Halloween and all the festivities are right around the corner. Kids love it. Parents dread it. But as I wrote about in my managing sweets series, teaching kids how to handle sweet foods is important. And what better time to test this out than during Halloween.
Last year was the first year my daughter went trick-or-treating. I admit I was a little nervous when she came home with a bag of candy. But it went pretty well because I had a (sort of) plan.
Knowing what you are going to do ahead of time can help you deal with a child who is either new to this Halloween gig or a veteran.
1. Consider their age
A reader wrote in asking the appropriate time to introduce kids to sweets. In general, age 2 is when parents can start offering kids sweets. Kids under 2 have small stomachs and are still in that rapid growth/critical nutrition period so the majority of their food should come from nutrient-dense choices. They also are not as aware and so usually aren’t even asking for sweets.
It’s up to parents to decide when their children can start trick-or-treating. By age three, my daughter had a better understanding of Halloween and was excited to try it out.
2. Pick out candy that is a choking risk
Last year you better believe I sifted through my daughter’s stash to pick out the hard, round candies. Heck, I don’t even like to eat them.
But on a more serious note, any candy that is the shape of a hot dog should be removed or watched closely. That’s because it’s the same size as a young child’s airway, making it an easy plug that is also difficult to dislodge.
High-risk children include those 4 years and younger, kids with chewing or swallowing disorders and any child eating while running, walking, laughing and talking.
3. Don’t over healthify
I remember getting raisins while trick-or-treating as a kid. I didn’t like it. And it didn’t make me want to eat raisins.
Halloween is a once-a-year event that is tied to eating candy — not other, healthy everyday foods. I believe that pushing healthier items during Halloween makes candy even more desirable and nutritious food not-so-desirable. Of course, this is my humble opinion and it doesn’t count for kids who are on restricted diets due to allergies or intolerances.
4. Let them eat as much as they want the first day (or two)
Last year my daughter had candy during the Halloween festivities but still wanted more when we got home.
Her: Can I have more candy?
Husband: (glared at me)
Her: (after she finished a small candy bar) Can I have more?
Husband: (glared at me — again!)
Her: (after one more bite) I’m done!
I follow the advice by feeding expert Ellyn Satter who says let children eat as much candy (from their stash) as they want for the first couple of days. Since my child is young I wanted her to have one night of telling me she had had enough.
5. Let kids handle their stash
Satter says that older kids with leftover candy can learn a lot from managing their stash. That means that after eating what they want for a day or two, they get to decide what candy they’ll have as part of a meal or for snack time each day.
I think next year when my daughter is 5, I’ll let her handle her stash but for now, I’m in charge. I’ll include her candy for some snack times and after dinner for dessert. She usually forgets about the candy after a few days so if there’s extra my husband and I will take it to work.
I do the same thing for myself — eat a bunch of candy on Halloween and then have some for snack time the days following. I’m usually over it by post-Halloween day 3 or 4.
There are many different ways to handle candy and kids before, during and after Halloween. What do you typically do at your home?
Want more strategies on helping teach kids moderation? check out Maryann’s book How to Raise a Mindful Eater: 8 Powerful Principles for Transforming your Child’s Relationship with Food