Halloween is less than a week away and many parents are starting to feel some panic over the loads of sugary treats their little ones will be bringing home from trick or treating. Finding that balance between allowing your kids to enjoy all that Halloween means (which let’s face it, includes sugar to some degree) with preserving a shred of health consciousness can be a tough one to strike.
Well what if I told you you didn’t have to be quite so focussed on health or nutrition just for this one evening? For most of the other 364 days a year, sure, but not this one. We know that the more we restrict sweets with kids, the stronger their drive is to consume them. So what is a parent to do?
Here are 3 strategies you can try this Halloween that should accomplish 3 things: 1) Provide a valuable learning opportunity for your kids, 2) Preserve and foster a positive relationship with food in your child and 3) Allow you (and your child) to relax and actually enjoy Halloween! If none of these approaches resonates with you, try a modified version of one that you feel comfortable with. So here goes:
- After trick or treating, let your child sprawl their candy out on the floor or table and join in on the excitement over their hard earned loot. Allow them to eat as much (or little) as they like on Halloween night. After that, they can have 1 or 2 treats (or whatever number you feel comfortable with) per day with either a snack or meal for the week. Be sure to pair the treat with something nutritious like fruit, cheese and crackers or a heartier meal. I recommend modifying this strategy slightly for the younger ones (ages 2 and under), allowing them instead to choose their favourite 2-3 treats for that night, and 1 a day for the rest of week.
- Once your child returns home from trick or treating, again, allow them to marvel over their goodies. Then ask them to make 2 piles: One of treats that they are excited about eating, and one that they could leave behind. The pile to leave behind then magically vanishes, OR you could try using the Switch Witch tactic which our family will use again this year. In this scenario, the bag of less desirable candy gets placed in a special location for the “Switch Witch” to come during the night (while the littles are sleeping of course) to take for her own use and in its place, she leaves a small gift like a puzzle or book. My now 4 year old was blown away by this last year, though I suspect it may not work for all kids.
- After trick or treating, ask your child what the fewest number of treats is that he or she needs to eat that evening to really enjoy Halloween. This one works best for the 4 and over kiddos as the littler ones may not understand the concept of moderation. Many kids will surprise you with their number, saying 3 or 4. If they respond with something like “100”, you may need to negotiate a little. Allow them to pick out that number of treats from their pile, and the remainder will be saved for the rest of the week, again maybe 1 or 2 pieces per day with either a snack or meal.
A few other tips to help Halloween go smoothly for you and your family:
- Try not to send your kids out trick or treating on an empty stomach. Even if it’s a busy time of the day, try to carve out even 10 mins. to offer a nutritious, hearty meal. This can help to prevent major meltdowns later on, and may enable your little one make better decisions about how many treats they need to eat that evening.
- Help kids make Halloween about more than just the sweet stuff. Start a new little tradition like making a Halloween-themed craft or carving pumpkins together. Halloween is such an exciting time of year for kids, but they can focus on many other aspects of it (costumes, pumpkins, decorations, time with family and friends) if we do too, rather than stressing over sugar consumption.
So remember to take a deep breath. This one day won’t throw your child’s eating habits or health off. Let your child enjoy this exciting night just as you likely once did.
Happy Halloween friends!