Treats that will do the trick

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Today's trick-or-treaters are tomorrow's teenagers. So before you inspire a generation to return in a few years to egg your house, avenging the injustice of receiving horrible candy in their younger days, take some care when deciding what to hand out on Halloween.

Halloween candy is a peculiar item, as it seems like it defies the laws of time. Halloween candy trends are the same as they were 20 years ago. In fact, it might be inappropriate to even use the word trend in this situation, as trends are usually associated with new ideas or likes. So use a little common sense when purchasing candy for this year's festivities. Not that long ago, you, too, were a kid. What did you like? What did you wish you received? What did you hate? You should ask yourself all of those questions, as odds are you will be dealing with a bounty of leftover candy on Nov. 1.

So for those out there who are a little out of touch with what's hot in the candy industry and the minds of children, here is a small list of some of the best and worst candies to give out this Halloween night.


Any name brand chocolate treat
These old time favorites are an easy "go-to" when shopping the candy aisles. Most everyone enjoys a Fun-Size Snickers bar or two and if the kids don't eat them, the parents probably will. Another good choice are Reese's Cups; the kids love the mix of peanut butter and chocolate, and dropping one or two of these in their bags will surely send them on their way with a smile.

Small packages of assorted fruit candies
This is a solid staple of Halloween candy and leaves you with a lot of options. Generally, everyone enjoys a handful of Skittles, Sweet Tarts, Runts and the like, so very little thought is needed when purchasing a variety of these candies. The multi-colored candy pieces appeal to the ADHD-riddled children, and the sugar content should be high enough to keep their energy -- and their parents -- up all night.

The Whistle Pop
This delicious and musical treat is arguably the Holy Grail of Halloween night. A benefit of distributing these melodic lollipops is the satisfaction of knowing your candy not only made the child you gave it to happy, but it also forces the parents to listen to a butchered version of "Skip to my Lou" squealing out of a hard candy hole for the rest of the evening. The sucker actually comes with sheet music. Candy and entertainment, what more could a kid ask for?

Honorable Mention

Blow Pops: With a variety of decent flavors and bubble gum in the middle, this lollipop is twice the fun.

Candy jewelry: Kids love eating these wearable treats. They may even add them to their costumes before they get home.

Sugar Daddies: Eating one of these hard caramel suckers will keep a kid occupied for at least an hour. Their dentists won't appreciate the chewy treat, but the children surely will.


Candy Corn
A waxy, multi-colored, triangular piece of staleness, Candy Corn is neither candy nor corn. Frankly, it's amazing that anyone ever thought people would eat these for enjoyment. They are the candy that friends, family, bosses and doctors sit on their tables around Halloween time as a gesture of kindness, spirit and tradition; but really they're saying, "Here, you eat these. I'll save the good candy for myself." The brittle staleness of every piece of candy corn I've ever tasted leads me to believe that the world's supply of Candy Corn was made all at once in 1955, and they've been milking the effects of inflation to turn profits. There must be some flailing candy factory that counts down the minutes until Halloween, when they ship out these horrible excuses for candy in hopes of clearing out their warehouse. They may be cheap, and they may be recognizable, but you may have some trick-or-treaters saying, "No, thank you." You'll find yourself with a bounty of useless treats, stocking them away until next year. Just like everybody else.

The black-and-orange-wrapped mystery toffee
Two questions: Does anyone know what these are? Or who makes them? These forgotten step-sisters of the Mary Jane seem to be made of candy by-products, as if whatever ingredients fell to the floor or got cleaned out of the mixing stations at the Hershey factory were smashed together, re-melted and wrapped in a generic orange or black wax paper. Even the bags they come in are discretely labeled as if no sweets company in the world is willing to tarnish its good name with the bitter stickiness of these mystery candies. So do your neighborhood children a favor and steer clear of these candy impostors.

Don't laugh just yet. This really happens. Usually handed out by grandmothers, a handful of these copper discs are sure to have the kids looking in their jack-o'-lantern buckets in disbelief. Sure, pennies are money, but you may end up offending the local children. They will assume that you hadn't realized it was Halloween until it was too late, and this is your lame attempt at appeasing them. Or they will think you are trying to trick them into thinking they received more than just four cents. If October 31 rolls around and you find yourself without candy, do everyone a favor and turn off your porch light and keep the door closed. Pennies are no substitute for candy -- not now, not before, not ever.

Dishonorable Mention

School supplies: It's usually retired teachers that hand out these Halloween buzz kills. Just when the kids start having fun, someone hands them a pencil and reminds them that they actually have to get up for school the next day.

Dubble Bubble: This generic gum is like candy corn in the fact that you never see it until Halloween starts creeping up. Once October hits, though, retailers dust off the boxes of this powder-covered gum and toss it on the shelves. If inhaled, the gum dust that covers these chewy treats is enough to make you cough. If the cough persists, please contact your local poison control center.

Homemade sweets: This is kind of a hit-or-miss category. Sometimes children strike gold with a baggie of savory homemade chocolate chip cookies. But more often than not, people who hand out these treats in place of candy would have been better off giving them to the dog.

Butterscotch: If you hand this out, children are going to cry and think that you looted their Grandma's coffee table.

New ideas

These are a few ideas to try and force change in the stagnant traditions of Halloween. With new technologies, trends and styles, why are we locked into the same old candy routine every year? These ideas are also great for those who are weary of being sued by a trick-or-treater's parents because their child who ate a bucketful of candy is "big-boned."

Just be honest with yourself: You know you won't buy an iPod until they drop to $100 or become mandatory, but half of these kids just got one for their birthday. So save up those Pepsi bottle caps with a free iTunes offer and consider tossing a few the way of your trick-or-treaters. If you're trying to get creative and are tired of storing candy after each year, maybe this could be a trendy alternative.

Old video games
Try recycling some of your old Playstation games that you haven't played in a while. Instead of spending $3 in gas to drive to your local store and receive $2 for a game you paid $50 for, just give it away to the kid that looks most deserving. If a child dressed like a football player knocks at your door, throw him that copy of Madden 2002 that's been collecting dust since '03 debuted. If he's dressed like Anakin Skywalker, toss him the Star Wars game you never liked anyway.

New ideas that should remain ideas

These are things that could fall under the category of worst, but I doubt anyone is creative enough, crazy enough or broke enough to actually try any of these. Don't try any of these or you may become a pariah.

Knick-knacks and fridge magnets
Whatever you do, don't mention this idea to obsessive compulsive pack-rats who save every little trinket they've ever purchased while on vacation or at a flea market. People with an overload of useless objects will be rushing to rid themselves of their unneeded refrigerator adornments to make way for newer unneeded refrigerator adornments. This could be a new lease on life for pack rats and a total buzz kill for trick-or-treaters.

Kerry/Edwards Stickers
OK, a lot of people have these lying around the house or shamefully sticking to their bumpers. But just because you're still in denial and have refused to throw them away doesn't mean you should pawn them off on children. If you do, you may put a bitter taste in the mouths of future voters. When they hit voting age they'll think back on the cheap, eccentric Democrat who handed them a worthless sticker. Better to remain disillusioned, keep you fingers crossed, get out the black sharpie, and change the '04 to '08.

Hopefully these lists will help you in your Halloween candy decisions. Buying bad candy is just a no-win situation. The unhappy children will try to pawn off the unlikable treats to their unsuspecting friends, but more importantly you are likely to get stuck with half a bag of bad candy at the end of the night. So buy something you enjoy eating. Your standard candies haven't changed in years, and although your Cowboy costume can't compare to an elaborate Harry Potter get-up, your candy tastes have transcended to the younger generations.

Why not give kids what they want and enjoy the excited expressions they give off when they realize they've gotten good candy? You might have a little fun and bring a few Halloween memories of your own back to light. It's times like Halloween that allow us to look back on our younger days and live vicariously through the children that come to our doors. So don't be a grump. Throw up a few decorations, add some scary music, sit on the porch and happily greet the neighborhood children with some candy they will actually enjoy.

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