Complete Guide to a Happy, Healthy Easter
Do the Easter Bunny Bop Bop! Step left, right, left; then hop, hop. Big bunny ears go flop flip flop in the Easter Bunny Bop Bop. Every Easter Egg has some magic inside. If you’re lucky there might even be a surprise.” Find plenty of fun, surprises, and maybe even a little magic in this complete guide to a happy, healthy Easter.
Setting the Stage
The “Easter Bunny Bop” is the song that’s been playing in our house for a few weeks now. My wife and I always YouTube these kinds of videos around major holidays. It is one of our strategies to ensure we have a successful holiday. While Gavin, our 9 year old, understands the calendar and knows that Easter is coming soon, his siblings really have no idea. Our daughter is 2, and we also have a 10 year old with autism. Videos like this one from Bounce Patrol set the stage for what is about to happen in the next few weeks. They also contain fun little songs that we can sing while we are in car rides, or waiting in that long line to see the Easter Bunny.
Preparation is the key to limiting potential meltdowns during all these “fun” Easter activities. Simply talking to the kids and explaining what is going to happen just before we leave for the event isn’t enough when dealing with young kids or a child with autism. They may need to be told a dozen times that we’re going to go see the Easter Bunny soon.
Happy, Healthy Easter Jams from Bounce Patrol
There are 5 main events to Easter for most parents:
- Easter Bunny Pictures
- Dyeing Easter Eggs
- Egg Hunts
- Easter Baskets
- Easter Brunch
Within all of these activities, there are a few basic things that parents can do to help set the table for happy, healthy Easter fun.
Basic Tools for a Happy, Healthy Easter:
Social stories are great tools used by teachers, ABA therapists, and autism parents. These stories help our kids know what to expect from a certain event, but it also lets them understand what is expected of them. For example, a social story about an Easter egg hunt might include:
Easter Social Story Excerpt:
“Eggs will be hidden in the grass. When I find an egg, I can pick it up and put it in my basket. The eggs might have candy inside. When the Easter egg hunt is over, I can open the eggs with my family.”
These tools work really well for kids with autism, but they work great with young kids too. In fact, we will be reading social stories with Ethan our 10 year old with autism, and Kaitlyn our 2 year old. Creating a social story for your child is really easy. You can tailor it to the specific event you’re going to and include specific pictures from the venue whether it’s a public park or Grandma’s house. I’ll put links to social story examples at the end of this article.
Basic Tools for a Happy, Healthy Easter:
There are so many different books you can read to your kids to help them prepare for the big day. I like to head to the library and check out several books each week for the upcoming holiday. I also like to buy one new book each holiday season for the kids. We now have quite the collection of books for the major holidays. These are some great ones for Easter.
Basic Tools for a Happy, Healthy Easter:
Pictures & Home Videos
This is my favorite way to prepare for Easter. I love to create these little videos from our past Easter. I combine pictures and videos with fun seasonal music. It’s so great to relive past holidays in this way. Ethan really loves to watch my home movies. They always grab his attention, and he’ll jump up and down. Sometimes he’ll even label things that come on the screen. Here is one of my Easter videos I made to give you a better idea.
Don’t worry if you don’t have videos like this one. Just look at pictures from last year, or maybe find some old photos of yourself as a kid. You can also go to YouTube and find some home videos of random people. It may seem odd at first to watch strangers hunt for Easter eggs, but these make good models for our kids. They are kind of like video social stories that helps them better predict what they should be doing.
The ability to understand what is happening is critical to having a happy, healthy Easter. Nothing will spark fear and anxiety like not understanding what is going on. See what happens when you put an 18 month old on Santa’s lap. It’s the same type of anxiety that hits a kid with autism when he goes to a strange unfamiliar place full of noisy kids, ergo an Easter egg hunt. These are the strategies we’ve used that help lower anxiety and allow our kids to get the most out of all the fun Easter activities.
Basic Tools for a Happy, Healthy Easter:
Reasonable Expectations for Mom & Dad
We spend so much time preparing our kids and setting them up for success that we neglect to prepare ourselves. It’s important to lower your expectations. I know this sounds like bad advice, but this is especially true for autism parents. When autism enters our lives, “normal” often goes right out the window. If you go to an event with high expectations, you have nowhere to go but down. However, that doesn’t mean you and your kids can’t still come out of the experience happy. Head into that Easter event expecting something to go wrong, and then celebrate the wins you did get. For instance, he didn’t put any Easter eggs in his basket at the hunt, but he sure did love running around the field & watching everyone else.
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Easter: The Easter Bunny
Getting your kids’ picture taken with the Easter bunny is sort of a right of passage for many parents especially the first time parents. Personally, I’ve never really been a fan. I mean have you ever seen an Easter Bunny that didn’t look terrifying? We have gotten our picture taken with Mr. Bunny before, but that’s because he happened to be at a sensory-friendly event we were already at and there was no line. Nevertheless, there are some things you can do to minimize possible stressors for both your and the kids.
1- Get There Early
If you decide to go for the Easter bunny photo, you want to get there early. Try to be one of the first in line while the Bunny & photographer are still fresh and happy. You’re likely to get more patience from the bunny and not rushed as quickly by the photographer if you’re one of the first.
2- Tag Team
You’ll want to have a partner with you. This way, someone can hold your spot in line if you need to take your kiddo to the restroom or just on a walk to keep him happy. Imagine waiting in line and your child starts melting down about something or spills juice on her super cute Easter dress. You don’t want to lose your spot in line and possibly have to wait another 20 minutes to get back to where you were.
My wife and I use this strategy at Disney World actually. One of us will wait in line, while the other allows the kid to walk around and have freedom. When it gets close to our turn, we rejoin the other in line.
3- Sensory Events
If you’re an autism parent, look for a sensory-friendly bunny. There are many cities that are hosting an autism friendly event. Check around with local autism groups. If you can’t find a sensory-friendly Easter bunny, try and talk to the photographer beforehand. Explain that your kiddo has autism, and may need a little extra time. They will likely be a little more patient and kind than they would be otherwise.
*Remember, be present and keep reasonable expectations. You may not get that perfect photo, but you will get an experience. How you respond during the experience will determine how fond you remember it.
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Easter Egg Hunt
If you’re like me, then your kids get to have 2 separate Easter egg hunts. One is a public egg hunt and the other is on Easter at home. Both hunts are fun for the kids, but they both require some preparations from us parents.
1- Get there Early
As with the Easter bunny, it’s a good idea to get to the venue early. This gives time for the kids to acclimate to their new unfamiliar surroundings. It allows them to start seeing the other kids, and it gives you time to start showing them the eggs and teaching them about what is about to happen.
2- Social Story
Create a social story or use this one to help your kiddo know what to do when it’s time to start collecting eggs. I would read this story everyday the week leading up to the egg hunt, but I would also bring it with me. We’re getting to the park early. It would be the perfect time to pull out the social story and show them the eggs in the fields as I read them the story.
3- Replacement snacks and toys
Likely the eggs at a public Easter egg hunt will be filled with yucky chocolate eggs and other GMO, sugar laden candies that we want to avoid. We always bring along lots and lots of treats to swap out with the bad stuff. Inevitably, when the kids realize there is candy inside, they’ll stop hunting and start eating. I keep treats in my pockets. This way, I can take away the chocolate egg and quickly hand them an organic jelly bean, almond, or a few blueberries instead. When the hunt is all over, I’ll give my kids a bigger treat such as a homemade cookie. It’s important to have substitutes so the kids don’t feel gypped.
Happy, Healthy Easter Egg Hunt at Home:
We can avoid a lot of the hassles that come with public egg hunts if we just have our own at home. Our family typically does both, but if we didn’t find a special needs event, I think we would avoid it altogether.
Non-Candy Egg Fillers:
The kids like to find the eggs, so they can see what kind of magic is inside. We don’t have to fill the eggs with sugar and chocolate in order for the kids to enjoy opening their treasures.
The go to option for filling Easter eggs is money. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to count the change I got in my Easter eggs. Sometimes, I would get a whole $5 bucks worth. That’s a lot of money to a young kid. My boys used to love putting their change in their little piggy banks. Just the process of sliding the coins in was entertainment enough for them.
Here are a few other ideas for the younger crowd or those with special needs:
- Small squish balls
- Bows for little girls
- Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
- Enjoy Life Cookies
- Organic Fruit Snacks
Ideas for Older Kids:
Homemade Coupons: We always create fun little “coupons” for Gavin. He’s 9, so we can have a little more fun with him. We’ll make a couple “stay up late” passes, a coupon for a Red Box movie/game, and maybe a “bonus snack” pass. I think his favorite is the “Netflix Override” coupon he gets. On the weekends, he gets to watch movies on his Kindle Fire if Mom & Dad are not watching Netflix. There are only so many screens that are allowed with Netflix. The override pass gives him the ability to take over Netflix and say, “Sorry Mom & Dad. Looks like you’re watching Amazon Prime tonight.”
Legos or Puzzle Pieces: This year we may buy him a Lego set, and put Lego pieces in the eggs. He’ll have to find them all in order to see which set it is and put it all together. You could do the same thing with a small puzzle.
Scavenger Hunt: This is a popular option for older kids. Inserting clues inside the eggs that eventually lead to the big prize at the end. We’ve never done this before, but it seems like a lot of fun.
Look for a sensory friendly hunt: Again, parents of kids with special needs will have a much better experience if they find a local organization that hosts a special Easter egg hunt. Typically, these types of egg hunts will come with the Easter bunny, so you can knock these out at the same time.
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Easter: Dyeing Easter Eggs
I can’t decide how I really feel about dyeing Easter eggs. My mother in law has always hated the whole dyeing Easter egg extravaganza, but I seem to look at this time in my mind as a lot of fun. Although, by the end I usually say to myself, “Yep. I see why Grandma doesn’t like this.” It’s always a big mess, and we spend most of the time saying, “No, no, don’t drink that!” But, as a parent, you have to do it. We loved it as kids, and it’s our job to give our own kids that experience.
1- Avoid the Food Coloring
We changed Ethan’s diet to gluten free and avoided artificial colors and ingredients as soon as he was diagnosed with autism 7 years ago. For some reason, it took us a few years to say, “Hey that Paas Easter egg dye is the very artificial coloring we are working so hard to avoid.” I have to admit. I feel quite silly that it took me so long to make this connection, but now I am passing it on to you.
Artificial dyes are linked to a whole host of problems from behavior issues all the way to cancer. Wellness Mama has a very good article on this topic for those wanting to learn more. (find link at the end of this article) In her article she explains that European companies require foods with artificial dyes to come with this label:
“Consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
If nothing else, the fact that dyeing Easter eggs can end in hyperactivity and a poor night’s sleep should be enough to convince us to avoid the classic Easter egg kits.
2- Go Natural
Not to worry. There are plenty of natural egg dyeing kits you can purchase. We usually get ours from Whole Foods or Sprouts, but be warned. These stores often run out quickly. More often than not, I have to head to Amazon Prime the week before and buy one like this one. You can also make your own egg dye using foods you may already have in your kitchen. I have not tried these, but many others have. They work just as well. I like this one from Mommypotamus, but find several different methods and ideas to get you going via my Easter Pinterest board
When you use a natural method for dyeing eggs, be prepared that they do take longer to take color, about 10-20 minutes. The other draw back is that the eggs will not be as bright & bold as their fake colored counterparts.
Going natural allows you to relax when dyeing eggs with your kids. If they want to pick it up and take a big gulp of the color, sit back and let them. Make sure you have your camera ready though and catch the vinegar face afterwards. Also, because the eggs take longer to color, your kiddo may not have the patience to wait that long. I know Ethan usually will take egg out of green and put it in blue, then red then…. You get the picture. We gave up on the idea of having pretty Easter eggs, but if having the perfect egg is important to you, I’d suggest dyeing a few pretty ones before you call in the kids. That way you can relax and enjoy their experimentations.
Dyeing Easter eggs is a messy process, so just be ready for it. Expect that it’s gonna make a mess. Set up outside, in the basement, garage, or other place where it will be okay if 3 glasses get knocked over and food coloring gets everywhere.
Parents with kids on the autism spectrum should expect that their kids may not want to participate and be okay with it. Sometimes, we settle for Ethan just being in the same room with us. We try and get him involved, but we don’t force it. That’s not fun for anyone.
5- Finish Strong
We started a new tradition back in 2011. When all the eggs are dyed, we take the leftover dye outside. We give the kids a little cup of baking soda and let them pour it into the glasses. The kids get a kick out of watching the vinegar and baking soda fizz and bubble over the top. Gavin has said that this was his favorite part of dyeing Easter eggs. It’s mine too.
6- Options for Egg Allergies
If your kid has an egg allergy never fear. There are options that will allow them to have the same fun as all the other kids. You can purchase ceramic eggs that look and feel just like real eggs from Eggnots.com. I’ve also seen some use marshmallows in place of eggs. You can find that blog via my Easter Pinterest board . If you choose the marshmallow route, look for a GMO free marshmallow.
Happy, Healthy Easter Basket Ideas
For most, an Easter basket is something that is full of peanut butter filled eggs, giant chocolate bunnies, and brightly colored “chicks”. Yet, we don’t have to give our kids this type of garbage and derail our efforts to raise kids with healthy habits. The Easter basket can be a blank canvas for whatever we want to fill it with. In fact, you don’t have to put candy in it at all. To give you some ideas, here are the baskets we made for each of our three kids last year.
For our 1 year old girl:
- Sophia the First Coloring Book
- Snuggle Bunnies & If You Were My Bunny
- Triagnle Crayola Crayons
- Mickey & Friends Collection.
For our 8 Year old Boy:
- Avengers Coloring Book
- Disney Infinity 3.0 Captain America
- 2 small Star Wars Lego sets
- 3 New Books Time Warp Trio (He likes books that are part of a series. He’s into Big Nate these days)
For our 9 Year Old Boy with autism
- 3 Sticker Books
- Color Wonder Markers
- Color Wonder Floor Puzzle
- Flash Cards
- Sensory Toys
Notice the absence of anything edible in their Easter baskets, but also notice how happy they are without that unhealthy, sugar-filled candy. Our Happy, Healthy Easter Baskets tend to simply be a collection of whatever they are into that year. We look at Easter baskets more like a birthday or Christmas, and just give them small gifts that will make them smile.
Here are some other ideas of things you can put into your own Happy, Healthy Easter Baskets.
- Melissa & Doug Water Wow
- Bouncy Balls
- Model Magic: (A nice gluten free alternative to Play-Doh)
- Kid Card Games
- Veggie Sidewalk Chalk
- Fidget Cube
- Pull and Stretch Bouncy Balls
- Puffer Balls
- Tangle Fidget Toy
- Dot Paints
- Movies. We’re getting Ethan Sing & Trolls (Shhh)
- Pokemon Cards
- Pokemon toys
- Anything Pokemon (they love the Pokeman)
- Small Nerf Guns
- Small water guns
- iTunes Gift Cards
- Hairbrush & Bows
- Stuffed animal or doll
- Board books
- Small Toys
Healthier Treat Options
- Dark Chocolate Bar
- Enjoy Life cookies & candies
- Surf Sweets Organic Jelly Beans
- YumEarth Suckers
- BARE: Apple Chips
- Fresh Fruit
I think this year, we will put more flashcards in Ethan’s basket and maybe some dry erase markers. He loves to flip through cards and stack them neatly. These cards will have to be from the dollar section at Target because he also loves to rip them into tiny pieces shortly after he gets them. But hey, Easter is a time to make them happy, so rip away my man!
Gavin’s really into Pokemon these days, so I’m guessing we’ll have to put together a Pokebasket for him this year. (although that’ll be hard considering he already has a ton of Pokemon swag)
Kaitlyn really loves Mickey and the Roadster Racers at the moment, so we might see if they have created toys for that yet. She also absolutely loves Kombucha, so I’ll probably throw a bottle in her basket too. #crunchytoddler
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Easter Brunch
Easter brunch was a new concept introduced to me when I met my wife at age 17. Her family went out to a nice, fancy Easter brunch every year, and it is a tradition we kept going with our kids. After Ethan’s autism diagnosis we slowly started adjusting his diet. First it was gluten free, which led to paleo, which led to more of an autoimmune paleo type diet. Special dietary needs can’t stand in the way of a happy, healthy Easter brunch though.
We’ve always found a way to cook a good brunch at home. Typically, all we have are scrambled eggs, homemade ground beef sausage, and if we’re lucky we get some delicious bacon from our local farmer. My wife always makes coconut flour biscuits to go with it because what’s Easter brunch without biscuits. She usually uses this recipe from Wellness Mama, and then I’ll melt some Kerrygold butter and mix in a couple tablespoons of raw honey. We’ll use this instead of traditional jelly. (although sometimes I’ve used both jelly and the honey butter, but we’ll keep that secret shhh) Find this recipe and my ground beef sausage recipe below.
I’m guessing Katie the Wellness Mama is like me, and goes for the simplicity of making these in a blender like our Vitamix. However, she does have directions on making these that might yield a somewhat fluffier biscuit on her site.
- ½ cup coconut flour
- 5 TBSP coconut oil, softened but not melted (or butter if not avoiding dairy)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 TBSP honey (optional)
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Put all ingredients into medium sized bowl and mix well with immersion blender or hand mixer until well incorporated.
- Using your hands, carefully form into eight small balls and gently flatten with a spoon to make it about ½ inch thick.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until just starting to brown.
Homemade Ground Beef Sausage
I like to use ground beef instead of pork because it’s much cleaner and healthier. It’s also easier to find a GMO free local grass fed cow than it is to find a pasture-raised GMO free pig. This is the recipe I use that gets our breakfast sausage to taste pretty close to its’ pork brethren.
- 3 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1-2 tsp garlic powder
- 1-2 tsp fennel seed
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cumin
- Mix spices in a small ball
- Add meat and mix thoroughly
- Form into patties (if you’d like)
- Enjoy the yummy smells as it cooks on the stove
My wife & I create a modest meal for our happy, healthy Easter brunch. We just have biscuits, sausage, eggs, bacon, and maybe a sweet potato hash if we feel like being extra fancy. However, I’ve pinned several recipes on my Easter Pinterest board for those who want to create a more impressive Easter spread. We like to keep the brunch as simple as possible. This allows us to really focus on being with the kids on Easter and not worrying about cleaning up a whole mess of dishes.
To enjoy this holiday and have a Happy, Healthy Easter you should:
- Be Prepared: Home videos, songs, books, social stories…
- Lower your expectations: Holidays with young children & kids with high needs are like weddings. Something will go wrong. How we respond to the problem will determine how successful the Easter activity will be. Just expect challenges and roll with it.
- Buddy Up: Whether your spouse, Grandma, or friend, having an Easter buddy will really help to ensure you stay sane in the chaos of Easter fun.
- Sensory Friendly: Look for local sensory-friendly events if you are a parent of an ASD kiddo or one that is sensory challenged.
- Avoid the Sugar Rush: Look for non-candy options for the Easter baskets. Art & craft goodies, bubbles, small toys make great options for a Happy, Healthy Easter Basket.
- Keep it Simple & All Natural: Don’t worry too much about the perfect picture, the most beautiful Easter egg, or an elaborate Easter feast. Keep it simple and have more time to enjoy your wonderful family.
Are you a Veteran parent with other tips for a Happy, Healthy Easter?
Are you a newer parent with more questions?
Leave a comment below and share your own thoughts on a Happy, Healthy Easter.
**This article contains affiliate links where I may earn a small fee from Amazon.**
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More Tips from Around the Interwebs
- Successful Easter Egg Hunt
- More Happy Easter Tips
- Easter Egg Hunt Social Story
- Decorating Easter Eggs Social Story
Avoid the Food Dyes: