It was not too long ago, in the fall of 2012, that Becky Basolone, the director of a local Tennesse food allergy support group, first had the idea of painting a pumpkin teal, the color of food allergy awareness, and handing out non-food items. What she didn’t know was that her teal pumpkin would become a nationwide symbol for Halloween food-allergy awareness and inspire the start of the Teal Pumpkin Project a practice that Becky reflects on by saying “I just hope that this really helps to encourage inclusion for children with dietary limitations and restrictions. Medical conditions that limit children’s involvement in food-based activities can be detrimental to a child’s self-confidence and sense of self, so if we can improve that then I think we are doing a good job. In no way do we want exclude candy from the Halloween tradition. That is not our goal. We’d just like to see a safe alternative during food-based activities for these children.”
This idea is catching on not only in this country but around the globe! Not only does it offer inclusion of children who have differences in their ability to take in food, it offers an opportunity to provide all children with small items that can inspire new experiences that enhance development! Stores like Target are making it easy by offering a whole line of non-food Halloween treats to handout. In fact, as many pediatric therapists know, these small nonfood treats can be used all year long to hold a child’s attention and inspire the motivation needed to learn new developmental skills. Whether it is a spinning light stick that a little one can’t help but look towards or a party blower that inspires a big breath in and a big breath out to unfurl the paper spiral, there are lots and lots of simple treats to fascinate and delight kids and help them learn and grow. Here are just a few ideas.