With Easter just around the corner, I have been collecting a few treats to create a fun & healthy Easter basket, without the sugar overload.
I remember as a child being so excited about Easter – I have such fond memories of Easter egg hunts, crawfish boils (it’s Louisiana after all) and tons of chocolate. I especially loved those chocolate peanut butter eggs. My sister and I were very different when it came to our Easter basket loot – I would gorge myself and eat it all within a day or two, while she quite sensibly savored hers one piece at a time, sometimes for months!
However, now I realize that almost all mainstream candy contains not only huge amounts of sugar but also high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, dyes and partially hydrogenated oils. In addition to the high and crash, sugar can cause a weakened immune system, which is all the more reason to limit your family’s intake. Preservatives such as TBHQ have been linked to food allergies and cancer. Artificial colors and dyes have been linked cancer and hyperactivity in children. Partially hydrogenated oils are so bad for your heart that even the FDA has gotten involved.
The negative effects of sugar and chemical additives are bad enough for an adult, but even worse for a young child who is still growing and developing.
Each year, I plan in advance to select a few fun things for my little one’s healthy Easter basket, including some small items for Easter eggs, a few larger items to fill the basket, and some alternatives to mainstream Easter candy. So if you’re planning a healthy Easter basket for your young family members or even just looking for a fun Easter gift, read on.
Easter Egg Fillers
With my group of mom friends, we usually do an Easter Egg hunt for our kids, and each mom brings a dozen plastic Easter eggs filled with fun treats for the kids. The hunting is most of the fun – what’s inside doesn’t necessarily matter so much.
Here are some non-candy Easter egg fillers we’ve used in the past:
- Eco Eggs – I love these eggs which are made from a non-toxic plant-based plastic.I prefer the larger size as it’s easier to fit the surprises inside. They are a bit more expensive than regular eggs, but can be used year after year, so I consider them a good investment. When you are really finished with them, they are fully compostable. These are a no-brainer if you’re concerned about plastic safety and reducing your plastic use. If I hadn’t already bought plenty of Eco Eggs, I would consider buying some wooden eggs like these.
- Finger puppets – these sweet finger puppets are made of organic cotton.
- Bandaids – these were a HUGE hit. My little one immediately applied one bandage to each finger, looking like a prize-fighter with taped knuckles. Tip – be sure to select latex-free and keep an eye out for allergic reactions to the adhesives. I have often found really cute Target-brand bandaids in their bargain section at the front of the store. They don’t always have them, but I stock up when they do. The designs are super-cute and non-commercial, and the price is right at $1 per box.
- Iwako Japanese eraser toys – these are another huge hit. Each little Iwako eraser is like a small puzzle – the animals come apart and it’s fun to put them back together again or to make “girelephants” or other unusual creatures. I’ve used them to fill our Advent calendar, birthday party favor bags, and Christmas stockings. And they are lead-free, phthalate-free, latex-free and PVC-free. NB: These are a choking hazard for very young kids.
- Hair accessories – I know my girl never tires of new clips, barrettes and bows.
- Lego People – Why is there always a shortage of Lego people? The big kid lego figurines are just the right size for an Easter egg. Some of the Duplo (little kid Leogs) figurines will fit inside the largest size Eco egg, but not a standard size Easter egg.
- Lip Balm – if your kiddos know not to eat them, lip balms are a fun Easter egg filler. When I’m buying for kiddos or myself, I always choose an organic lip balm made from natural beeswax or coconut oil. Dr. Bronner’s makes one of my favorite lip balms.
- Stickers – I often pick up a roll of these stickers to hand out as treats or add to favor bags. You can cut them into strips of one, two, three stickers to fit into an egg. The roll of 500 Easter stickers is a great deal if you have a lot of eggs to fill, but there are tons of different designs and holiday-themed sticker rolls (usually in 100 or 500 stickers).
Bigger Items for the Easter Basket
Choosing other items for the basket, I try to make it fun while not going overboard. I keep in mind the popular rhyme “Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.” When it’s time to buy new pajamas, socks, or undies, why not choose something fun and themed for the holiday? While I’m always trying to limit the number of stuffed animals and toys, in our house the rule is you can never have too many books.
- Lego Easter Chick – I think most kids would be thrilled with any new Lego set, but this Easter chick (age 7+) is so fun! There’s also an Easter bunny (age 6+). Note that these are big kid Legos, so if your little one isn’t there yet, try this Lego Duplo set – My First Garden. I love Legos as a fun and educational toy – I think they are great for development and I have such fond memories of playing with them as a child.
- Smart Games Bunny Peek A Boo – we love this fun & educational game. The object is to draw a card and then place the bunny and the 3 wooden shapes in the same position as shown on the card. Great for spatial perception and problem-solving. The pieces are made of solid wood with non-toxic paint and it is recommended for ages 2-5. We also have Castle Logix which is the same type of game, but for a slightly older group (3-8 years).
- Memory/Matching Card Game – we have been gifted a couple of different versions of these matching games and they are always fun to play for kids and adults. Especially good for airplane travel.
- Socks – animal themed socks. I already bought another set of animal socks, but these bunny rabbit socks are adorable!
- Pajamas – my little one loves getting a fun new pair of pajamas and I tend to update her pajamas around the holidays. I love the organic cotton pajamas in cute designs from Hatley. For us, they have lasted long enough to be handed down when outgrown. Hanna Andersson is another wonderful source for organic pajamas. Fun undies are also a big hit with the kiddos. We only buy organic cotton undies, and I have bought them mostly from Hanna Andersson or Under the Nile.
- Sticker Books – I love the Usborne sticker books. This year I’m including the Easter stickers, but I can see the atlas and space sticker books being a big hit.
- Books – Pete the Cat is a big hit in our house, and classics such as the Velveteen Rabbit, Peter Rabbit, the Runaway Bunny or Guess How Much I Love You are fun this time of year. I love all of Jan Brett’s beautifully illustrated books, and the Easter Egg is no exception. Duck! Rabbit! by the late great Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a modern classic and funny for all ages.
- Experiences – As my kiddo gets older, I’m trying to move away from more toys and stuff, and towards experiences instead. For example, tickets to a show or a film, a round of mini golf, a trip to the zoo, a painting class, etc.
Sweet Treat Candy Alternatives
I usually add a handful of healthy candy alternatives. Because we rarely have candy or other treats with refined sugar, my little one considers things like fruit leathers, fruit strips and fruit gummies to be treats.
- YoYo Bear Fruit Strips – these are great. They have no concentrates, added sugar, preservatives, stabilizers or gumming agents.
- Annie’s Organic Orchard Fruit Bites – these are only sweetened with fruit juice, as opposed to the regular Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks which are sweetened with cane sugar.
- Fruit leathers – I like the Stretch Island Organic fruit leathers.
- eatingEVOLVED chocolate bars – probably more for older children or adults as I’ve only seen these in dark chocolate. I personally love them – you can buy them in bulk on Amazon, or some Whole Foods locations stock them. They also have coconut butter chocolate cups which are an alternative to mainstream chocolate peanut butter eggs – I haven’t tried them, but looking forward to tasting them this Easter. eatingEVOLVED chocolate products are dairy-free, soy-free and sweetened with coconut sugar (instead of stevia which is more common but triggers migraines for me).
- Hail Merry cups & tarts – I love the Hail Merry range of treats – they do need to be refrigerated so you’ll need to add them to the basket at the last minute. They are delicious and sweetened with natural sweeteners rather than refined sugar. My favorite is the dark chocolate tart, but the chocolate almond tart and chocolate almond cups are a tie for runner-up. Find them in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods or your local natural grocer.
- Other treats – I look for items labelled Paleo, even though we don’t follow a completely Paleo diet. Most of these are sweetened with coconut sugar or honey (and often stevia which I avoid due to migraine triggers).
This post ended up being much longer than I expected, but I hope you’ve found at least a few healthy Easter basket ideas from my list. Let me know if you have any other suggestions for fun Easter-themed gifts!
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy Easter!
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