My children — 5 and 8 years old — love Halloween: the dressing up, the trick-or-treating, and most of all, the candy. They come home with their pillowcases full to the brim! I know that candy isn’t good for their growing bodies and teeth, but I don’t want to be an ogre and take it away from them. Do you have any suggestions for ways to let my kids enjoy their Halloween candy but still keep them healthy?
When you think about our national tradition of one night a year, dressing up in a wild outfit, going to almost any door, and being feted with handfuls of candy — it’s pretty sweet! Americans buy nearly 600 million pounds of candy a year for Halloween, and although all of that candy isn’t coming directly into your house, Halloween can provide the opportunity to establish some annual candy management traditions of your own.
Your children’s Halloween candy haul will provide them with the opportunity to establish good habits — with your help. Some of your tricks can start before you leave the house. The old saw about not going grocery shopping hungry? Same goes for trick or treating. Make sure your kids eat a healthy, satisfying meal before hitting the streets; this should help keep their eyes smaller than their stomachs when they are offered the chance to take candy from a bowl or basket. Also, instead of sending them out with a pillowcase, as you mentioned in your question, use a smaller container, which will fill more quickly. Once there is no more room for treats, it’s time to come home.
Many families choose to give out pencils or stickers or another fun, non-food item. Should you choose to give out a snack, buy something that your kids don’t like! There will be less temptation to sneak it from the coffers.
When your family returns from trick-or-treating and the (small) containers are dumped and the spoils reviewed, there are a number of strategies that you can choose to employ, depending on what works for your household. Parents should be sure to review the treats and remove any choking hazards or unwrapped items such as open cookies, fruit, or suspicious pieces. Here are some tricks you can try:
Good things, small packages. Using small, snack-size food storage bags, have your child divide the candy into smaller parcels, with each containing a daily allotment — be it two, three, five pieces, or more. The child gets one bag a day. You can either work conditions out with your child (after dinner, with school lunch, once chores are done) or let her eat it as she chooses.
Switch Witch. Some families get visits from the Switch Witch, where either the entire candy collection is switched mysteriously at night with a wished-for gift, or smaller portions are exchanged for smaller gifts (make sure that your child agrees that it is okay if the Switch Witch visits).
Out of sight, out of mind. Perhaps you want to let your kids enjoy the fruits of their labors — let them eat as much of their candy they want on Halloween night, and then store the rest out of eyesight. Over the next few days, if they ask for some, let them chose a piece (or two), and then return the bag to the hiding place. Chances are, they will forget about the candy long before it is gone.
Trick or teeth! This seasonal onslaught of candy makes regular brushing and flossing even more imperative, especially if sticky, chewy candies that adhere to teeth are a favorite. Whichever strategies you chose, thorough dental hygiene is not negotiable.
With a little forethought and a strategy in place and agreed upon, this year’s trick-or-treating can start a Halloween tradition all your own.