Friday, April 22, 2011

Healthy Easter Basket Ideas


Did you know that Americans spend around $2 billion each year on Easter candy? Did you know that loading up Easter baskets with candy is a relatively new phenomenon? Eggs have always been a part of Spring and Easter festivals predating passover. Eggs are a pagan symbol of fertility and rebirth. Dying eggs came a bit later and may have originated in Poland, possibly around the 13th century. But candy? How did that come into play?

Some theorize that it was the exchange of Hot Cross Buns for Easter many hundreds of years ago that began the treat giving on Easter. In 1361, a monk named Father Thomas Rockcliffe began a tradition of giving Hot Cross Buns to the poor of St. Albans on Good Friday. Interestingly, like so many Easter symbols, Hot Cross Buns have their roots in ancient pagan traditions. Hot cross buns are regarded by many as the outgrowth of the ancient Pagan sacramental cakes, eaten by Anglo-Saxons in honor of their goddess, Eostre. The cross on the bun representing the four quarters of the moon.

The exact origin of the Easter Bunny is unclear, but rabbits are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. Some theorize that it has its roots in the 1700's, when Germans settled on the East Coast of the United States and brought with them their tradition of an egg-laying hare called "Osterhase" or "Oschter Haws." Their children made nests in which this creature would lay its colored eggs. The custom then eventually spread across the United States and the Easter Bunny's early morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, using decorated baskets to replace the nests.

The business of selling candy on Easter began to take off from the 1930's to the 1960's when candy makers began developing new candies and displaying them in storefront windows before Easter. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics for 2007, each person in the U.S. eats about 24.5 pounds of candy per year! That is a lot of toxic sugar, food dyes, and chemical stabilizers going into a young child's growing body each year!

Are there other alternatives? Yes! 




This is a photo I took in 2005 on Easter when our oldest daughter was 3 years old. Her basket is filled with natural goodies (it was also the only photo I could find of one of our Easter baskets)! These are some great ideas for all children:

  • organic fruit leathers
  • chamomile tea bags 
  • organic sunflower seeds for the garden (any seed pack would work) 
  • a small box of Glee Gum 
  • some natural children's toothpaste and a new toothbrush 
  • natural lotion and soap 
  • a few dark chocolates
  • art supplies 

I always fill the Plastic Easter Eggs with simple things that be used in creative play or eaten as a healthy snack. It is the joy of opening them up to see what's inside for young children, not the exact contents:

  • polished stones 
  • crystals
  • marbles 
  • beeswax crayons
  • money
  • raw nuts and seeds 
  • dried cranberries 
  • dried mango 
  • usually a few organic jelly beans


Interested in dying eggs naturally? We've done it before with red onion skins, turmeric, and spirulina. Here is a link to an exact process for dying eggs with natural colors from plants: Naturally Dyed Eggs from Healthy Child Healthy World, which originally came from Michelle Stern's blog What's Cooking with Kids!

Please share any other ideas you have for a Healthy Easter Basket. I would love to know what you do for your children! :)



27 comments:

  1. Well, no kids, but I have some ideas.

    I think Justin's Nut Butters (or other single-serve nut butter packages) are fun for kids (and adults) and make a neat basket addition.

    As a kid I loved to write and sketch, and a cute, small notebook with a spring like design on the cover (recycled paper a bonus!) and a neat new pen of my own always got me excited.

    I love your seeds idea! So cool to teach kids gardening at a young age.

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  2. This year I am putting in some of the Mama K's Aromatic Play Clay since I've tried a few times to create my own gluten free, pleasantly scented/colored dough without much luck. We'll see how that goes! I also put in some little soy rock crayons.

    For food treats, last year I made fruit leather and cut it into shapes using cookie cutters and then stuck those in the eggs. I was contemplating an organic vegan chocolate bunny this year, but it's too late to order one, so we'll likely skip it. I don't know if I am ready for organic jelly beans yet! I know it gets more difficult once there are older kids around who know more about the standard Easter basket fare :-).

    I also have some little yarn bunny finger puppets that make their way into the Easter basket, hang around for a week and then disappear until the next Easter. Any bunny stuffed animals appear for the week and then go into hiding as well.

    Last year I did a thematic basket with some herbs for her to plant and I used an eco-friendly sand bucket as the basket and tucked in the shovel and rake with a few seed packets of flowers and radishes. At 2.5, she was more into the idea of things in a basket, things in eggs, and digging in the dirt.

    We're looking forward to whipping up some of your Easter cookies tomorrow! Maybe one or two might make their way into the basket too. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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  3. we've had some recent dental caries for our youngest, and i bought a bunch of xylitol candy this year. . . i love to do little goodies like nail stickers, chapsticks, etc for my daughters in their easter eggs too, we have dyed our eggs naturally this year and last, it's a lot of fun to just CREATE ways to give one another goodness instead of junk!

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  4. These are all such great ideas. I have always given toothbrushes and toothpaste. Love the idea of seeds, art supplies and shiny "gems"!

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  5. I just went to the store today to get Easter basket stuff for my daughter. I got her art supplies, little pretty notebooks with pens, a tiny pot with seeds to grow basil and a few other little pretty things.

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  6. I usually make home made cookies or cupcakes in fancy Spring shapes, but I think they are catching on that the Easter bunny has the same cutters and mold as I do! This year I made cocoa butter and honey lolly pops in a bunny mold, but the honey pops cracked as I took them out so I'm still thinking of what to do! My 7 year old is on SCD now, so nothing store-bought to eat, as far as sweets go. The fruit leather shapes is a great idea, if I can get around to dehydrating tonight.... I usually put new clothes (a tee shirt or funny socks) because they take up room, books (Star Wars this year, because my oldest girl is into that!)

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  7. This year is the first year we're doing an Easter Basket, my oldest is 5 and the youngest is 1. We don't normally eat candy, but the 5 year old saw the organic jelly beans at our local coop, so we caved. For their basket there is bubbles, stickers, a harmonica (for the 5 year old), a jingle bells bracelet (noise maker for the 1 year old), a small stuffed bunny, some organic fair trade chocolate bites. We're also going to hide some plastic eggs around the house. I will probably leave them empty though as they like to use them in "cooking".

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  8. Last year we gave the girls jump ropes, a pretty perenial to plant in the garden, some pretty hairclips and a few wooden eggs with a few raw chocoltates, jelly beans and coins. This year we did a craft theme and they will receive again the few organic jelly beans, raw organic chocolates, bunny pencils, a few stickers, stamp pads with peace and love stamps, beading kits, cotton rainbow yarn, and new stainless steel water bottles ('cause they need them :)

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  9. What great ideas Ali (and everyone who has commented). This is the first year that there will not be any candy in my boys' Easter Baskets (due to our extensive dietary restrictions at the moment), and I find myself having MORE FUN planning their baskets! I bought several Lego people to put in plastic eggs, as well as art supplies, and outdoor toys, like water guns. I'm also adding some Jelly Belly Bubbles (great smell, no sugar or artificial dyes!), and have some of Mama K's Aromatic Play Clay to add as well.

    I LOVE the idea of adding seeds for the garden (we have a little plot for our boys to have as their own and this will be perfect).

    Great post Ali, thank you!

    xo,
    Heidi

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  10. Thanks everyone for sharing all of your creative ideas! Since I have not yet put together the Easter baskets here, I now have some new ideas! :)

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  11. This year I put strawberries in the plastic eggs. The kids loved hunting for them and eating them!

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  12. We don't do Easter because we're Muslim, but I make my daughter an "Earth Day Bag" to help her acclimate to her public school environment. This year, I gave her one of those spin toothbrushes that you decorate yourself, some sunglasses, hologram stickers, a pinwheel, flip flops, and some mini planting pots- but I've also given her things like airdry clay, flavored natural chapsticks, freeze-dried fruit, and clip on earrings! The possibilities are endless...

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  13. These are lovely ideas... I'll end up giving my kids some regular chocolate I'm sure, but only in very small amounts on special occasions like Easter and with lots of other better treats thrown in-- art supplies are the best idea! And I love the idea of giving seeds too.

    My favorite way to dye eggs is to make Ukranian Psanky, with wax, so that's probably what my children will end up thinking is "normal." I have no idea if all natural dye holds up under those conditions... Since it's an ancient tradition I'm sure real psanky dye is at least more natural than regular dye, though.

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  14. what a brilliant post! i loved this - so helpful :)

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  15. To fill up a lot of eggs, buy a small puzzle and put a piece in each egg. After the hunt, put the puzzle together!

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  16. This year my son is almost two, still too young for candy. I bought him some fruit leathers for his basket but forgot to put them in there! I did a few small/simple toys in a basket. Wooden fruit for his kitchen and some wooden eggs. Stickers. A puzzle. We also did some finger painting today for easter and went to a park. Simple family stuff is the best.

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  17. Ali - I'm a little late to the party but I love your ideas!! When Joe and I have kids I want to be just like you. :)

    Sending hugs!!
    Amy

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  18. I just wanted to add that for my daughter's basket I've used the bunny crackers or cookies from Annie's. Organic fruit filled pouches, bug bite chocolate, and naturally dyed eggs. I love the idea of fruit leather!

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  19. Ali, do you happen to have a good gluten free play doh recipe? I've tried a few recipes without much success. My new Easter basket addition this year are the face paint pencils by Lyra. Instead of faux grass I think I'll use some of our play silks. I love to re-read this post and all the comments for ideas!

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  20. Jennifer - I just got this gluten-free play dough recipe from a friend. She made it and gave it to my boys for their 4th b-day this past winter. Here it is:

    1/2 cup white rice flour
    1/2 cup corn starch, arrowroot, or potato starch
    1/2 cup salt
    1 cup water
    2 teaspoons cream of tartar
    1 teaspoon oil
    quite a few drops of natural food dye

    Mix in a pot and cook on the stove on medium heat for about 3 minutes or until a ball forms. Add more rice flour if dough seems sticky. You can use India Tree natural dye.

    This would make a great addition to an Easter Basket for sure! :)

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    1. Ha! I just found this reply in 2014--but it's still relevant and we still need a good GF dough recipe! :-) Hooray.

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  21. We have put a packet of pea seeds in the basket. For several years my Dad would help our oldest plant the peas the next day. My Dad has passed, and last year I couldn't bring myself to put the pea seeds in the basket.
    Eggs are usually filled with GF cereal - as they get eaten as they are found. This way there's no candy eaten before church!

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  22. Great ideas!
    We decided not to do easter, but celebrate the equinox instead so we already did our basket this year. The girls got a few fun spring themed books, some piggy paints nail polish and remover, pillow case dresses I made and some pretty spring jammies (we do jammies at christmas too... my girls wear their jammies right out!). Oh, and my oldest got a wood bead necklace and bracelet (to replace all the cheap *scary* jewelry she's been given by well meaning relatives).

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  23. Forgot to add;

    Last year we did playsilks that I dyed myself (so easy) and some little wood toys I painted (eggs, stars bowls) for counting/sorting.

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  24. I have 2 boys. Last year I put together a huge flat of all our favorite vegetable starts; lettuce, carrots, herbs, tomatoes, and seed packets. I also included new gardening gloves and added in a note from the Easter Bunny explaining that he was so excited to visit their new garden as it grows. We have a few wild bunnies who visit in the summer so this was extra fun. This year we want to build a honey bee hive so I'll include some of the building supplies. Other ideas are children’s cooking aprons, small puzzles and books - Peter Rabbit, The Golden Egg, The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes.

    I love your blog Ali & Tom. It is such an inspiration. Every recipe I have tried has been wonderful!!

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  25. Xylitol? NO. That's not a healthy candy option. Stick with more natural things like chocolate, fruit, nuts. Label read. If you don't know what it is-put it back.

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  26. Check out our Easter items at Tacoma Food Co-op in Tacoma, WA.

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