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Trick or Treat: Tips for Taming the Candy Monster

Trick or Treat: Tips for Taming the Candy Monster

It looms like the harvest moon this time of year: Halloween will soon be upon us. And along Dark Chocolate Picturewith the fairies and Robin Hoods will come buckets of candy. Candy. That thing we try to limit our children’s exposure to will practically walk through the front door by the handful. What’s a parent to do?

Here are some tips about how to lessen young children’s exposure. Use Halloween as a chance to teach moderation and self-control.

There are some ways to cut down on the amount of candy coming into your home. First, make sure your children eat a solid, healthy dinner before going trick-or-treating. This way, they will be slightly less rabid about gathering candy since hunger will not be spurring them on.

Second, give your children a small container in which to collect candy: a big bag always looks empty, but a little bucket or plastic pumpkin fills up right away in a very satisfying manner. Trick-or-treating is over when the container is full. Third, make candy only one focus of trick-or-treating: consider having your child collect coins for UNICEF, hurricane relief funds, or some other charity in addition to gathering candy.

Finally, before Halloween is upon you, set some rules about how you are going to handle the candy that does come home, such as:

Have your child choose her 12 favorite pieces to eat over the next few days and throw the rest out;

Let your child eat the candy once a day for a few days (set a time ahead, such as after dinner), but keep it out of sight-for some young children out of sight is out of mind and they will forget about it after a few days;

Ration out the candy to be eaten after dinner one night a week for the next few weeks-you could even have your child put the treats in small bags and then tape or staple them shut to send home the message that these are for later;

Have your child choose a few pieces to eat and then trade the rest in for a toy or other gift;

Sometimes young children are just curious what the various candies taste like, so have a taste test in which they take one bite of each different kind of candy and throw most of it out;

Offer to buy the candy and set a price ahead of time such as $1 for 10 pieces (or offer points that can be redeemed within the family for special trips, activities or outings);

Some families have a tradition of a great pumpkin who comes to collect the candy and leaves a gift in its place. You could have your child leave the candy in a special spot before going to bed and then check there in the morning for the gift.

ALWAYS have your child brush his teeth right after eating candy.

You can also consider giving out treats other than candy. Researchers in Connecticut went to five neighborhoods and offered children two bowls to choose from, one with candy and one with Halloween trinkets. About half of the children chose the trinkets over the candy! Look for the kinds of things that go in birthday party goody bags: stickers, rings, notepads, super balls, plastic figurines. Start a tradition in your neighborhood that focuses more on non-candy give-aways.

With a little forethought, Halloween can be a time for you to teach your child about moderation. You can model it in how you yourself approach Halloween candy and you can help your child exercise moderation. This is a life lesson that will stand them in good stead long after the Halloween candy is gone.


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