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Four Hacks for Safely Distributing Candy on Halloween

Candy chutes, like this one crafted by Jaimie Nakae and Jay Greiner of the Austin-based Wicked Makers, are a popular idea for safely distributing sweets this year. Photo: Youtube

Like a lot of holidays this year, Halloween isn’t going to be the same. While it isn’t canceled, children and adults will have to adjust their trick-or-treating plans to follow social-distancing guidelines and other safety protocols set by the CDC, which discourage direct contact when handing out candy. Like any challenge born of the pandemic, though, folks seem to be meeting this one with gusto, coming up with ingenious hacks to (safely) distribute treats to the kiddos (or kiddos at heart) who come collecting on Halloween this year. To help anyone looking for ways to responsibly get in on the fun, we spoke to five people about how they plan to adapt their trick-or-treating plans for the pandemic. Their four hacks below range from simple (a trash-grabbing arm instead of a real arm) to more elaborate (crafting a dedicated candy chute) to self-contained (host a scavenger hunt on your lawn or those of trusted neighbors). Whatever method you choose, you might also want to read what public-health experts told our friends at Eater about how to approach any form of trick-or-treating this year.

Use a grabber

According to Susan Fox, the founder of Brooklyn-based community organization Park Slope Parents, a simple and inexpensive way to keep a bit of distance from yourself and trick-or-treaters is to use a grabber. “It’s so much fun to use the trash picker-uppers,” she says, adding, “I thought it would give folks a thrill.” If you already have one, Fox says you can decorate it with ghoulish accents like spiderwebs. If you do not, this affordable grabber feels appropriately festive: It’s shaped like a gorilla’s arm (down to the hand) and even has fur. The tool extends a user’s reach by 18 inches.

If you’re looking for a grabber that feels more safe than silly, this set comes with two that each extend one’s reach by 32 inches (or almost three feet). And this is not just any grabber: It’s actually the go-to model for writer David Sedaris, who counts picking up trash as one of his hobbies.

Make a candy chute

If you want to keep a minimum of six feet between yourself and your treat-seeking visitors, a couple of homeowners told us about the chutes they are cobbling together to safely convey candy to trick-or-treaters. One of them is Rob Eastland, who says his neighborhood usually gets “well over 1,000 kids” each Halloween. He saw the idea for a chute online, telling us it’s “a reasonable way to be able to pass out candy and maintain social distance: It allows us to send the candy down while standing six feet away from the street where the kids are.” The basic idea is that a kid waits at the bottom of the chute with their bag open to catch the candy, and Eastland says all you need is a PVC pipe, a couple of screws, some picture-hanging wire, and something to decorate the pipe with. “It isn’t difficult — just a piece of PVC pipe,” he says. Eastland used a 3.5-inch wide pipe that he sawed to seven-feet long (the pipes typically come in ten-foot pieces) because it’ll be positioned at an angle. “It actually has to be longer than six feet,” he notes. He put a screw in the pipe at either end, then put wire around those screws so that he could hang the pipe from his stoop railing. To make it a bit more festive, he wrapped the pipe in a design made with orange and purple duct tape and strung some lights on it to make it more visible. “That is pretty much it,” he says. “You kind of have to push the candy down with some force to make sure it goes all the way to the bottom, but it works.” As a final step, he says he’s considering making square on the sidewalk out of tape, so trick-or-treaters know where to stand to successfully catch their booty.

Jaimie Nakae and Jay Greiner of the Austin-based Wicked Makers YouTube Channel also told us they built a candy chute, but one that’s freestanding, for properties that might not have a stoop or railing. Their chute requires a bit more of a DIY spirit, but is also made from PVC pipes, which they later wrapped in gauze for a mummified effect. (You can see their finished product in the main photo for this story). The basic materials they used are below; again, you’ll need a saw to cut the pipes, but Nakae and Grenier offer free step-by-step instructions on their website and made a video on how they put their chute together, too. Grenier adds that if you don’t want to build a stand, you can use a ladder to prop up the higher end of the chute and a stool to prop up the lower end. “The main thing is you don’t want it to fall off on and land on somebody, so just make sure it’s securely attached to whatever you’re using.”

Put a pumpkin in your window

Earlier this year, you might have read about how the borough of Brooklyn basically became a giant I Spy game after residents started to decorate their doors and windows with pictures of rainbows. (Called the Rainbow Connection Map, the phenomenon, according to the Cut, was a way to get kids excited about going outside at a time when they couldn’t really do more than take socially distanced walks with their parents.) If you’re planning to trick-or-treat in Brooklyn, Amanda Sue Nichols, a member of the Cobble Hill Association, has organized a twist on the concept called the Halloween Pumpkin Hunt. “One of the best parts about Halloween is that it’s a thing where everybody everywhere does kind of the same thing. They all go out and they’re on the street,” Nichols says. “I tried to think of what would be something that could be socially distant, easy for parents, and fun for kids.”

Those who want to participate in the pumpkin hunt can add their address to a mapped database that Nichols set up. (While it can accept addresses anywhere in the world, the majority of participants appear to be clustered across Brooklyn.) From there, participants are encouraged to hang images of pumpkins in their windows, whether they’re made from templates Nichols offers or purchased like the above cutouts. “On Halloween, kids can go out and look for the pumpkins in windows,” Nichols explains, noting that candy can either be given by parents (as a prize for every pumpkin spotted) or collected at participating households that may choose to just leave a selection of treats in a bowl near their front door (how Nichols plans to distribute her own candy). She says it’s “something fun and Halloween-y” that captures the spirit of trick-or-treating, but in the safer way this year demands.

Organize a scavenger hunt

Nakae and Grenier told us that in addition to using a chute, they’re going to organize a candy scavenger hunt outside their house on Halloween. “Everybody is hiding candy at their house and providing clues for the trick-or-treaters,” explains Nakae, who adds that this idea is easy enough to get neighbors in on, too. “Each family goes separately to different houses to find the candy somewhere in the yard.” The main requirement for this approach, of course, is the candy. While you could go with any individually wrapped kind, we think these glow-in-the-dark versions of Hershey’s classic sweets (from our list of 2019 status Halloween candy) will be easier to find. If you want it to arrive by Halloween, just know that Target says you have to order the candy by noon on October 28.

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Four Hacks for Safely Distributing Candy on Halloween