinkles, etc.  3- Dip the top of the marshmallow in the chocolate, and then dip again in topping of choice.  Stand them up to dry.  Simple.

2- Give the kids their own pumpkin to decorate:  There are plenty of no-carve pumpkin ideas out there, from Mr. Potato Head-type decorating kits that feature facial decorations that just get pushed in to more complicated stencils. For really young children, I like to keep things simple.  Decorate with stickers, or glue on items for a unique look.  For my son, I set up room for him at a table, hand him a brush, and let him paint to his heart's content.

When he's done with his masterpiece, I let it dry and then put it on display.  A word of caution:  most kids' paint will get washed away in the rain, so it's best to either display the pumpkin on a covered porch, or somewhere indoors until Halloween night. 

3- Buy some gluten free candy:  It's important to be prepared to swap out candy that's unsafe for you or your child to eat, and having a variety of options on hand is better than just removing the offenders from a kid's point of view.  It also doesn't hurt to hand out some gluten free candy.  There are a ton of options available, at the same price as other options.   My Gluten Facts  
( ) has printable lists of gluten free candy available on their site, with options for candy available in both Canada and the United States.  I've provided the link to the Canadian list.  Last year our next door neighbour had a little loot bag of only gluten free options ready for our son.  Obviously that was unexpected, but also really thoughtful, and my son felt incredibly special.

4- Talk to your child's school/daycare and come up with a plan:  Yesterday I wrote about how my son wasn't allowed to open his candy at the daycare last year because staff wanted to make sure he didn't eat anything that would make him sick.  They did the right thing, but it was still hard for my son.  That was my fault.  The staff did their job, which was to keep him safe.  This year, I'm going to be proactive instead, and so can you. 

Talk to the staff ahead of time, and find out the plan for Halloween parties or celebrations.  Print off a list of candy that's safe for your child if they're open to the idea.  Or, provide the school or daycare with some candy for your child that you know is safe, therefore taking any responsibility out of their hands.  The goal is to let your child have all of the fun of Halloween without the worry.

5- Plan your night in advance:  This year, Halloween falls smack-dab in the middle of the week.  Chancces are, you'll be coming home from work, and then rushing to eat, get everyone ready, and prepare for trick-or-treaters.  Plan in advance. Gluten free eating makes it more difficult to just order something in or throw something together quickly.  Cook something on the weekend that just needs to be reheated for dinner, or pull something out of the freezer the morning of.  I usually put a lasagna together ahead of time because it's a one-pot meal that just needs to be warmed in the oven. 

Get the Halloween candy ready the night before and set it up by the front door so it's ready to go when the first ghoul or goblin knocks on your door.  Ditto with the costumes.  Try everything on over the weekend, including putting the costume on over sweaters or jackets if necessary.  Make sure that everything fits and adjust anything ahead of time. 

Decide on activities to keep your little ones occupied.  Will they watch a Halloween special before or after heading out?  Are there games or books that might keep them occupied?  Sometimes the excitement is too much for little ones, and a little distraction can go a long way. 


Halloween is for kids, but that doesn't mean that adults don't love it too!  Relax, chat with the neighbours, and remember to take lots of pictures.

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