Happy nearly Halloween! I thought I’d get in early and offer some ideas you can try to help your children manage their candy consumption on, before and after spooky Halloween night. Too much candy and they can become little scary sugar-loaded monsters!
Halloween is a fun time of year for kids (and adults). Getting dressed up, going out with friends and of course collecting candy. While a little candy is fine, and even a bit more than a little is OK on this one night of the year, a lot of candy is not so good for the body, mind or the spirit. So here are some simple strategies you can take to help children manage their sugar intake around Halloween.
You know your children best so pick the strategies that will work for your family and lifestyle. Here’s some of the main ideas in this blog post:
- Keep the candy hidden away before Halloween
- Buy a ‘reasonable’ size container for candy collection on the night
- Fill the kids up with a healthy dinner before they go out trick or treating
- Help your children sort out, ration and throw out the candy with a variety of strategies.
- Most importantly, learn how you’re helping your kids to develop good life skills when you support them to be patient, decrease and delay their consumption of sugar as well as share their candy stash with others. That way you don’t feel guilty and know you’re being great parent!
Read on to learn more about helping your kids minimise sugar and develop important life skills...
It’s tempting to start handing out the candy even before Halloween if you have a big stash of chocolates and sweets in the cupboards. Out of sight is out of mind, so put the candy in a hard-to-get-to place, hidden away in the far reaches of your cupboards. That way neither you nor your children will be tempted. The harder it is to get to the better – by placing candy high up in a cupboard where you need to lug a chair and to move things out of the way, the less likely you’ll be tempted to grab a little something for yourself or for your kids!
It’s also really good to remember that you can help your children develop really valuable life skills like patience and delayed gratification by helping them to wait for Halloween and get the candy. This is such an important life skill nowadays with instant communication, fast food and access to almost anything on the internet in seconds. So, if you can remember that you are doing your child good by helping them to wait... building their ability to be patient ... just like you do for birthdays and other gift giving days, you are less likely to cave into their requests, pleading or demands for candy before Halloween! Also research shows that children who are able to delay gratification are less likely to be overweight and are more likely to stick to long term projects without giving up. So you can help your kids build that skill starting this Halloween!
Selecting the right size container before the day
Your children need candy collecting containers for Halloween. To restrict their candy collecting ‘capacity’, don’t send them out with a pillow case, select a reasonable size bag or small bucket and explain, “once it’s full (or half-full), we’re off home to sort you’re stash and enjoy some candy”. A small container has a number of advantages, first, children can’t load up on too much candy (that you might want to take away later). Second they can be selective when they get offered a choice of candy as they have limited space, so they won’t just grab handfuls of anything. Third, they can choose to take only 1 or 2 pieces from each house to make the time they are out trick or treating last longer. Win/Win!
During Halloween Candy Collection
Have a good dinner
Before you send the kids out to collect their stash, make sure they’ve had a good dinner. Fill them up on protein, vegies and whole grains like brown rice and they’ll feel fuller for longer. Having a full tummy means your kids will be less likely to gorge on candy. It shouldn’t be too hard to get your children to eat their dinner if you say “as soon as dinner is done we get to go out trick or treating”! Boo ha ha ha (chuckle, cackle, giggle)... you hold all the cards on Halloween night! You might ask the kids not to eat candy until they are home so they get to eat the best ones or that they are only allowed to eat a limited number on the road. Save the wrappers so you can keep count.
Sorting the Halloween candy
This is an important part of the night (or next day if they are too tired... not a great idea to try and take candy away from a sugar-high-over-tired child - you simply can’t win without tears), so you need to navigate this time carefully. If you try to take too much, you’re likely to get resistance. Tread sensitively and you might find you have a cooperative child!
Ask your child to sort their candy into piles of the ones they LOVE the most to the ones they don’t really like. Then if you have more than one child, you can let them do the swapping and exchanging process. This also builds life skills ... negotiation ... however, if they can’t manage their negotiations very well, perhaps you can step in a support them to learn to negotiate fairly. If squabbles arise, you get to help them to learn about conflict management. Who knew Halloween could be a great night for learning so many life skills!
Once the candy is all sorted and exchanged and household peace has been restored, you can try one or more of the following strategies to reduce the overall candy intake. Pick the ones that work best for your family:
- It’s a good idea to allow children to have a little candy during the sorting / reducing process so they don’t feel like they aren’t able to enjoy the night. To restrict the amount, invite them to pick 1, 2 or 3 pieces of candy they want to eat while they are sorting. Then space the consumption out to make it last.
- Put the candy they don’t like in the trash or a container for giving away. Take them out of sight straight away so there can be no second thoughts.
- It’s not far between Halloween and gingerbread candy house building time. So, how about getting an air tight container and inviting the kids to choose which candies they’d like for their gingerbread house. Once they’re in the container... hide them away and you’re ready for a holiday project!
- “Sharing is caring”, so ask the children to share some of their candy with you. It’s important to help kids learn to be generous and caring of all members of your family – including you.
- Offer to buy or replace the candy with a special toy/book/activity they’d like. This way they get a real treat and you get to take the sugar away.
- Some dentists offer Halloween candy buy backs. Try an internet search and see if there is one in your local area. You can also send your candy by post to Operation Gratitude which annually sends 100,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions, to their children left behind and to Veterans, First Responders, Wounded Warriors and their Care Givers. This way you can talk about caring, sharing and supporting others.
- A candy ‘tasting’ game is a fun way to try, but not gobble, too many candies. Have a trash can available and kids and adults alike get to take a small bite, throw the remainder in the trash and then describe the taste like a candy connoisseur as they slowly chew and savour the candy. Claps and cheers for the ‘best’ descriptions make it a fun time.
- Have a number of small snack bags or small containers that children can put 2-3 candies in to save for later. This way the candy gets to last longer. In our home, we only have candy on the weekend, and Cameron calls it “weekend food”. We don’t usually keep weekend food in the house except for say Easter or Birthdays where he gets candy and chocolates. At those times we keep the weekend food at the back of the pantry where none of us can see it and Cameron gets to choose what he likes each weekend until it’s gone. Or
- You could put all of the candy into one container and allow the kids to have one per day, or one every few days or once per week... until they are all gone!
- I also read somewhere that you can do cool experiments with candy, that’s another way you can use up the candy without eating it and learn something ‘science-like’ at the same time!
I hope these strategies help you and your children have a safe, happy and even educational Halloween. You’ll have many opportunities to help your kids develop important life skills. If you’d like to know more about how to help your children eat well, exercise and even help you tidy up around the home, have a look at my Inspired Children Health and Wellbeing Life Skills Home Activity eBook. There are twelve easy-to-follow life skills activities you can complete in just 15 minutes at a time. Here are just some of the skills and knowledge your child can learn:
The fun 15 minute clean up technique; How to make a healthy snack; Getting kids to enjoy a variety in food as part of a healthy diet; Household cleanliness: doing the dishes with a difference; A before bed routine to prepare for the next day... no more rushing around in the morning; The benefits of stretching; Playing team sports – more than just good health; How to help your kids reduce their junk food intake by learning about ‘Treats’, ‘Weekend Food’ and ‘Sometimes Food’; Relaxation for general wellbeing; Chewing food correctly for improving digestion and getting good nutrition; and the many health benefits of being in nature.
Remember each activity only takes around 15 minutes to complete and you can complete them at your own pace at a time that suits you and your family’s lifestyle... Most importantly, imagine how good you’ll feel about the huge difference you’re making as a parent to your child’s understanding about how to care of themselves by eating well and exercising. So many kids are suffering right now because they are overweight, others because they can’t manage stress. Learning how to be healthy as a child is a foundation for a long and happy life.
To find out more about our Life Skills Approach to Parenting E Books series please click here