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The Best Halloween Treat Isn't Candy At All

There's something that kids appear to love even more than chocolate on Halloween.

It's impossible to convey to you how important candy is to my life; I can only direct you to several other places where I've expressed what candy means to me. Halloween is, of course, peak season for someone like me, and like many of you, I keep my eyes glued to what the major candy brands are up to around trick-or-treat time. So it brings me no pleasure at all to tell you this: The most popular item I've ever given out on Halloween night wasn't candy. In fact, it wasn't food at all.

The best non-candy item for trick-or-treaters

Have you guessed what it is yet? Reader, it was stickers. That's it; just stickers. They're not in the typical plastic sleeves you see on hooks at the store. Instead, they're boxed up the way a little package of Dots or Milk Duds might be, and inside the decorative cardboard are a few miniature sheets of skeletons, goblins, ghouls—you get it. Halloween stuff. You can buy them in 18-packs on Amazon, Oriental Trading Co., Target, party stores, and elsewhere.

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I first handed out sticker boxes on Halloween when I had an extra pile of them hanging around after a trip to see my friend's kids in early October was canceled. I mixed the boxes in among the candy I'd carefully curated to maximize delight (and minimize terror), but soon the kids were combing through the bowl, eagerly picking out the stickers and leaving the Reese's and Sour Patch to languish. The parents were just as excited as the kids. "Oooh, stickers!" they'd exclaim, giving me a thumbs-up of approval. Less candy to have to ration later on, I suppose.

Now, I plan on offering stickers every year. I'll still keep candy in the bowl—I'll never forego a chance to get a new generation hooked on Almond Joy—but the ratio has flipped. More stickers, fewer fun-size bars. It's great for kids with allergies, kids with special dietary needs, and kids who might not want to admit that sweets simply don't thrill them. It's a way to be inclusive without being boring. Stickers are awesome, and in an era of the all-consuming iPad screen, tactile arts and crafts mean more to kids, not less.

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These sticker boxes some in non-Halloween themes too, of course, and you might think, "Well, if I go non-seasonal, the stickers will be relevant all year round." That's adult logic, and I recommend you dispense of it immediately. On top of the fact that children are single-mindedly focused on mummies, witches, and haunted houses on October 31 (who can blame them?), any parent who has ever seen their child's YouTube viewing history can tell you that children are infatuated with Halloween 365 days a year. My niece made me watch Mickey Mouse's Halloween Spooktacular four times in a row in the middle of a hot July afternoon. As it should be.

There's a strong case to be made for adding a little variety to kids' candy haul each year. Not because you're trying to make things "healthier" for kids (looking at you, toothbrushes, raisins, and pennies), but because you want to keep their holiday—the one day that is truly and completely for them—as surprising and delightful as possible.

And your pets probably won't try to eat stickers while you're not looking. Probably.

 

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