Though Halloween is a holiday traditionally associated with candy and sweet treats, most parents try to ensure some balance in kids’ diets around this time of year. Some kids are happy to consume nutritious foods, but others prefer the sweet stuff hands down. Luckily, healthy foods become more palatable when you can capture kids’ imagination in the process of preparation and presentation. And Halloween, with all of the fun and spooky images, provides lots of possibilities for creative inspiration. Spending time with kids to conjure up alternative Halloween treats can ensure they eat nutritious snacks and that you have a frightfully good time putting them together.
Start With the Colors of the Season
Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants and fiber. The variety of colors make them attractive to kids, and they provide a veritable palette for imaginative treats. Start with kids’ favorites and introduce a few new ones. Let them express their creativity.
- Bell peppers come in wonderful colors, including green, yellow, red, orange and purple. Kids can make unique little jack-o-lanterns when hollowed out like a pumpkin. After slicing off the top and removing the seeds, facial features can be carefully cut out with a small knife (adult supervision required). Then all that’s left to do is fill the inside with a contrasting food, such as veggie sticks and dip. They could even become little jack-o-lantern meatloaves, if stuffed with meat, rice, veggies and seasonings; you could also use tofu as a vegetarian alternative.
- Quartered green apples can become monster bites when paired with nut butter and sunflower seed teeth. A vertical strawberry slice becomes the tongue with chocolate chips or raisins for the eyes. Two red apple slices can be lips when the inner surface is spread with nut butter and mini-marshmallow teeth are sandwiched inside.
- A variety of vegetables of varying shapes and sizes can be arranged to form a freeform skeleton. Use kids’ favorites to create long bones and short bones and prepare a healthy dip made with greek yogurt and herbs. Add in a new vegetable or two, if kids are feeling adventurous, and provide a picture of a skeleton to guide their placement. This is a great opportunity to include a little science instruction on the human body.
- A hollowed-out and baked pumpkin makes a unique soup tureen that can be filled with a favorite or seasonal soup. Butternut squash soup is one that works well; kids can help with roasting the squash and adding ingredients. Pepitas—shelled pumpkin seeds—make a delicious garnish. A pumpkin could also be baked with a meatloaf inside, which makes a hearty pre-trick-or-treating dinner.
Offering Alternatives to Treats
Though the reason for the season relates to candy, it’s possible to provide alternatives that kids will love. Great for sharing at school celebrations or Halloween parties, these options can be just as much fun as sweet treats. In fact, the Teal Pumpkin Project was created to address food allergies by encouraging alternative treats on Halloween. Homes that display a teal pumpkin on their doorstep agree to provide non-food treats that are safe for kids with food allergies. Here are a few ideas that should excite and interest kids:
- School supplies — Halloween themed pencils and erasers are timely and popular at this time of year. Kids will also appreciate seasonal coloring books with crayons or spooky word search and crossword puzzle books.
- Halloween origami — These handmade items can provide hours of paper-folding fun for kids. If they are shared with the folding instructions, recipients can have fun trying it for themselves.
- Seasonal trinkets — Plastic spiders, wax lips or teeth and stickers are fun toys that fit the season. These are available everywhere in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
- Small toys — A variety of inexpensive toys make great alternative treats for Halloween, including bouncy balls, modeling clay, bubbles, jacks and rubber stamps. They last much longer than edible treats, too.
Continuing the Culinary Adventure
Kids who enjoy concocting healthy Halloween treats can continue their creative kitchen adventures during summer camp. Galileo Summer Quest has two immersive week-long Chefology alternatives: Breakfast Club and Supreme Sweets. What middle schooler wouldn’t be inspired by the chance to innovate special breakfast or dessert recipes with their favorite ingredients? Kids learn to measure, assemble, garnish and plate like a pro. Besides the cooking skills gained, campers will learn to view themselves as fearless innovators, ready to tackle challenging recipes, tweaking when necessary and trying again. As kids face challenges with determination, they will build courage and confidence which sticks with them long after their camp session has ended.
Shared kitchen adventures during the Halloween season can become passions that interest and inspire kids all year round. Getting kids involved in cooking and meal planning will have a lifelong impact as they learn to embrace a variety of flavorful ingredients and healthy food preparation techniques. Extending the fun and learning at summer camp will feed kids’ creative passions and their cravings.
Check out the opportunities for kitchen creativity in your area: San Francisco, Southern California, and Chicagoland. Sign up for our mailing list to keep up-to-date on our camp happenings and innovation resources.