Halloween is easily one of my favorite holidays — second only to Christmas. The idea of getting to dress up as anything you want and gallivant through the community with family, friends and neighbors to get candy is not only great fun, but always has been special to me. I really enjoy the sense of community that comes with Halloween, especially since it is often the one time of year we get out and see all of our neighbors.
As I’ve aged and added children to my family, I’ve begun to struggle with the “other” side of Halloween — what to do with all of that candy lying around the house. As a child, that was never a problem for me. I went out and got the candy; my parents put it in a container on top of the refrigerator; I snuck into said container as often as possible, ate the candy and went on with my day. I didn’t give it much thought.
Now, as a parent, I am the one who gets to deal with my children when I catch them standing on a stool in front of the fridge, sneaking into that candy container.
I am not alone in this. After last night, I know there are parents across Liberty County and the country staring at a large pile of Halloween booty and wondering what they should do with it. The days following Halloween can be a tough time when it comes to keeping kids’ diets healthy. The temptations are everywhere. With so much refined sugar lying around, it is easy for children to develop unhealthy snacking habits.
During the years, I have come up with my own methods for dealing with the Halloween aftermath and keeping my kids out of the candy as much as possible. Try some of these tips to keep your kids on the right track:
• Always sort the candy. This was my parents No. 1 rule, and I have adopted it. After the kids have returned from trick-or-treating and are slumbering peacefully, my husband and I go through each bag of candy separately. There are certain pieces of candy that we will not allow our children to have and those get pulled out first. Hard candy and lollipops are not allowed in our house because they are so bad for little teeth.
Like most children, my kids like to bite and chew them. The grooves and spaces between the teeth get packed with the sticky residue and it basically invites cavities, so they need to go. We pull them all out and either toss them or I take them to work to give away.
Next, we pull out all of the healthy snacks such as raisins, granola bars and sugar-free items. There are most always a few or more. We separate them from the rest of the candy and include those items in school lunches or put them in our after-school snack container. Finally, we pull out anything that looks questionable, such as candy with loose or open wrappers, and toss those items in the trash.
• Keep candy out of reach. Post-sorting, each child’s candy goes into a separate, large resealable container. We usually keep the containers on the top of the refrigerator. Now that our children are getting older, we need to find more creative hiding places so that they can’t get into the container to snack whenever they want. Remember — out of sight, out of mind.
• Set guidelines. Our children know in advance that there are rules when it comes to candy consumption. The first rule is that there is never any candy eaten on school nights. This keeps them from choosing candy as a snack before bed. Additionally, if they want to bring candy in their school lunches, they are restricted to one piece only. When they are allowed candy, my husband and I limit them to a certain number of pieces at a time, usually two or three depending on the size and type. You can establish your own rules based on your routine at home.
• Implement a buy-back program. Some years, my kids end up collecting more candy than they could ever eat, so we “buy it back” from them. My husband and I will split the candy in half and offer our children a certain amount of additional allowance money in trade. It sounds strange, but they did walk from house to house to earn all that candy, so compensating them for the loss is not a foreign concept. This deal is always a hit in our house, and it keeps them from eating all that extra junk.
• Keep lots of healthy snacks around. If kids have lots of healthy snack options for after school and between meals on the weekends, they won’t be as tempted to dip into their candy stash.
• Trade small amounts of candy for play. We occasionally will allow our kids to enjoy their candy if they first go outside and play for a certain period of time, typically at least an hour. Sometimes, they come in for a snack and take some candy out to share with their friends, but many times they forget all about the candy and play outside for several hours.
By using these tips, sticking to your guns and not letting your kids guilt you into excessive candy consumption, you should be able to get through the next few weeks with your sanity intact.