Did anyone’s kids have fun finding candy last night simply by dressing in a cute costume and knocking on every door in the neighbourhood? Candy is the currency of childhood. An early business lesson in ‘do a little work by walking (or running, leaping and jumping with joy) around knocking on doors and get paid for it!‘ Not a bad learning opportunity! Does it mean your kid is ruined nutritionally for having a blissfully happy evening collecting and noshing on candy once a year? Absolutely not! Were you allowed to trick or treat as a kid? How did you turn out? Do you still value healthy eating and an 80-20 approach to food choices?
What a huge, awful and memorable downer for the kids if ALL of that hard-earned candy is suddenly taken away. And, man, what a confusing message that would be! That said, I intimately recognize the concerns of parents when that pillow case sack of treats is dumped out for sorting and the collective mass of sugar is piled high for you to see all at once!
To help ‘handle’ it all, here are 10 ways for finding continued fun and at least a little nutrition with the candy instead of your child having to feel extreme disappointment while you lose your mind over all of that sugar:
- Talk to your kids about the fun you can have later this Fall in baking homemade Christmas treats like gingerbread men or smartie-dotted oatmeal cookies. Ask them to tuck some candy in a freezer bag for that purpose later on. (Smarties and MandM’s are ideal as are crumbled bits of chocolate.) Kids have steel trap memories when it comes to candy. They won’t forget it’s in the freezer! Baking together on a blustery day later in November or December will be something you will all feel good about. (Note: I’m talking about Canadian Smarties, the chocolate kind, not Rockets which are known as Smarties in the USA. I don’t recommend saving those pure sugar, hard Rockets candy.)
- Have a fruit fondue for dessert. Ask your child to pick a bunch of the chocolate bars to melt into a dip for a colourful platter of fruit you can make together. It actually takes quite a few of those mini bars to make even a little dip.
- Make a veggie and dip snack platter. This looks attractive and appetizing if you have one of those 5 or 6 section platters. Ask the kids to put (use up) some of their chips or salty snacks into ONE section of the platter for sharing with the whole family along with a dominant, colourful selection of fresh vegetables.
- Have a Mexican night with wholesome ingredients – tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, avocados, cheese, lean ground meat or veggie ground round, whole grain tortillas… Encourage your kids to contribute some of their little Halloween tortilla chip packets for dipping into fresh cut salsa and/or homemade guacamole.
- Find fun opportunities for learning and discussion. Play age-appropriate, fairly challenging math games with your kids using the candy. Subtraction and division for example. For every question they get wrong, Mom or Dad gets the piece of candy. What you do with it, well, that’s up to you!
- For older kids, say age 8 on, allow them to find their tolerance level for the candy. I’ve heard from many parents who allow their kids to eat the candy without limits or rules. Those same parents have shared that it didn’t take long for their child to feel sick (tummy ache) from eating too much, thereby learning what happens when you overdo it. An important life lesson that doesn’t cause any permanent ‘damage’.
- Find balance. A little candy or chocolate as dessert to a well-balanced lunch or dinner is better than candy in place of the balanced meal. For highly active kids, a sweet treat after the meal isn’t going to ruin them while using up their Halloween stash. Just avoid continuing this beyond about a week or two. The dentists out there will be grateful.
- Use candy as the currency it truly is. Older kids can get together with friends to trade certain treats for others. One year, our then 9 year old traded about 20 of his small chocolate bars for one coveted full size bar. Mom was happy about that style of trade! (Tip: If your child is the youngest in the trading group, he/she will inevitably get rid of a lot of candy. 🙂 Candy can also be traded by kids with Mom and Dad to ‘buy’ a day off making their bed or other small task they might be craving a brief break from.
- Allow the kids to use up some of the candy in their creative play. For example, perhaps they set up a pretend store that sells healthy food and a little candy, make a mini carnival with a fun concession stand in the basement involving lots of energy expenditure, or design a vending machine from cardboard. The creative, memorable activities are worth it. (That’s our incredibly creative nephew dressed as a vending machine in the picture above. Not only is he a highly imaginative and talented actor, he’s brilliant with a roll of tape and cardboard. He designed this year’s costume so that it could actually accept a dollar coin yet not dispense any candy! Smart guy!) Speaking of currency and tape, parents of craft loving kids will know that duct tape and the many colours and designs it comes in is a highly coveted item. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to swap some candy for a brand new jazzy roll of tape or other craft supplies to have fun with on a rainy day???
- For little little ones, say age 7 and under, consider a visit from the Halloween Witch – that cousin of the tooth fairy. You know her. Have your child leave out as much candy as they want in exchange for found money from the witch the next morning. Discard or do what you like with that excess candy the Witch claimed. You can also sneak away a bit of it without them likely noticing. Either discard it or freeze and tuck a little bit of it into their Christmas stocking in a few weeks.
Bonus Tip: The first time you find a Halloween candy wrapper littered around the house, point it out to your child and have them discard it with a warning that the next or any consecutive such littering is discovered by you, it will be a 5 candy penalty. They will take you seriously! 🙂 (Adults, keeping a glass jar on the counter and tucking the wrapper from each candy YOU eat inside is a great mindful eating strategy to bring awareness to whether or not you may have exceeded any daily limits you may have set for yourself.)
It will all be alright after all.
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