How do you handle Halloween with a toddler?
Around this time of year, I start coming across a lot of fantastic articles about how to handle Halloween candy with a healthy approach. The advice generally goes like this: Let your kids eat as much candy as they want on Halloween night and again the next day. Then determine an appropriate number of pieces of candy for the kids to enjoy each day in place of treats they would normally have. And if you want to, consider implementing a strategy such as the Switch Witch which gives the kids the opportunity to trade some of their candy for a more desirable item or experience.
I think this is all excellent advice and I look forward to implementing it as my kids get older. However, it seems to me that all of this is targeted at children who have a general understanding of logic. And a two-year-old certainly does not!! Even before our first Halloween event, I was anticipating my daughter’s meltdown once I implemented the one-treat-a-day portion of the above advice. “I WANT MYYYYYY CANDY!!!” Uh oh.
So here’s how I’m handling Halloween this year with my two-year-old. Hopefully some of these strategies work for you, too, although it often depends on your kid and how your family is celebrating the holiday. If a different strategy works for you, I’d love to hear it!
Skip Trick or Treating
There are two scenarios here. Either unless your child already understands the concept of free candy at all the houses, or he doesn’t. I say that if he doesn’t, there’s no need to introduce the concept just yet. Surely your kid will figure it out eventually, but in the meantime, just avoid the stress of going house to house and managing a candy stash once you get home.
Now if your kid does understand Trick or Treating or perhaps wants to join an older sibling who’s going, of course it’s up to your parental discretion to decide if you want to allow it. If you do decide to let your child go out, try to implement the above advice of unlimited candy on Halloween night and rationed treats thereafter, especially if an older sibling is in the picture who can model how the rules will work.
Seek out events with healthier options
Although I was initially disappointed that my daughter’s preschool’s Trunk or Treat event requested healthy and non-food treats only (I wanted to hand out chocolate!) I was actually relieved once I saw my daughter’s stash. Most of the edible treats she received were snack-sized Goldfish, raisins and fruit gummies and since she already understands that these kinds of foods are a once-a-day deal, we just added them to our snack stash together after the event. I did allow her to eat as many of these treats as she wanted during the event, but she only ended up having one bag of Goldfish and a bunch of prunes.
Enjoy treats AT the event, but don’t bring much home
Don’t put any restrictions on what your child can consume at a Halloween event you’re attending, but also steer them towards the hayride, costume parade, or other fun events. Hopefully they’ll have so much fun that they won’t catch on to the fact that the treats are available to take home, too. And if they do, see above.
Hand out healthier or non-food options at your own house
This one pains me, because I love handing out real candy! But if you have Trick or Treaters arriving before your toddler’s bedtime, you kid’s eyes are going to be on that prize of a candy bowl you’re manning. Non-food items will be less interesting, plus you can participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project and hand out items that are safe for children with food allergies.
Don’t freak out about candy
I know, I know, all of the above advice pretty much has to do with avoiding candy. But receiving some candy is inevitable and I want you to keep in mind that the healthiest approach is to allow your kid to enjoy it. That’s right, I said enjoying candy is healthy! The ultimate goal (and we’re not just talking Halloween here) is for your child to learn to enjoy what we think of as “unhealthy” foods in moderation, not to fear them or feel guilty for enjoying them. So when some candy comes around, go ahead and enjoy it!
What has worked for your young family? I’d love to hear your strategies!