Children, what do they like? Halloween Edition
August 25, 2022 6:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to try to do Halloween right this year. I know trick or treat has been pretty screwed up by covid, and I'm bringing it back. People who actually have kids or hang out regularly with kids: What's hot right now for toys and treats?

Last year I had probably 120 trick or treaters. I got to target so late in the season I barely got candy, they didn't even have decor left. So this year I'm planning now.

What I would like is a few small toy options and a few candy/snack options.

What treats are trending?
What did your kids fight over when they came home from trick or treating last year?
What got ignored?
Can you ask your real human children what their dream trick or treat haul would have and report back?
Thank you!

I have a couple neighbors who do scary Halloween, my preference is more cute Halloween. Toys and treats don't have to be Halloween themed at all though...I found a mix lot of Pokemon squishys on AliExpress for instance, would those be popular? I don't know, I'm old! Please ask your kids then tell me.
posted by phunniemee to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
In my town during COVID times, one of the popular social distancing options was to create a chute from people's front porch using Hot Wheel car toy tracks. They slid candy down the chute and kids tried to catch them below. Lots of cheering when delivery was complete!

You can also use pool noodles or decorated pvc pipes.

Google "Halloween Candy Chutes Ideas" for images and how-tos. It was all in the delivery - by then, no one cared what the candy was.
posted by HeyAllie at 6:33 AM on August 25 [8 favorites]

This year I am splurging and getting real size candy bars for the kids. I get about 100 kids too. Last year my partner bought candies like Almond Joy and as a kid I couldn’t imagine a worse candy to get.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:52 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]

We sit outside with masks and have goody bags on tables for the kids to pick up.

I usually have a no candy bag, no nuts bag, and a regular bag. I know it's overkill, but I have had good feedback from the families in our neighborhood.

We also give out glowsticks and glow necklaces. Those are the most popular treats.
posted by jraz at 6:55 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]

Dr. Advicepig always wanted to be a full sized candy bar house, so when we bought a house, we became a full sized candy bar house, but I insisted on getting some Sour Patch Kids, and we could only find them in Halloween size. Kids routinely took a small Sour Patch Kids before a full Snickers. I asked around and kids these days don't value chocolate as much as sour candy. So now we go to Costco Business Center and buy vending machine packs of Sour Patch Kids. We also buy silly toys and those go well.
posted by advicepig at 6:56 AM on August 25 [8 favorites]

Maybe my kids are outliers, but I don't think kids are very picky when it comes to candy. The thing about trick-or-treat is that they're getting candy from all over, so no one thing really sticks out. If you're the house that gives out Necco wafers, nobody will remember because they've got all the other good candies to focus on. (Just don't be the house that gives out nickels. Or do be that house, because it would be hilarious, but maybe give something in addition to nickels.) Every kid has their own favorites, and they'll trade with each other to get more of what they really want. And I don't know how normal this is, but my kids don't get through their whole bag even if it's all stuff they love. So I wouldn't worry too much - just get a variety. The best thing is to buy one of the variety bags. I personally love Milky Ways, so I get the bag with Milky Ways, Snickers, Three Musketeers, etc. Then I do a bag of Hershey Miniatures, and maybe some Skittles.

I think the real way to differentiate yourself is by quantity. We don't have a lot of trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood, so we usually have more candy than we can give away, and so we let the kids take giant handfuls from our bowl. And if they take small handfuls, or if it's late in the night, I'll encourage them to take even more. That really seems to make an impression. They feel like they're Scrooge McDuck diving into his money bin.

I've never been a toys-for-Halloween person. Too much variability among kids - a five-year-old will be enthused by something much different than a ten-year-old. But also, small children have short attention spans and lose things easily. Whatever you get, if it provides like fifteen minutes of interest, it'll be a win. My kids are entertained by rocks. You can't really go wrong. And older kids will want candy more than toys anyway.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:00 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh and for people coming here later to get their own answers, one thing I'll be repeating from last year is little water bottles and juice boxes, for parents and kids. Trick or treating is hard work. Water might not be fun but it was my most popular grab!
posted by phunniemee at 7:09 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Rather than full size candy bars, I like to get a WIDE mix of small size candies and a lot of them. The look on kids' faces when you quietly urge "Take two or three, it's fine!" (out of earshot of their parents) is priceless. They feel like they're getting away with something. Be prepared for them to stand there for a second to choose their treats, however.

Also, IMHO kids "these days" really love the sour stuff - there's less enthusiasm for the chocolate. Exception: Reeses or M&Ms.

Also, open early and stay open late, and make it VERY CLEAR with decorations etc that you will be a "Halloween House."
posted by nkknkk at 7:15 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]

Best answer: We sit outside with a folding table. I set out a variety of candy for the kids to pick from. I also keep an ice chest with little bottles of water and wine (for the adults hauling around gaggles of kids). It's a great way to keep neighbors happy with you. :)
posted by heathrowga at 7:19 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There’s a lot of love for sour candies, hot Cheetos or Takis, or anything a little “different.”

I also like giving out glow sticks (the bracelet kind). Basically every age group likes them and it’s always good for visibility in the evening.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:20 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I used to be a "bag of candy in the bowl" person, but Covid changed that. In 2020, I bought little Halloween themed paper bags and filled them with a few pieces of fruity candy, a spider ring, and a Halloween sticker. I put them on a card table with a "please grab one" sign and sat a distance away in a witch's hat. Kids LOVED it. LOVED IT! I did the same thing last year and swapped in a Halloween temporary tattoo for the sticker. This year I'm out of spider rings so I was thinking of swapping in a glow bracelet.

It's a little more work upfront for me but I enjoy it and the kids do as well.
posted by kimberussell at 7:25 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, Hot Cheetos and Takis are a great idea! I'm going to add those.
posted by advicepig at 7:55 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hands down, it was Trolli sour worms. Specifically, it was these Crunchy Crawlers that I picked up on a whim in the Halloween aisle. Kids went bananas for them and I didn't even know they existed.
posted by LKWorking at 7:59 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]

Pop Rocks puts the Trick in Trick or Treat.
I also like zombie skittles for this reason but that’s for the older kids…
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:00 AM on August 25

Best answer: My actual human child still speaks wistfully of the full-size chocolate bars they received last year. However, one neighbor had a variety of Clif bars, and my kid wanted to eat that immediately, which I thought was an interesting data point. They also like glow sticks and cute little things like erasers or those squishy animals, which is probably what I'll do for our non-food treat this year.

Last year I had options! I did snack pouches from Costco of Pirate's Booty, regular popcorn, or veggie chips (pick one), as well as little keychain flashlights on glow-in-the-dark paracord, and/or mini chocolates. The flashlights were tremendously popular, as were little playdough cups and themed stickers in years past, but of the food options, most kids went for the veggie chips or popcorn. The chocolates were basically ignored except for by the youngest kids. It sounds like this year I'll need some sour stuff, so thanks for asking!
posted by teremala at 8:06 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]

Please don't purchase little plastic shit. On the other hand, right now is a great time to ask on your buy nothing group if any parents have accumulated piles of the kinds of treats they get in goodie bags. Many parents really have so many - I squirrel mine away and then give them out at Halloween along with candy. Stickers and temporary tattoos are good, though.
posted by vunder at 8:31 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: If I wanted grown up opinions like don't give my kids stupid toys I would have asked for grown up opinions 🎃👻🦇💀

I don't have to raise good citizens or send kids to college. I want the neighbor children to like me so they're nice to me when I get old, and I am not above bribery.
posted by phunniemee at 8:36 AM on August 25 [34 favorites]

Not a treat recommendation, but coming from someone who lived for 10 years of my adult life in one of those neighborhoods that goes balls to the wall for Halloween: fog. A fog machine or dry ice or anything similar makes kids squeal with delight. It sounds so simple and basic, and it is, but it works. I used to set up my front porch with jack o'lanterns flickering through fog with a Spotify playlist of chains dragging punctuated by the occasional shriek and oh my god now I have to figure out how to get kids to trick or treat where I live now.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:30 AM on August 25 [6 favorites]

Last year I put a few rubber eyeballs in the candy bowl. Not everyone wanted them, but the kids who did got really excited about them. (They are also available in glow-in-the-dark models.)

I've also had success with sticky, stretchy things. If you're not familiar with them, these are little things made out of some modern sticky rubbery substance that makes them stick to walls and ceilings and then slowly fall off or climb down. They are also super stretchy and so they make good fidgets, except for when kids throw them at other kids. Buts that's part of the fun of course.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 9:44 AM on August 25

I had a couple dozen fidget spinners a couple years ago, those were popular.
posted by bq at 10:01 AM on August 25

Best answer: My kids’ favorite house on Halloween (what they call “the jackpot house”) has the kids come into their foyer (though you can skip this and set up outside) where there are at least two tables set up with giant bowls, each with a different type of candy. They are instructed to take one candy FROM EACH BOWL.
posted by ellenaim at 10:14 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]

We have 2 of those inflatable giant costumes, one is a chicken, and the other is a trex. My teenage kids wear them, and dance in the driveway, pretend to fight each other, chase the kiddies a bit etc. Kids love it.

We usually give out a bag of chips (the Halloween size), 2 or 3 treat size chocolate bars, and 2 or 3 skittles/Swedish fish/fuzzy peaches.

So quantity!
posted by Ftsqg at 10:30 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]

I have done a few things over the past few years that neighbors took note of:

I had my firepit blazing so that kids and parents could warm up (31 degrees and flurries!)

I had a big insulated jug of hot chocolate and cups

I have had a cooler with a variety of beverages (mainly for adults)

Echo the sourpatch phenomenon

Tootsie rolls and mounds were not popular

HMart has a few different candies that my kids picked out (forgot which) that seemed to engage kids

Have separate bowls for chocolates and candies (when I did not, the kids would fish around)

Had a flashlight that I could pulse on and off to let unsure families that, yes, there was a house giving out candy down the block

A camp chair to relax between rounds

I most enjoy talking with kids and families. Joking with them. I have found that, where I live, people aren't engaging if/when they are just out in front of their house. It's good for people to know their neighbors!

Have fun!!
posted by zerobyproxy at 11:03 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Conversation just now with my 6yo:

Me: What’s your very very favorite thing to get when trick-or-treating?
6yo: CANDY!!
Me: What kind?
6yo: Um, Kit Kats and candy canes
Me: Would you rather have a full sized candy bar or a few smaller ones?
6yo: I don’t want a candy bar, I want a big handful of candy!

So, my data point of one says to have a variety of candy and let kids choose several! This is consistent with what she actually does on Halloween - she pretty much ignores any non-candy she gets (chips, toys, etc) and looooves having as many pieces of candy as possible.
posted by maleficent at 11:03 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]

Oh, and both my 6yo and my almost-3yo LOVE ring pops - I guess they’re more exciting than lollipops? So that might be a fun thing to have as an option.

I would not do little pre-made bags of candy - while my kid would never object to any candy, she seems to really love getting the opportunity to pick out her favorite piece(s) from the bowl.
posted by maleficent at 11:09 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We took our then-one-year-old trick or treating last year and the biggest problem we had was not every house had safe options for toddlers. Small toys are often choking hazards, as are candies that are not easily chewable (gum, hard candy like runts, small lollipops).

So if you have littles in your area, make sure there are safe options for them. Stickers and temporary tattoos were good toy options, m&ms and regular size Reese's (the mini are too big for toddlers to pop in their mouths and not easy to take bites from) were the best food choices.

Also, if you let kids have a choice, a platter is better than a bowl so they can see all the options, and make sure the light by your front door a) exists and b) is on continuously instead of motion sensor.
posted by jessica fletcher did it at 11:09 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]

Also, nthing that we really appreciated the houses where the candy givers just camped outside because we were able to chat with them more easily and could easily tell they were doing trick or treating, and kiddo didn't seem to mind not getting to knock on the door because omfg candy right there on the sidewalk.
posted by jessica fletcher did it at 11:12 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]

Year before last, the most popular goodies that I offered were individual sized bags of name brand chips and such, and, conversely, full sized hershey bars. Plus, I offered full sized other type candy bars; and considered the options so that I was certain of enjoying leftovers....

I was really surprised about the children's positive comments about the bags of chips.
posted by mightshould at 2:56 PM on August 25

My signature Hallowe'en giveaway are comic books (with some candy included); I stockpile cheap comic books during the year (especially from Free Comic Book Day). I do include four pieces of candy with the comic book; two chocolate, two non-chocolate.

I've had good success with the following items:
Non-Chocolate: Sour Patch Kids/Swedish Fish mixed bags, SweetTarts Skull & Bones and Charms Lollipops (Sweet or Sweet & Sour).

For Chocolate, I try to find items that are unusual, like Clark Cups.

Also take note of the Teal Pumpkin campaign regarding food allergies.

I also had some great feedback on the Hallowindow animation clips I displayed on a monitor in my front window.
posted by JDC8 at 5:27 PM on August 25

my kid (on the older end of T&T age, this is her last year) gets excited for the full size bars.

she throws away the plastic stuff.

slightly more upscale stuff like Dove chocolate is a hit. The round Lindor truffles get big love (you can get these at Costco.) Full size Reese's pb cups and Reese's pieces are also high on the status list.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:45 PM on August 25

Kids in the upper elementary grades often have braces and aren't allowed to bite into sticky or hard foods. It would be sweet to have some treats for them.
posted by SandiBeech at 9:34 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]

Actual quote from my then 5 year old while trick or treating last year:

Nice neighborhood lady: what kind of candy do you like?
Him: oh, luckily I like EVERYTHING

Of course he doesn’t like everything, but it feels like it. My kids eat maybe a grand total of twenty candies between the two of them and then forget about it and we donate the rest (we have a dentist office that collects it to mail to overseas service men and women). The thrill is filling up a bag with all the candy they can grab, not actually eating it. So I second getting small things that they can take multiples of (or enough big things if you’re feeling extra fancy!). They just want to feel like they are part of a secret conspiracy with fun strangers that “lets” them get away with taking absurd amounts of candy in one go.
posted by lydhre at 9:19 AM on August 26

For the love of all that is good and holy, everyone needs to cheese it with the glowsticks.

Idiot children like my son will crack them open and drink them. While they're non-toxic and it's certainly entertaining to watch a child's throat glow green, it's not super fun to have paramedics come to your house and contact manufacturers to determine toxicity levels for a 3 year old.

Also, everyone likes Skittles and nobody likes Tootsie Rolls.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:51 AM on August 26

The best house in the neighborhood we go to has a popcorn machine going, and everyone can go up and get fresh popped popcorn. That always feels pretty epic.
posted by bizzyb at 5:09 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]

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