It’s that time of year when parents have the candy conversation. Yes, it’s the talk about whether to limit sweets during Halloween, use a switch witch, go with healthier items or just allow free-for-all consumption.
Instead of dreading this holiday, I use it as a teaching tool. When sweets are everywhere, it’s the perfect time to teach your child how to manage them — an important skill they will need to navigate food in the real world.
So here are five “food lessons” parents can teach children during this scary holiday season:
1. Be Adventurous
Most parents only encourage children to try healthy foods. But let’s face it, kids are more likely to taste sweets because they are universally preferred. By encouraging children to try a variety of all types of food, even different-flavored candy, the positive experiences can spill over to the dinner table.
So if your child insists they don’t like the candy bar with coconut, encourage them to take a small taste. This changes the dynamic from always trying to get them to eat healthy, to be open to anything new or different.
2. Be Picky
While most parents don’t want picky-eating kids, we benefit from teaching children to be selective about sweets. I encourage my children to really enjoy indulgent foods because that’s the role it plays in the diet — enjoyment. So if they don’t like it (or just think it’s okay), it’s not worth it.
Have children sort through and pick their favorite items, giving the mediocre ones away. (We plan to giveaway the undesirables to a candy buyback program at Big A’s school). When children do eat something they like, have them stay mindful by sitting at the table.
3. Manage the Stash
As I mentioned in my last Halloween post, I allow my kids to eat as much as they want the night of Halloween and then designate the rest to snack time or for dessert. I’ll be in charge of Little D’s candy but will allow Big A, who is now 6, to store and manage her stash.
This teaches children how to sensibly fit sweets into their diet, and that we trust them to be smart about it. It also helps to avoid collecting huge amounts of candy on the night of Halloween, so it only goes on for a week or two!
4. Allow for Consequences
It can be hard for parents to watch their child have too many sweets only to have a stomachache later. And when they do, they are often quick to give the “I told you too much candy would make you sick” reply. But making eating mistakes is how kids learn.
So if your child does get sick, you can help them figure out that it was indeed too much candy and guide them on how to handle it next time (what are some things you can do differently next time?). And give them little reminders the next time they dig in.
5. Don’t Give Candy All the Attention
Candy and Halloween go together. I think if I go overboard by limiting it or putting candy bowls up weeks before Halloween, the candy wins. See this post for more on this strategy.
Instead, I encourage parents to focus on the spirit of the season, dressing up, and having fun with friends. Our attitude matters more than anything and keeping candy in perspective — as a part of the Halloween experience but not the whole enchilada, can go a long way towards shaping kids’ beliefs and expectations.
So tell me, how do you handle Halloween in your house?
Want more advice on raising a mindful eater? Check out Maryann’s book: How to Raise a Mindful Eater: 8 Powerful Principles for Transforming Your Child’s Relationship with Food