If you have kids old enough to trick-or-treat, you're likely to face this dilemma: how do you encourage them to enjoy Halloween—including the candy—without going overboard?
Sociologist and parent educator Dina Rose says that the biggest problem with Halloween isn't really even the candy, it's the volume of candy. Some kids fill entire pillowcases with "fun-sized" sugary treats, and if parents don't have a plan to manage that stash, it could be a contentious issue for weeks.
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It's a catch-22: let the kids have full access to the candy, and they might end up eating way too much, way too often until the entire pillowcase is empty; but take it away, and you might end up with some very unhappy little goblins, not to mention kids who don't know how to manage eating candy on their own.
So we rounded up some strategies for dealing with that glut of sugar—without turning you into the evil anti-candy parent ogre.
- Hold a taste test: Encourage your kids to sort their candy by type, and then take one bite of each type. Ask them to describe the taste, texture, smells, mouth feel, etc. Yes, they'll probably eat a lot of bites, but they'll also get rid of a lot when they throw away the half-eaten candies.
- Participate in a buy-back: Lots of dentists' offices around the country hold buy-back programs where they will exchange candy for toys or money. If you can't find one in your area, you can offer your kids a good rate on their unwanted candy yourself. A word of caution: asking them to give up all their candy can backfire, making them cling that much more tightly to it. So maybe after your taste test, have them sort out the candies they didn't love and trade those in for money—or as Dr. Rose did for her daughter, for better candy. If you want, you could barter their candy for some that's a little healthier.
- Conduct some experiments: Not just any experiments—CANDY experiments! This website has loads of ideas for cool science experiments you and your kids can try using candy. It'll use up some of the stash and they might actually learn a thing or two.
- Craft with it: Use some of that candy for crafty purposes. It's the perfect time of year to make a gingerbread house, and lots of those Halloween goodies would make perfect roof tiles, window shutters, garden stepping stones... you get the idea. You can make candy necklaces, collages, even Christmas ornaments. Check out this article on Mamapedia for more crafty candy ideas.
- Store it: Once you've sorted out the not-so-great stuff from the awesome stuff, you can store it in a way that keeps it fresh, and makes doling it out over time more palatable. Chocolate freezes well, and other candies will keep for a long time in an air-tight container.
- Enjoy it: Candy is pretty much the best part of Halloween for most kids, so it's important to let them know they can enjoy it. Take away the candy all at once and you're solving the problem only for the short term. Teach them how to incorporate candy into their overall healthy diet, and that's a skill they'll take with them for life. So whatever strategy you choose, be sure to talk to your kiddos about where candy fits into their everyday lives and help them enjoy their haul in a healthy way.
*If you know ahead of time that your kids can't have certain candies or all of their candy for health reasons, be sure to explain it to them ahead of time. Sit down and have a conversation with your child—no matter how young!—so that their expectations will jive with what you know is best for them. Kids with food allergies, or extreme sensitivities to sugar, food colorings or preservatives can still participate in the fun, provided they understand ahead of time what happens to all that tempting candy when they get home.
image by Allie Holzman