Establishing Family-Focused, Compassionate Halloween Traditions, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

Copyright: Five Seed

::If you are crafty, consider making your young child a trick-or-treat bag that can be embellished each year. Perhaps you can sit down with your children and cut out a shape on felt and sew it to the bag each year (a leaf, a witch’s hat, a pumpkin). Let them draw a new design on a blank section each year with a fabric pen. Add an embellishment or two that they have collected during the past year (a button, a ribbon, a pin). Let the bags become a canvas for the changes your child experiences as s/he grows from one October to the next.

::Plant bulbs with your children – even toddlers can help with this one (or at least play in the dirt next to you!). Tell them how the earth is about to rest over the winter and how everything will stop growing. Explain what the bulbs are and that you are putting them in their beds and when spring comes, they will wake up and make your yard beautiful and will help support our precious bees by providing them with nectar.

::I’ve talked about creating community for your kids’ trick-or-treating escapades, but if they have their hearts set on the traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, find teachable moments in the activity. Have them take two bags, for instance – one for their candy, and one to contain candy wrapper litter left behind by other trick-or-treaters. Perhaps the child who gathers the most wrapper litter can win an ice cream cone. Use this activity to talk to your kids about littering and most importantly, about trash. Where do all those wrappers go? Can they think of ideas for reducing the trash they make? Open up a dialogue.

If you can, sign up for TerraCycle’s Candy Wrapper Brigade and REALLY get your kids motivated. Every candy wrapper they turn will be worth $0.02 toward the charity of their choice – or their own school! This is a great way to instill a sense of community responsibility in your children and to help them feel the satisfaction of activism.

::Try some DIY decorating, instead of keeping dozens of boxes packed with Halloween knick-knacks. Go out in nature and find vines, branches, fruits, gourds, nuts, dried seed pods… These all make for great decorations. You can even get creative and use these items to make some pretty cool stuff. Check out this branch broom made by Lisa over at My World Edenwild. Just goes to show you can include your toddlers in fun activities like this!

::Take some time to honor your ancestors and loved ones by talking to your kids about those who have passed on. This is the time of year when many cultures take time to remember those who have gone before us – so take advantage of that and dig out the old family photographs, if you have them. Tell your kids as much about their ancestors as you can. Get together with older relatives whenever possible and have them tell the stories of their past. Record them, if you get the chance – you will value these stories so much in years to come! If your children have responded unfavorably to stories about their ancestors in the past, try to make the experience more relatable for them. Think of relatives who shared hobbies with your children, or talk about those ancestors whom your children were named after. Find a thread that connects the past to your children to keep them interested.

Copyright: Five Seed

::If you really want to honor the ancestors (or a loved one – pets included! – who has passed on) and your kids are older, have a dumb supper every October. A dumb supper is a ritualized dinner, eaten in silence, to honor those who have left this world. No distractions are allowed – no TV, no radio, no iPods, no video games, no cell phones. No talking at all. Set the table for the family, including a place setting for those who have passed at the head of the table, where no one will sit. You can even place photos of those you want to honor and remember here. Be sure to explain to your kids that there is to be no talking during the meal and that it’s a serious matter (hence why doing this with older children is usually a better idea). Serve everyone, including the “ghost plate,” then share a moment of silent prayer for the deceased love one(s). After everyone eats, you can have each person place a letter they’ve written at the empty chair – a letter to a specific lost loved one, or the ancestors, in general. These letters can be saved in a special box, or later burned, letting the smoke carry the words to the heavens. Share one last silent prayer before ending the meal, then take some time to talk about the experience and about those who have passed on. This is an especially nice ritual for those who have recently lost a pet, friend or family member.

Copyright: Five Seed

There is so much rich history associated with this holiday that we tend to overlook in our society – so much more to Halloween than we realize. See what kinds of beauty you can find in this season with your family that goes beyond costumes and candy.

Establishing family-focused, compassionate Halloween traditions, Part 1

Halloween marks the beginning of a time of year that I love – except for a few annoying trademarks of the season. It is full of frenetic activity, never-ending holiday tasks, consumerism and activities that make poor Mother Earth groan. I see the stores bursting with Halloween goodies starting in late September – plastic costumes, plastic trick-or-treat buckets, candies in plastic wrappers. And all of this is strategically placed near the front doors of the stores, where you will have to pass them with your wide-eyed, enchanted children, who aren’t old enough to understand the magic spells of marketing.

How can we make this time of year more genuine? More authentic? More family-friendly? How can we use it to connect with each other and with the earth? Here are some of my ideas:

::Have a set of movies that you watch with your kids during the month of October (Wallace & Gromit and the Were-Rabbit, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, etc.). Turn out all the lights, set up blankets and pillows on the floor, and grab a bowl of popcorn. If your kids are old enough, light a few candles around the room to give it a spooky effect.

::Take your kids to local farms where you can pick your own pumpkins, apples, pears, etc. Bring the bounty home and cook with your kids. Pies, preserves, cookies, breads. It’s a great way to teach them how to cook new things and stay connected with their food. You can also plan to bake their favorite treats, which will become a special autumn tradition. Obviously, if your kids are toddlers, the cooking part of the process won’t necessarily be possible. Although, you can set up all your ingredients on the counter for something simple (like a loaf of quick bread), then sit your child down in a high chair next to you and show him/her what you are doing. I have done this with my 2-year-old nephew and he loves it. I give him little bites of food as I prepare and he decides whether or not he likes each item, and asks me to identify each ingredient, which is a great way to teach new words. And if they are really young, have a friend come over with her kids for a play date and can some applesauce together. It’s a great way to stock up on food for your little ones. (Click here for a great video on this at Passionate Homemaking.)

Copyright: Five Seed

::Be creative with costuming from the start to teach kids that they don’t even need the cheap, plastic costumes from the store. You don’t have to make your own – you may not be crafty, or simply don’t have the time. Barter with a crafty friend. Buy a few quality costume pieces from small businesses (like those on Etsy). Use what is already in your child’s closet or toy chest to construct costumes. When I was a little girl, my cousin and I wanted to be Cinderella. My cousin wore a store-bought princess costume. My mom dressed me in one of my white dresses, then inflated my swimming arm bands and fastened them on a belt around my waist, beneath the skirt to make the bustle. She tied a scarf over the top of the dress at the waist, and added a green ribbon around my neck and viola! I had never felt so beautiful and perfect – and all of the materials were things we already owned. I grew up with that sense of excitement about creating my own costumes from my closet, from things I borrowed from friends, from thrift shop finds…I don’t think I ever bought a costume from the store.

::Set aside at least one evening for telling ghost stories by firelight (or flashlight, or candlelight). Let your kids take center stage here. Every kid knows at least two good ghost stories! When they are done, be sure to tell them stories about the history of Halloween – pick out fun facts like where the phrase “trick-or-treat” comes from, or tell them why we carve jack-o-lanterns. Find October-themed books that they might enjoy and read aloud to them. (My personal favorite for kids 8-12: Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsberg.) If your kids are old enough and you have a backyard fire pit, go outdoors for this activity and roast marshmallows while you tell your stories!

Copyright: Five Seed

::If you live in a safe neighborhood and know most of your neighbors, use this time to build community. Get everyone together for a Halloween block party. Each house can make candies, cookies or other fun items to pass out to trick-or-treaters, which will help cut back on waste from Halloween candy wrappers. You can also help control what your kids eat by planning a healthier “menu” for treats – popcorn bags, granola. chocolate-covered raisins, etc. Getting everyone together is a great way to celebrate with others, keep your kids safe, and cut back on trash.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Wednesday and the announcement of the winner of the Bike Wars Giveaway tomorrow!

Five tips for green trick-or-treating

Trick-or-treating is a fun tradition, but let’s face it: It’s not very healthy for your kids or Mother Earth. Millions of individual wrappers go into the landfills, and god knows what ingredients (dyes, sugars, chemicals) go into your babies’ tummies. Yuck! How can you be an eco-friendly and/or health-conscious participant?

1. Stock up on “responsible” candy. If you can’t bear not to pass out candy, try the Natural Candy Store. Yes, there are still a million wrappers, but at least you can choose the kinds of candy you want to give out. Gluten free? No problem. Made in the USA? You got it! Organic? Definitely! You can find all of these at this store, and more (though not ALL products fall under these categories – make sure you check the key).

Natural Candy Store: Organic Ghost Lollipops

2. Spread the UNICEF word. You can have your children ask for UNICEF donations instead of candy, which is a great way to help kids realize that they can make a difference!

3. Give out pennies instead of candy. If you feel confident that you won’t get TP’ed during the night by angry trick-or-treaters who wanted candy, LOL, then give out pennies and other coins. It’s a great way to get rid of all that pesky pocket change, and the kids can spend it, or donate it.

4. Make or buy reusable trick-or-treat bags. Google “eco-friendly trick-or-treating” and you will find a million ways to make trick-or-treat bags from pillowcases! Remember: think fabric or metal (avoid plastic if you can). And make sure it is not too “young looking” so your kids can use them year after year without feeling silly when they are older.

5. Use chocolate to help endangered species. All you chocolate connoisseurs already know how good the Endangered Species Chocolates are. Hand out the individually packaged chocolate squares and some of the profits from your purchase will go toward helping endangered species.

Endangered Species Halloween Dark Chocolate

Want some more tips for healthy trick-or-treats? Check out Green Halloween!

This post was previously published in 2009 on my other blog.

DIY: Chocolate & Lube

Happy Valentine’s Weekend! I hope you are planning a celebration of love, whether you are in a relationship or not. No matter what, there should be copious amounts of chocolate consumed! ;) In that spirit, I wanted to share this video with you. Kathryn Budig, one of my favorite yoga teachers, demonstrates a wonderful recipe for homemade chocolates. These are all ingredients (minus the coffee) I always have on hand – raw cacao is my life. (You can purchase it from Mountain Rose Herbs, Navitas Naturals, or at your local health food store.)

And if you’re in the mood for something a bit more…active…try this DIY lube from Traditional lubes are full of chemicals, like propylene glycol, that don’t belong near our delicate parts. Ditch those chemicals and make your own – you only need flax seeds (easily found at most grocery stores these days) and water. Funnily enough, this concoction can supposedly double as a hair gel!

Hope you have a fabulous, chemical-free, all-natural Valentine’s Day weekend! May you be blessed with love in all its forms.