The Witch stole my candy! How to control consumption of Halloween candy

Halloween Toddler Costume Bunny CandyHappy Halloween! It’s Anna’s third Halloween, but first time going “Trick-or-Treating”. We had a group of candy-hungry toddlers roaming the neighborhood. After visiting just a few houses the kids got the gist of it: we get candy just for saying “Trick-or-Treat”! Duh! Neighbors, secure your candy bowls!

As my child’s appetite for candy grew, I started thinking of how to tame the consumption of Halloween candy. I’ve asked around and received many strategies ranging from parents fully controlling the candy to allowing kids eat it all, with variations in between. Obviously, this year it’s not going to be such a big deal, however, establishing clear rules and realistic expectations ahead of time is key to success in the future.

After doing proper research, here is the Halloween strategy our family decided to follow. It works for us, and is offered for reference. Below please leave a comment if you do something different. I am always open to new ideas.

Tricks on Taming the Halloween Candy Chaos

Prior to Halloween

1. Decorate and Play

Make decorating the house a tradition. Each person in the family can be responsible for an area of the house. If your family is competitive, choose a winner. And don’t forget to read spooky stories or watch some Halloween themed movies.

2. Fill Little Stomachs with Healthy Snacks

If you don’t want your kids to stuff themselves with candy, give them some healthy options prior to trick-or-treating. Involve kids in making the snacks, because then they are more likely to eat own creations. Click here for some Healthy Halloween Snack ideas.

During Trick-or-Treating

3. Know Candy Options

Not all candy affects our teeth the same way. Dentists recommend choosing candy that is eaten fast, rather than those that stay in your mouth for a period of time. Meaning, a chocolate bar is a better option than a lollipop, as less sugar will settle on your kids’ teeth and fewer bacteria will form.

4. Set Realistic Expectations

It is best to start a Halloween candy policy early. For toddlers and preschoolers use the “Candy by Age” rule. The child is allowed to have as many sweets as how old the child is. A 2-year old gets two pieces, a 5-year old will get five.

It gets more difficult to control candy intake as children grow. Hence, it’s a good idea to have realistic and consistent candy rules in place. Allow your child to have 1-2 pieces while trick-or-treating, it will satisfy the craving and get the rest home safe for sorting, counting and trading.

After Halloween

5. Divide and Conquer

Be reasonable with the amounts of sweets your kids can have. According to the researchers, full control and restriction of candy usually backfires at the well-meaning parents. Candy then becomes the forbidden fruit, and may turn into obsession. Teaching your kids to treat themselves to candy in moderation will show them that it’s only a small part of their food choices and will also promote self-control.

There are several options on what can be done with Halloween candy. Discuss the options with your family and decide what will work best for you.

  • Seized by Parent
    Not the most favorable option in my opinion, but done with good intentions in mind. This option lowers kids’ self-esteem by not being given the option to self-regulate candy intake. To avoid hurting your child’s feelings, it may be best to refrain from trick-or-treating as a whole. Watch the kids’ reactions to parents eating their Halloween candy.
  • Keep and Eat
    Kids keep all of their candy preferably in a central location and may have free access to it after agreeing on a daily limit. After a week or two the novelty will wear off and candy can be moved to the fridge and later tossed.
    If the older kids are having troubles with self-control, try requiring them to brush teeth after each candy they eat without setting a daily limit. I am sure after a day or two of constantly brushing teeth they will find their sweet balance.
  • Swap for Healthier Options
    Don’t spoil the trick-or-treating fun for kids with allergies. They can still roam the neighborhood and collect candy, but once they get home parents swap candy for fruit, toy, or hypoallergenic dessert.
  • Invite the Switch Witch
    Allow kids to pick out their favorite candy and leave the rest for the Switch Witch. The witch (aka you) comes at night and trades unwanted candy for a toy. This also teaches kids to prioritize and not to waste their time on something they don’t want.
  • Donate or Sell Candy
    Your child may have a few treats on Halloween and decide to share the holiday spirit with others. There are several programs that will accept Halloween candy as a donation or will even pay your child money to pass the sweets on to our troops overseas, veterans, and military families.
6. Relax and Drink Water

Halloween and trick-or-treating are meant to be enjoyed by all. Indulging in sweets one night of the year will not do any long-term damage to your kids’ health. So relax, have fun, and don’t forget to drink lots of water to rinse the sugar off your teeth.

Healthy Halloween Snacks

I appreciate quick and easy recipes, especially those where my busy toddler can help. Here are some hauntingly healthy ideas for your Halloween party.

Itsy Bitsy Spiders

Spiders On A Log

Add a little bit of Halloween to an all-time favorite snack at our house. Don’t forget to practice the Itsy Bitsy Spider rhyme as kids gobble down these yummy treats.

Ingredients: celery sticks, peanut or almond butter, plastic spiders

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Directions: Cut celery sticks into bite-sized logs. Fill each log with peanut or almond butter. Decorate this protein-rich snack with plastic spiders. Kids would be happy to help with this part. Just remember not to eat the spiders!

Cheesy Broomsticks

Cheese Broom Sticks

High in protein, low in calories. These easy to make treats will fly off the plate!

Ingredients: mozzarella cheese sticks, pretzel sticks, chives (optional)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Directions: Cut each mozzarella stick in three pieces. Then cut up the lower parts of each piece to make it look like a broom. Ask your kids to assist with inserting a pretzel stick into the cheese broom. It’s easy and fun to do! As an option, you may decorate broomstick by tying a chive around the top of the broom.

Banana Ghosts and Orange Pumpkins

Banana Ghosts and Orange Pumpkins

This scary healthy dessert is a treat to prepare. Unleash kids’ creativity as you fill their tummies with vitamins and fiber.

Ingredients: bananas, chocolate chips, clementines, celery sticks

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Directions: Peel bananas and cut them in halves. Then press three chocolate chips in a triangular pattern to identify ghost’s eyes and mouth. While kids are busy decorating bananas, insert pre-cut celery strips into peeled clementines to make pumpkins. Stand banana ghosts on a plate along with your orange pumpkins. Voila!

To the mother of a strong-willed child: Now, I get you!

To the mother of a strong-willed childTonight a friend called and asked me to watch her handsome 1 year old baby boy for a few hours. We’ve had numerous play dates with him. My daughter loves baby D and treats him like a little brother. So I thought: “No big deal! By now (with Anna being close to 2.5 years old) I should probably have a black belt in watching 1-year olds.”

Well… today was the day I realized how easy I have it with my daughter! Don’t get me wrong, baby D was fine playing and going along with his plans for the night. It’s my plans of feeding or bathing everyone preferably at relatively the same time that he had some problems with. And unlike Anna with whom I can usually negotiate, he made sure we all understood that my plan was cutting in front of his. Baby D has a strong will and it takes a lot of patience and adjustment on the caregiver’s side to make things work for both. He is also very strong. At 1 year old he is MUCH stronger than my 2.5 year old! And I am not kidding! The moves and twists he performs when you try to change his diaper or when he tries to escape from the high chair are no joke. I’d call them “stay away or get a bruise” moves!

Luckily, my husband was home and was very helpful with both kids. There were times when I desperately cried for help. Like when I was covered in baby D’s oatmeal and he was trying to escape the high chair, for example. It was a good reminder for me of how easy it is to disregard the unique character each child has. We cannot apply a cookie-cutter parenting method to all children. We must accept and adapt to each personality to make our relationships work. A little help from our loved ones changes the world though!

Overall, to my surprise, we all did great. A few battles here and there, but everyone was successfully fed, bathed, and still had a big smile on. However, I must say to you – moms of strong-willed children – I have a new level of respect and compassion for you. I admire your patience and flexibility. Next time I see you, I‘d be sure to offer some help. Now, I get you!

Here are 7 lessons from tonight and into the future that will help guiding the strong-willed child and avoid power struggles. These helped us, but feel free to modify to suit your child needs.

7 Tips on Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

1. Clear Rules and Consequences

Set the rules and enforce them. The child will constantly test you, so don’t be shy to follow through. Clear boundaries and routines make even a strong-willed child feel safe and in control.

2. Give Advance Notice

As adults like to know the plan ahead of time as it makes us feel in control. So give your child an advance warning so he has time to switch his mind from what he is doing now and has an easier time adjusting.

3. Give Options

Most people don’t like being told what to do, so try giving some choices. Just make sure you agree with both options. For example, instead of telling your child to eat, try asking if he prefers to feed himself or you feeding him.

4. Experience to Mastery

Most children have to experience everything for themselves in order to learn and master a skill. Once you make peace with this and make sure your child in not in danger, relax and let him explore. Messes can be cleaned up, kids can be washed, and most things can be fixed. As a result you will have one happy and proud child; as well as you will save your nerves and relationship with the child.

5. Disregard Tantrums

A tantrum is a cry for attention. And some love is generally in order. However, if you are certain the child is not hurt or in danger, don’t fall for the wet eyes and give in to the tantrum. Stick to your rules and consequences. This is the only way to maintain healthy boundaries.

6. Listen with Respect and Consider His Point of View

Many times we get so busy that we may forget things we’ve promised to our children or we are just in a hurry to deal with emotions of our little one. In both examples the child has a full right to be upset because he is not allowed to break his promises to us or ignore someone else’s hurt feelings. In these cases, you have to model the behavior you expect. Apologize profusely or listen empathetically to his point of view, assure him that you will do your best to keep your promises and show your love. It may be difficult for the very little ones to express their emotions, so you need to help them verbalize what they may be upset about, and you will notice the crying will stop when child feels understood.

7. Praise

Reward behaviors you would like to maintain, and ignore the behaviors you would like to eradicate. Most children react well to positive attention and strive to repeat this behavior to receive more praise.

If you have any other tips on managing a strong-willed child, please share them below in the comments. I will be happy to hear your success stories!