Halloween Treat Alternatives

Reverse Trick or Treating cards with fair trade chocolate

Reverse Trick or Treating cards with fair trade chocolate

Before our children are developmentally able to focus on consequences, it’s up to us to help them see alternatives to immediate choices. We can shift focus from GIMME CANDY to things and ideas that will still satisfy in other ways.

I usually welcome my children to have a small amount of Halloween candy. My son has started to realize that he feels very emotional when he has too much sugar. He doesn’t like the feeling of being out of control, so he limits his own candy consumption. His self regulation is a step in the right direction, but I still do what I can to help out. This year, I have more ideas how to divert the candy stream without the result of sad little faces of children deprived of non-nutritive food-like substances.


1. Gifts from the Magic Pumpkin

Nature Mom recently told me the story of the Magic Pumpkin that visits her house each year.

“I had been able to swap out my kids’ collected loot for the first 2 years, but my 5-year old started to catch on last year. So, we changed our tactic and told her we had learned that if we left her collected candy out at night for the Magic Pumpkin to eat, he would leave her something else in its place.

“The idea came from another parent, and I was amazed at how well it went over. We let her pick 3 candies to keep for herself, and she left the rest out for the night. When she fell asleep, we swapped out her candy for a Halloween story book and hair ties.

“I’m hopeful she’ll want to try this again come Halloween. Last year my 4-year old was a willing participant. I think the key is to make the goodies left by the Magic Pumpkin as fun and enticing as candy might be. I love this idea because you can tailor the treats or gifts to your own children.”

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to SWEET MEMORIES OF A NICE HOLIDAY


2. Candy Experiments

If you know your child will end up with a bag of candy, and you want to lower the sugar impact, consider diverting the candy from the usual hand-to-mouth race. You could teach them a little science.

Candy Experiments can lead you through dissolving, melting, baking, smashing, cracking, and otherwise destroying candy in the name of science. You can use a coffee filter and dyed candy for chromatography. Dissolve Skittles to determine color density to make a pretty rainbow of unnatural dyes. And, those with patience can watch chocolate bloom as the fats separate out into little circles. They explain not just the what and how but the why.

If you are in Washington, D.C., this weekend, join them at the USA Science and Engineering Festival to see some of these experiments for yourself.

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY TO EAT
to WHAT IS THIS STUFF, ANYWAY?


3. Fair Trade Chocolate

I love chocolate. I don’t love the labor issues that come with chocolate. I worry about treating children with a food that other children have suffered to produce.

So, this year my family is Reverse Trick or Treating with a kit we ordered from Global Exchange. When my children go door to door, they will give an information card to people at the first 15 houses so they can learn about fair trade chocolate. There is a piece of chocolate attached to each card as well. Yes, our neighbors expect this kind of thing from us!

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to I CARE ABOUT OTHER CHILDREN IN THE WORLD


4. Family Party

I have been informed by my son that not only will we be having pumpkin soup for Halloween, we will be having orange rolls and sloppy buffalo joes. After one year, this has become a requirement. I’m thrilled to see that his focus for the day is on nutritious food.

In my fantasy world, I also make homemade candy. About a month ago I made a mild, homemade licorice with fennel from our garden. It tasted great (to both adults) and looked wonderful.

That’s the good news.

I didn’t roll it in sugar or flour as the recipes all suggested. So, follows the bad news. I put some of the licorice in mason jar—and it all melted into a solid mass that is far to hard to even extract from the jars. I had saved a small jar to give Nature Mom when I saw her last week, but it is such a sad, solid, sludgy mess that I didn’t want to embarrass myself with it. (She won’t even know this unless she reads the post!)

So, I would take homemade licorice if I: 1) made it fresh, or 2) gave in and rolled it in flour or sugar. I’m thinking I’ll stick with the homemade orange bread rolls with tiny green bread stems.

This year, we will be taking our nutritious holiday food and spending the Saturday night before Halloween with a group of families who (we hope) will enjoy our contributions to a big dinner. Rather than a planned raid of the neighborhood, we’re off to have fun.

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to COMMUNITY FUN

Frozen Pops Beyond the Basics

Stainless Steel Popsicle Molds

It’s popsicle time. Sure, make frozen pops for the kids, but don’t forget the dogs and the parents. We could all use a cool treat.


Popsicles For Kids

Kinderville Popsicle Molds

My kids will eat almost anything if I freeze it. My son freezes green tea. My daughter likes frozen fruit because it isn’t as overwhelmingly icy as most pops. Anything that we will put in a smoothie, we will put in a popsicle mold. Start with the basics like yogurt, fruit, and pudding then move on to advanced popsicles as you find fun new ways to freeze your treats.

  • Juice with chunks of fruit
  • Lemonade with edible flowers
  • Almond milk with pumpkin pie spices (my son’s favorite)
  • Pudding with layers of crumbled cookies
  • Watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe frozen in layers for stripes
  • Double dip by unmolding, adding another ingredient to the mold, then pressing the frozen pop in so the new layer covers the whole pop
  • Freeze in an ice cream cone


Adults-only Popsicles

Stainless Steel Popsicle Molds

In my house, adults are more likely to like savory popsicles. Any of the cold soups I wrote about last week could be frozen. I’m a bit more willing to be adventurous with spices and unusual flavors. Don’t buy extra ingredients. Just use what you have on hand. With cocktail popsicles, the secret to getting them to freeze is: don’t add as much alcohol as you would for a mixed drink.

  • Mango puree with chili sauce (beautiful flavor, add either Indian or Mexican spices)
  • Red Bull
  • Cocktails (Cosmopolitan or a basic mimosa)
  • Freeze pureed fruit in stick-shaped ice cubes to add as stirrers to regular cocktails
  • Kahlua yogurt
  • Straight up frozen coffee
  • Apple, orange, and spices like wassail (my husband’s suggestion)


Frozen Treats for Dogs

Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray

My hairy dogs have not yet had their summer haircuts, and they have welcomed ice cubes every day. If you are going to feed your dog ice cubes or dog pops, stay with them and take the pops away once they get small enough to choke on. My dogs don’t chew the ice cubes or pick them up in their mouths. They just lick and chase the ice cubes around until they leave them to melt in a puddle on my carpet, which is (sort of) fine if they are just water. Some of these dog pops are definitely outdoor treats. Just start with what your dog loves, avoid what your dog shouldn’t love, and add enough water that the mixture will freeze.

  • Peanut butter (the dog pop basic ingredient)
  • Water from a roasting pan (after I save what I can for humans, I add water and give the pan to the dogs)
  • Any kind of meatsicle (we save organ meats, blend them up, and make frozen doggy treats from those)
  • Bananas and apples
  • Raw carrots
  • Yogurt in small amounts

When I realized I could freeze almost anything for anyone and call it a treat, this opened up a whole new world of summer snacks for my family. Try it! And, stay cool.

Halloween Treat Alternatives

Reverse Trick or Treating cards with fair trade chocolate

Reverse Trick or Treating cards with fair trade chocolate

Before our children are developmentally able to focus on consequences, it’s up to us to help them see alternatives to immediate choices. We can shift focus from GIMME CANDY to things and ideas that will still satisfy in other ways.

I usually welcome my children to have a small amount of Halloween candy. My son has started to realize that he feels very emotional when he has too much sugar. He doesn’t like the feeling of being out of control, so he limits his own candy consumption. His self regulation is a step in the right direction, but I still do what I can to help out. This year, I have more ideas how to divert the candy stream without the result of sad little faces of children deprived of non-nutritive food-like substances.


1. Gifts from the Magic Pumpkin

Nature Mom recently told me the story of the Magic Pumpkin that visits her house each year.

“I had been able to swap out my kids’ collected loot for the first 2 years, but my 5-year old started to catch on last year. So, we changed our tactic and told her we had learned that if we left her collected candy out at night for the Magic Pumpkin to eat, he would leave her something else in its place.

“The idea came from another parent, and I was amazed at how well it went over. We let her pick 3 candies to keep for herself, and she left the rest out for the night. When she fell asleep, we swapped out her candy for a Halloween story book and hair ties.

“I’m hopeful she’ll want to try this again come Halloween. Last year my 4-year old was a willing participant. I think the key is to make the goodies left by the Magic Pumpkin as fun and enticing as candy might be. I love this idea because you can tailor the treats or gifts to your own children.”

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to SWEET MEMORIES OF A NICE HOLIDAY


2. Candy Experiments

If you know your child will end up with a bag of candy, and you want to lower the sugar impact, consider diverting the candy from the usual hand-to-mouth race. You could teach them a little science.

Candy Experiments can lead you through dissolving, melting, baking, smashing, cracking, and otherwise destroying candy in the name of science. You can use a coffee filter and dyed candy for chromatography. Dissolve Skittles to determine color density to make a pretty rainbow of unnatural dyes. And, those with patience can watch chocolate bloom as the fats separate out into little circles. They explain not just the what and how but the why.

If you are in Washington, D.C., this weekend, join them at the USA Science and Engineering Festival to see some of these experiments for yourself.

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY TO EAT
to WHAT IS THIS STUFF, ANYWAY?


3. Fair Trade Chocolate

I love chocolate. I don’t love the labor issues that come with chocolate. I worry about treating children with a food that other children have suffered to produce.

So, this year my family is Reverse Trick or Treating with a kit we ordered from Global Exchange. When my children go door to door, they will give an information card to people at the first 15 houses so they can learn about fair trade chocolate. There is a piece of chocolate attached to each card as well. Yes, our neighbors expect this kind of thing from us!

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to I CARE ABOUT OTHER CHILDREN IN THE WORLD


4. Family Party

I have been informed by my son that not only will we be having pumpkin soup for Halloween, we will be having orange rolls and sloppy buffalo joes. After one year, this has become a requirement. I’m thrilled to see that his focus for the day is on nutritious food.

In my fantasy world, I also make homemade candy. About a month ago I made a mild, homemade licorice with fennel from our garden. It tasted great (to both adults) and looked wonderful.

That’s the good news.

I didn’t roll it in sugar or flour as the recipes all suggested. So, follows the bad news. I put some of the licorice in mason jar—and it all melted into a solid mass that is far to hard to even extract from the jars. I had saved a small jar to give Nature Mom when I saw her last week, but it is such a sad, solid, sludgy mess that I didn’t want to embarrass myself with it. (She won’t even know this unless she reads the post!)

So, I would take homemade licorice if I: 1) made it fresh, or 2) gave in and rolled it in flour or sugar. I’m thinking I’ll stick with the homemade orange bread rolls with tiny green bread stems.

This year, we will be taking our nutritious holiday food and spending the Saturday night before Halloween with a group of families who (we hope) will enjoy our contributions to a big dinner. Rather than a planned raid of the neighborhood, we’re off to have fun.

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to COMMUNITY FUN

The Season of Frozen Pops Arrives

Silicone Popsicle MoldsMy children like ice. Frozen pops. Ice in drinks. Ice in bags. Re-freezable bags of rice or goo. Ice straight on hot cheeks. Are other children like this? They spend all summer looking through the freezer for something cold.

Finally tonight, after snow and hail and cold last week, it feels like summer. Spring must have been over the weekend. Tonight as I write, the golden sunset is streaming in while the children play outside with the neighbors, the dog is running in circles with her best canine girlfriend, and everyone is asking for popsicles. The popsicle request tells me it is summer.

How do I satisfy this request without buying high-fructose corn pops on a throwaway stick?

Freeze your own popsicles, and you can make them nutritious and delicious. We freeze anything.

Keep your children cool this summer by filling up reusable pop molds. Juice, yogurt, and berries are our favorites, and we make homemade ice cream for holidays and special occasions.


Reusable Popsicle Molds

Kinderville Silicone Popsicle Molds
Silicone JarsThis is the most frequently frozen mold of the summer. Perfect for frozen juice pops.

The shape of the the Kinderville frozen pop mold makes it easy to push popsicles to the top without any need for a stick. Toxin-free silicone is naturally bacteria resistant and safe for freezer, refrigerator, microwave, and dishwasher.

Kinderville Little Bites Silicone Jars
A close second for frozen treats. Perfect for frozen yogurt mixes.

These jars are BPA, phthalate, and lead free.

Stainless Steel Ice Cube Trays
stainless steel ice cube trayA constant. Ice in every drink is a must.

These old-fashioned trays are so easy to use. If you freeze baby food—pureed veggies or fruit are nice—you can keep your baby or toddler cool and well fed. Plastic free.


Frozen treats mean happy kids.
No waste means happy parents.

Chocolate – It’s About Dignity and Sustainability

Child with ChocolateMmm. Chocolate. Valentine’s Day approaches, and there are many opportunities to indulge in a little piece of delight as it melts at your body temperature spreading across your tongue. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate bars, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate nibs, chocolate cake. I adore chocolate.

Once your body chemistry returns to its pre-cocoa levels, or even before you indulge, you might ask where the chocolate came from.

International Fair Trade Certification MarkA movement toward more ethical consumer choices leaves us asking not just whether what we buy and consume is good for us but whether it is good for all of those who moved it along the way, those who produced, traded, processed, and packaged it.

When I wrote about green certifications in the fall, I was really motivated by the confusing number of eco-seals that I see on products. In some cases, I think the proliferation of seals is just typical of what happens early as the problem has been recognized and the solutions are still many.

There are a couple of agricultural commodities whose labelling systems have matured enough that one or two seals have become recognized by consumers and many consumers even understand what those seals mean. When we buy coffee and chocolate, it is now very easy to learn what fair trade certification means for us and for producers.

Fair Trade Certified MarkGlobally, except in Canada and the U.S., the blue and green International Fair Trade Certification mark identifies a variety of products that meet standards. In Canada and the U.S., look for the black and white Fair Trade Certified mark for now.


Coffee as the Example

Coffee was the first global agricultural commodity to move through a clear labelling process. Because of the maturity of the movement to make consumers aware of their choices with coffee, the issues have been made clear:

  • Fair Trade – promoting broad sustainability for producers by meeting payment, social, and environmental standards
  • Shade-grown – diversity of trees and plants in a forest where coffee is grown traditionally supports diversity of bird life and doesn’t need the chemical inputs that can create toxic runoff.
  • Organic – sustainability in the field and potentially a better choice for consumers’ health.

This isn’t just a nice way to be nice so everyone feels nice. This is a response to the exploitation of small farmers by large coffee companies, paying them less for their coffee than it costs to produce. Debt and poverty that result have clear consequences in the places of production—all so cheap coffee can be shipped around the world.

Improve conditions for producers
>
label the products that come from improved conditions
>
then educate consumers

I would like to believe that most people understand their responsibility for the products they buy. A Fair Trade label helps us as consumers to accept our responsibility and choose not to exploit producers.


Which Brings Us to Fair Trade Chocolate

Often following the example of coffee, the movement to label chocolate as Fair Trade has grown in the past decade.

The situation with chocolate production, however, seems far more dire than with coffee. Reports beginning about ten years ago of child slavery in some west African cocoa production helped chocolate consumers become more aware of the conditions of children in cocoa production. It doesn’t appear that much progress has been made during that time except in the movement to shift to fair trade chocolate.

It seems to me that the key is educating the consumers, even the smallest consumers, about where their food and treats come from so they can create more demand for the large producers to improve conditions at the point of production. In the meantime, we can bypass the large producers to reach the farmers who have a measure of autonomy in their work by making sure that when we do buy chocolate (or coffee), we do buy Fair Trade.

Children are often the consumers of chocolate. It’s important to educate them honestly and without fear as a motivator. The fact of child slavery and exploitation of children in the production of chocolate can make this topic more real for a child. In a poll of my two children, 100% of respondents replied that they could easily give up chocolate if they knew it was produced by child labor of any kind, let alone child slaves.

Oh, yes, I still adore chocolate. But the pleasure of the sweet treat is not worth the pain of exploitation. Fair Trade chocolate is the answer if you are going to have chocolate this Valentine’s Day.


Resources

  • Global Exchange has a free Fair Trade Chocolate Curriculum available for download. There is also a drawing for teachers who use the curriculum to win fair trade chocolate and educational materials for their classrooms. They are encouraging “Sweet Smarts” in children by teaching them about chocolate, fair trade, and consumer advocacy.
  • New American Dream has a list of Fair Trade chocolate.
  • My old town Buffalo, New York, has a Chocolate Revolution coming up next week. It’s an evening of music and fair trade chocolate, sponsored in part by my old food co-op, the Lexington Food Co-op. Oh! I miss Buffalo. Using a celebration of chocolate to educate the public is a great combination.

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