Editor’s note: Updated to reflect 2019 dates.
One of the hardest holidays of the year for children with food allergies is Halloween. For those who aren’t aware: most chocolate Halloween candy is deemed unsafe for many of the top eight allergens, such as peanuts, tree nuts, and milk (if you look at the large bag’s label, you will see a cross-contamination warning). So what’s a child with a food allergy to do?
My sister and I grew up in the 1980s, both of us having tree-nut allergies and not knowing anyone else with a food allergy. According to www.foodallergies.org, one in thirteen children has a life-threatening food allergy, including one of my own children. I am writing this post both for parents of children with food allergies as well as parents who would like to accommodate children with food allergies. Obviously, I am not a medical expert and you should always listen to your doctor and your knowledge of your child’s specific needs.
Halloween Fun for Kids with Food Allergies
First, what you can do to be inclusive to your pint-sized neighbors who have food allergies?
Catering to All Trick-or-Treaters
- Many candies that do not contain the allergen are still unsafe due to cross-contamination. For instance, Kit Kats do not contain peanuts, but have the warning: May contain nuts/peanuts.
- How do you know what candy is safe? Walgreen’s makes it easy with a list posted with candy safe for children with the top eight allergens (see picture below).
- If you plan to have safe candy, try to not mix it in with unsafe candy (putting it in the same bowl with Snickers bars, for instance).
- If you have a trick-or-treater sifting through your candy bowl, realize they may not be picky but may be checking if there’s anything safe for them to eat. (And we’ve gotten to the door only to discover unsafe candy and have to say “no thank you.” I’m hoping our neighbors didn’t think we were snooty about the selection.)
- A simple solution to catering to food allergies is to pass out non-food treats, such as fun pencils, tattoos, or small toys.
You might have heard about or have seen a teal pumpkin on a doorstep. The Teal Pumpkin Project was created to help with food-allergy awareness and be inclusive to all trick-or-treaters. Participating houses display a teal-colored pumpkin or sign at their front door, signifying they offer non-food treats. Print your own Teal Pumpkin Sign at FARE.
If you are a parent of a child with a food allergy, here are some events where food is not the focus. As always, you need to verify whether these events are safe for your child. (Most events still serve or allow food.)
Non-Food-Focused Halloween Events
Goebbert’s Farm and Garden Center
40 W. Higgins Rd., South Barrington
See webpage for dates and times.
Lots to do here for all ages! Besides a spectacular selection of pumpkins, they have a ton of animals (including giraffes you can feed), a corn maze, pig races, pony and camel rides, a haunted house, a pumpkin-eating dinosaur, and more! (Can you tell I love this place?) They are open on Halloween day from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Although they do sell food, your little one should be content with everything else this place has to offer. Read Little Lake County’s review. Free to get in the pumpkin farm and to park; additional activities have a fee.
Ryerson Halloween Hikes
October 25 & 26 , 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Ryerson Woods, 21950 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods
We’ve done this event the last two years. Families hike through Ryerson Woods at night, stopping to watch short kid-friendly environmental plays. Warning: at the end of the hike they do serve apple cider and donuts; however, we just pack our own safe treat. The cost is $9 for residents over age four; $11 for non-residents over age four.
Libertyville Sports Complex’s Halloween Fest
October 30, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
This event includes inflatables, a train ride, a climbing mountain, as well as other Halloween activities. Food will not be served (however, the concession stand will be open). Pre-registration: $7 per child; Day of event: $10 (parents and grandparents are free).
Trick or Treat the Library
Deerfield Public Library, 920 Waukegan Rd., Deerfield
Come in your costume to the Youth Service department and receive a non-food treat. No fee.
Fright Fest at Six Flags Great America
Through November 1
Six Flags Great America, 1 Great America Parkway, Gurnee
Need a place to go in lieu of trick-or-treating? As if Six Flags wasn’t fun enough, visit it all decked out for Halloween. They’re even open on Halloween night. But beware–it does have become quite scary. There are haunted rides, haunted attractions, and special entertainment. You may want to only take the older children after 6:00 p.m. Note: Camp Cartoon, Kidzopolis and Hometown Park areas are closed on Friday nights and after 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays during Fright Fest. Park admission rates apply, and haunted houses cost extra. Also, note that a treat (containing tree nuts) may be passed out at the exit. Check out Kari’s tips for going with children.
Where do you like to go that is allergy-friendly? Visiting one of our suggestions? Tell them Little Lake County sent you!