Community Service: An Alternative to Halloween Candy

Community Service & Hands-On Learning as Alternatives to Candy Consumption

Halloween candy can be donated or repurposed for educational and scientific value by donating to members of the military deployed overseas to candy science experiments…

After the magic of Halloween has ended and bits of costumes have been strewn about the house, kids are left with fond memories and gigantic piles of candy. While the candy can be of moderate educational value, it primarily serves as an unnecessary dietary supplement that, if well-rationed, can hang around the house for months to come. As much as most children love to eat candy, health-conscious parents may not want the collected treats to hang around and be consumed. Never fear! There are lots and lots of alternatives to Halloween as it is most often celebrated…

Post-Halloween, candy can be donated or repurposed for educational and scientific value. Families can donate candy to Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to members of the military deployed overseas. Deployed members of the military don’t have access to many of the same comforts that they might at a base on US soil, and Halloween candy can be a special treat for them. Perhaps kids could choose a few of their favorite candies to keep, and could send their donated treats along with other useful care package items, a letter of appreciation, or pictures they’ve drawn. (Donations are sent to the Operation Gratitude headquarters, rather than directly to military members.)

If you choose not to donate, candy can be used for some mad science experiments in your very own kitchen! Skittles can be used to examine density, M&M’s are great for chromatography experiments, certain Lifesavers include a chemical combination that can produce sparks, and a variety of other candies can be used to explore scientific topics like density, melting points, and states of matter. The website Candy Experiments offers directions for lots of easy experiments, and kids can invent some of their own, too!

If your family is willing to forgo candy collection entirely, there are some alternative items that can be collected while going door to door on Halloween. UNICEF offers simple cardboard boxes for their program trick-or-treat for UNICEF that can be used to collect change to help support their international support programs for children, and in the past the Lions International has partnered with OneSight, an organization dedicated to providing vision care worldwide, to collect gently used eye glasses on Halloween for Sight Night. More intrepid families may choose to bring a wagon (or a car, depending on how far away your neighbors are) and ask families to donate a nonperishable food item to donate to a local food pantry or an old blanket or bag/can of pet food for an animal shelter. If your children collect items instead of pocket change, make sure they’re prepared to have some families decline – remember that they’re prepared to give you candy and not canned soup!

In addition to these ideas and resources are many more creative ways to shift the focus of Halloween from candy to community service and/or hands-on learning. Try one (or many) of these ideas, or develop your own unique family tradition and share it with us:

[Photo credit: (cc) Shauna Younge]

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