Hooray! Princesses and superheroes are more popular than witches and devils these days. With encouragement from parents, kids can enjoy a greener Halloween with tiaras, wands and capes made from recycled cardboard and hobby shop items. Thrift stores offer up hats and jewelry for added bling. The Internet overflows with inspiration. Also, many public libraries host costume swaps this month; find other swap locations at Tinyurl.com/CostumeSwaps.
Consider inexpensive temporary hair coloring instead of wigs. Mix three packets of sugar-free drink mix or one box of sugar-free gelatin dessert mix (because sugar makes hair sticky), a few drops of both water and a conditioner into a paste. Apply cocoa butter at the hairline to prevent color from running down the face. Use a paint brush to apply it to the hair, topped by a shower cap for a steeping periodof as long as youthful patience allows before shampooing.
Homemade face paint is a fun and healthy alternative to sweaty masks. (Commercial face paint can contain lead and other undesirables.) A moisturizerwith sunscreen, unscented lotionor cocoa butter acts as the base. “UVA/UVB rays are present year-round,” says Dermatologist Michael Taylor, in Portland,Maine. “Use zinc- or titanium based products, free from fragrance,para-aminobenzoic acid, parabens, bisphenol A, phthalates and other harmful ingredients.”
Natural food coloring, spices or other pantry items provide colorants. Turmeric makes a bright yellow; raspberry, blackberry or beet juice yields pink or red; mashed avocado and spirulina show up green; blueberry juice is naturally purple; and cocoa powder makes a great brown, according to Greenne.com.
For the youngest treaters, hold an afternoon party with games and an outdoor wildlife/leaf hunt. “Plan a scavenger hunt or arrange stuffed toys to be knocked over with balls,” suggests Pamela Layton McMurtry, author of AHarvest and Halloween Handbook, and mother of seven in Kaysville, Utah. “Older kids will love a block party. Solar twinkle lights can mark the perimeters. Plan for a potluck and emphasize healthy choices. Games with prizes like wooden toys, juices, raisins or gluten free crispy rice cakes take the focus off of candy. Tweens like progressive parties: appetizers at one house, dessert at another and music or scary movies at a third.”
“Disguise healthy snacks as scary, gross foods,” suggests Rosie Pope, a parenting style leader and former reality TV personality in Ridgewood, New Jersey. “Homemade grape or orange juice popsicles with a small gummy worm inside are popular.”
Pope likes to decorate cucumber and apple slices with raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries and pretzels adhered with organic peanut butter to mimic crawly creatures. Black spaghetti colored with squid ink can simulate boiled witch’s hair. Spinach linguini masquerades as swamp grass. Look for gluten-free varieties. Prepare peeled grapes for green eyeballs.
“Cover party tables with a patchwork of fabric remnants,” advises McMurtry. She also suggests a DIY taco area or cat-and-scarecrow-shaped pizzas. Use sliced olive or cherry tomato eyes, shredded cheese hair and a red pepper smile. Prepare a cheesy fondue with whole-grain bread. Individually wrapped popcorn balls studded with bits of fruit can be great take-home desserts for guests.
In addition to the usual farmers’ market gourds, Indian corn and pumpkins, “Oranges, tangerines and apples covered with cloth and tied with orange or black yarn or ribbon hung as miniature ghosts in the kitchen and doorways add a spooky touch,” adds Pope. “After the holiday, the fruit returns to the table as a snack.” Pope’s children also like to draw Halloween murals on windows using water-based markers.
Traditional tricks and treats are easily improved upon with mindful shopping and imagination. The calorie counts are lower, environmental impacts are lighter and the feel-good fun factor soars.
Avery Mack is a freelance writer in St. Louis, MO. Connect via AveryMack@mindspring.com.