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A candy-less Easter basket

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There's little doubt that kids love holidays. From Halloween treats to the goodies on both sides of the Christmas season, kids and adults alike consume a lot of sugar from the various sweets that accompany such times of the year.

While Halloween reins supreme in candy consumption, Easter is the second most important candy-eating occasion of the year for Americans, who consumed 7 billion pounds of candy in 2011, according to the National Confectioner's Association. In fact, we spent nearly $1.9 billion on Easter candy last year, while Halloween sales were nearly $2 billion. Christmas weighed in with an estimated $1.4 billion, while Valentine's Day was just over $1 billion.

Here are some other neat Easter tidbits:

  • Ninety million chocolate Easter bunnies are produced each year.
  • Chocolate bunnies should be eaten ears first, according to 76 percent of Americans. Five percent said bunnies should be eaten feet first, while four percent favored eating the tail first.
  • Adults prefer milk chocolate (65 percent), to dark chocolate (27 percent)
  • Each Easter season, Americans buy more than 700 million Marshmallow Peeps, shaped like chicks, as well as Marshmallow Bunnies and Marshmallow Eggs, making them the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy.
  • As many as 4.2 million Marshmallow Peeps, bunnies, and other shapes can be made each day.
  • In 1953, it took 27 hours to create a Marshmallow Peep. Today it takes six minutes.
  • Americans consume 16 billion jellybeans at Easter, many of them hidden in baskets. If all the Easter jellybeans were lined end to end, they would circle the globe nearly three times.
  • Pretzels were originally associated with Easter. The twists of a pretzel were thought to resemble arms crossed in prayer.

As kids are already crazy for the sweet stuff between holidays, birthdays and yes, even grandparents, it might be time to switch things up this Easter season. Try something different - put some Easter themed toys and other trinkets in their baskets with just a light sprinkling of sweets. The thought is to try stay away from purchasing tons of sweets and, given the childhood obesity epidemic right now, help avoid health problems down the road.

I've put together a collection of no-candy Easter gift items. Hopefully these are fun enough to distract any sugar crazed kid. *fingers crossed*

First, you don't have to use a traditional Easter basket other options include a decorative bowl and some stores even have fun 'baskets' like fabric animals and colorful pails. Or, use colorful organizational totes that you can find at the dollar store. They are fabulous because of their functionality after Easter. Toy containers can include baby doll bath tubs, strollers or cradles, Lego containers and more, which hold the goodies and doubles as a toy. And instead of using Easter grass, go eco-friendly by using fabric, a new piece of clothing, a baby blanket, tissue paper, or make your own grass if you have a shredder and some colored paper.

Easter Basket Ideas (other than candy)

  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Playdough and silly putty
  • Bubbles
  • Crayons and markers
  • Coloring books
  • Eggs full or small toys Think plastic dinosaurs, army men, Legos
  • Eggs full of colorful goldfish or cheerios Great idea for little ones
  • Stickers or stamps
  • Pencils and stationary
  • Art supplies
  • Kites These just ooze SPRING
  • Balls or other sports equipment
  • Sippy cups or drink cups They actually make Bunny cups w/straws
  • Puzzles and other games
  • Hair or jewelry accessories
  • New clothes or shoes
  • Movies or music MP3 players make a great gift idea for the older kids
  • Books and comics
  • Sand toys A sand bucket also makes a great basket alternative
  • Bath items Toys for the younger crowd and for older kids, body wash, body sprays
  • Kids gardening supplies
  • Bug catching supplies
  • Sunglasses
  • Gift cards iTunes, favorite eatery, game store

Feeling creative? Try themed baskets

  • Art or craft supplies Paints, crayons, color books, notebooks, etc.
  • Sports/outdoor equipment Frisbee, balls, two-person paddle games
  • Baking or food Aprons, play food, plates and other containers
  • Bath time Foam, bath crayons, bath toys, hygiene products, make-up, razors, body wash, bubble bath, new toothbrushes
  • Beach or toy box- Sand pails, shovels, measuring cups, sifters, funnels, goggles, etc.
  • Gardening/bug catching/exploring Bug containers, nets, child-size shovels, boots, pots, explorer hats, flashlight and vests
  • Superheroes Capes, comics and movies, action figures
  • Dress up Jewelry, shoes, clothing, nail polish, play make-up
  • Game Time - Games and puzzles, snacks for family game night

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