by Loralee Leavitt and Elaine Bassett
Also see our article, Candy Experiments, for more great ideas on using up unwanted Halloween candy.
Candy is a traditional part of Halloween. But since it contains so much sugar, corn syrup, and artificial dye, many parents don’t want their children gorging on Halloween loot. Whether you’re planning a Halloween party, or using up candy after Halloween, these activities will help your children enjoy their Halloween candy without eating it.
With so many colors and textures, candy makes perfect art supplies. Turn it into mosaics with a stiff piece of white cardboard or foamboard, and some nontoxic glue. Make an airplane by crossing two pieces of taffy, or turn it into a dragonfly with Skittles eyes and licorice antennae. Lollipops become colorful flowers or balloons, and long lines of candy corn become caterpillars. Your children will come up with their own ideas, and you’ll start seeing landscapes, or alien cities, or many-legged monsters.
Magic Melting Candy
Candy melts into shining puddles and surprising shapes. To try some magic melting, let your children choose different pieces of candy to melt. Place the experiment candy on a foil-lined baking sheet, heat it in the oven at 300 degrees, and check back frequently to see what happens. Translucent candies like Jolly Ranchers melt into puddles like stained glass. Chocolate bars melt to reveal ingredients like peanuts. Licorice softens but doesn’t melt because it contains flour.
Since melted candy can be hotter than boiling water, don’t let children touch it with their fingers. Instead, use chopsticks or spoons to poke the melted candy. Never melt a jawbreaker, because they can potentially explode and cause burns.
Halloween’s a perfect time for potions, and kids love to mix and stir. Let them stir their Halloween candies into mad scientist potions. Set out spoons or colored straws for stirring, and give each child a clear cup of water. You could also use test tubes, small vases, or other containers with crazy shapes.
You’ll need a mix of candies with different shapes and colors (a bowl of M&M’s is especially useful because it contains the primary colors). To add some floating letters to the potion, let M&M’s or Skittles sit in water for awhile without stirring, and let the m’s and s’s peel off. If you want to add a little “snap, crackle, pop,” throw in some Pop Rocks.
As the children mix their potions, point out the new colors and smells they’ve created. They’ll also love naming their concoctions if you inspire them with ideas like “mad scientist mix-up,” “Halloween pumpkin potion,” or “zombie milkshake.”
Sour Acid Bubbling Potions
With the right ingredients, you can make Halloween potions that bubble. All you need is some water, baking soda, and Warheads. Give each child a clear cup of water and a little baking soda to stir into the water. Then unwrap some Warheads to drop into the solution. The baking soda in the water reacts with the sour acid in the candy to create bubbles.
This also works with Pixy Stix. Tear open a Pixy Stix tube and empty it into the baking soda water. It should bubble and fizz immediately. Experiment by swirling the Pixy Stix while dumping the powder in, to make spiraling, bubbling candy trails.
Jack o’ Lanterns
Don’t be scared by your Halloween candy. Instead, turn it into scary or smiling jack o’lantern faces. Cut stiff orange cardboard or cardstock into pumpkin shapes, or let children cut their own. Glue the candy on with tacky glue, or have a parent help with a glue gun. You can also soften sticky candy and press it on without glue. Use candy corn for glowing eyes, or black licorice for stretched-out smiles.
Sticky Candy Sculptures
Take advantage of candy’s bright colors by turning it into modeling clay. Use sticky Tootsie Rolls or Laffy Taffy to construct candy sculptures. Try buildings with translucent Jolly Rancher windows, or cars with Smarties or Lifesavers for wheels.
Keeping Halloween Candy Art
When you make candy crafts, be sure to use nontoxic glue, and display the final projects out of children's reach. If the projects contain soft or sticky candy like taffy, they won’t last long: sticky candy gets stickier the longer it’s out, and taffy sags and slides down. So admire the artwork and take some photos, and tell the kids they can do a replacement art project soon.
Whether you turn candy into science experiments or art supplies, your kids will love these new Halloween activities. When you’re done, they’ll be begging for more fun, not more candy.
Elaine Bassett is a long-time preschool teacher who designs art and science projects for the classroom.