Think outside the candy bowl this Halloween for kids who can’t eat it

Marty Barnes knows that not all kids can have Halloween candy. Her 8-year-old daughter Casey has quadriplegia cerebral palsy, which means that she cannot swallow and gets all of her nutrition through a tube.

Barnes, who lives in Austin, and her support group, Mommies of Miracles, for mothers of children with complex medical conditions and developmental disabilities, want you to consider what you’re putting in the trick-or-treat bowl this Halloween.

It’s not just kids like Casey who can’t have Halloween candy. Sometimes there are food allergies or food sensitivities that limit what kids can have, and sometimes, it’s things like braces that get in the way. (That’s what’s happening at my house for both kids. No really sticky things like caramels, nougats, marshmallows and gums, and no hard things like nuts, toffees and pretzels.)

So, what can we do about this, not just for our kids, but others like them? At my house, we’ll only stock candy my kids can have — plain chocolate bars, plain or peanut butter M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces or Cups, etc. We’ll also offer non-food items like glow sticks, stickers, bubbles, temporary tattoos, erasers, fake teeth, pencils or small toys. Some candy eaters might actually want those instead of candy. Plus, the good thing about non-food items, says Barnes, is if you have leftovers, you can save them for next year. They never go bad like candy.

Mommies of Miracles has a whole program on its website,, in which you can print out a sign to post on your door that says “Non-food Treats Available Here.”

Your child can print out a sticker that says “Non-food Items Only Please” and wear it, so you and your child don’t have to explain at every house that you can’t take the candy.

You also can register your house in the Mommies of Miracles’ database to indicate that you have non-food treats available, and you can go to their database and see where the non-food treats are. In my ZIP code, 78748, I only found two, and one in a nearby ZIP code, but if I had a kid who truly couldn’t have candy, that might be worth the drive.

You also could go trick-or-treating and then see which local orthodontist or dentist will buy back your candy. I went to and found four in my ZIP code. Often the doctors pay per pound and then ship the candy along with toothbrushes to troops overseas. You’re getting paid for your hard work, plus doing a good deed.

That might be sweeter than candy.

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