When I was a child, I loved Easter almost as much as I loved Christmas. Each year, until I hit my teens, there were giant baskets filled with all kinds of sugary, candied treats. Much like a fully-loaded Christmas stocking, and near as sugar-fueled as a pillow-case on Halloween, Easter was a day of comparing, trading and consuming large amounts of candy.
Then I became a mom, and teetered between wanting my sons to share in our family tradition, and knowing that large bounties of jelly beans and chocolate bunnies weren't the healthiest gifts to give. Eventually, dentist bills and concern for their blood-sugar levels led me to reformulate the idea of a child's Easter basket. Does that mean no candy is exchanged on this festive day? Of course not, but a little balance in the basket never hurts. Below are my top picks for how to give a great, festive Easter basket and limit the amount of calories passing through your sweet-child's lips.
1. Gift-Cards or Gift-Certificates
Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial make it so easy to buy discounted tickets to events or fun places that burn calories instead of add them. Last Easter I gifted my sons a three-race trip to the go-kart track and the year before that, they were given a day at the paintball range. What about tickets to a favorite concert, or a new movie? Or how about a gift card to their favorite clothing or toy store? Prices for individual gift cards and certificates range from as low as $5 to as high as you're willing to spend. There's room in nearly everyone's budget for a great gift card, or two.
2. Hobby Supplies
Does your child like to draw, or make music? What about solve puzzles, or build model cars? Unleash their inner creator and fill their Easter baskets with the tools to make their imaginations catch fire. When my sons were younger I liked to include simple water-based paint palettes, paper and brushes because they loved to spend time drawing and painting. Now that they're older, they both enjoy playing music, and I load their baskets with things like guitar strings, drum sticks, pics and other musical supplies. They are relatively inexpensive and it ensures that they will continue with their passion even after the holiday is over. You can't say that with candy, now, can you?
Reading sometimes feels like it's going out of style, but I am a huge fan of giving great books to my children. Reading gives them a chance to have quiet time that doesn't involve munching. Plus, it engages their minds, and builds their vocabularies. Candy can't make that claim.
4. Scavenger Hunt
This works particularly well for younger kids, but even my older sons enjoy a well-executed scavenger hunt now and then. Place a few numbered clues in their baskets that lead them to other areas where there are more clues (maybe hidden inside toy Easter eggs?) until eventually, they track down a surprise. That gift can be anything you want to give. It's a wonderful way to add a little more movement in the morning and get their blood pumping.
5. Healthy Snacks
Instead of marshmallow chicks, flavored jelly beans, and caramel cream-filled chocolate eggs, fill their baskets with baggies of seeds, nuts and fresh fruits like tiny apple-bananas, grapes, or easy-to-peel Clementines. Be creative! Incorporate foods that won't cause their blood sugar to crash in an hour and fill their desire to munch on something in the morning.
I always like to include a few specialty candy items in my children's baskets, but nowadays I opt for dark, fair trade chocolate infused with dried fruit and nuts. My kids still feel like they're getting the prerequisite candy-hit and I know they're also getting some healthy antioxidants in the process.
Bryanne Salazar is a freelance writer and editor, a contributing author for the website What the Flicka?, and a food-meets-culture blogger living in Southern California. Her blog, Bryanne Bites the World documents her explorations of various ethnic communities and food cultures across the United States. Bryanne has a degree in English focused on creative writing, and loves to pen short stories in her spare time. She is also an advocate for women and girls worldwide, the mother of two teenage boys, and the wife of an active duty United States Marine. You can follow Bryanne on Twitter and Facebook to see what she's working on next.