My husband and I took our two-year old trick-or-treating this year. It wasn’t the first time – we went last year too, when she was a ladybug who was just learning to walk. She got the idea of grabbing stuff from people’s bowls and putting it into her bucket pretty fast, and this year she loved her costume (butterfly), all the lights and decorations, and keeping up with her three-year-old friend going door to door.
Some people might wonder why we even bother when Halloween is pretty much a minefield of the Pleasure Trap. Our daughter wouldn’t know the difference if we didn’t go out. All I can say is that I would miss it! It’s fun! I love the costumes, I love the lights, I love the Jack-O-Lanterns and spiderwebs and coffins and dry ice on people’s porches. I love all holidays and celebrations and I just don’t really want to miss trick-or-treating. But obviously we don’t really want her eating any of the candy.
I’ve been thinking about what to do about it, and now that we went out and run into a bunch of other parents I got some more ideas, so I thought I would share them here in a reflection about the options we have so we can all be prepared for next year! Of course skipping Halloween night altogether is a totally legitimate, wonderful option. A lot of people can get very creative with Halloween parties and healthy party food. But if you want to go out with the masses, here are some ideas:
- With really little kids (<2) I think you don’t even need to tell them candy is edible. Our two-year-old was watching her friends open candy after we got back from trick-or-treating and she did want to open some because she heard them talking about it, but I just sort of played basketball with the candy and her bucket, gave her some carrots, and she didn’t really know the difference. When we got home she was alseep and the next day she forgot about it. (I threw it in the trash with no one the wiser.)
- I’ve some parents holding signs that their kids don’t see but the person on the porch / at the door of the house can read that says “No candy please” and then they tend to just say “Happy Halloween!” and leave it at that. That sort of works – but sometimes the person giving out candy is looking down, is in middle school, or just doesn’t respond quickly and you get candy anyway. I think it does cut down on the volume though.
- If you live in a neighborhood where you have enough people to join forces you can make a “healthy Halloween map” and only go to specific houses in which all the adults have agreed to either give out fruit, little Halloween toys, stickers, or other non-food items.
- Some people limit the candy kids can eat (from what they’ve gathered) to a few pieces, or sometimes as many pieces as their age. Our daughter’s three-year-old friend got to keep three pieces plus a bonus. I overheard his five-year-old brother campaigning for him to their dad, saying “He’s a growing kid, I think he really needs five”. We can all dream.
- You could limit the candy intake to whatever they can eat Halloween night. If they’re used to eating healthier food (which includes just about every diet in comparison to a meal of candy), they’ll probably reach some sort of internal limit and there may be some tears and disappointment the next day… but hey, we can’t eat holiday feasts for everyday fare .
- You could dole out the candy “in moderation”… like a piece per day or one piece per two days. I’m not a big fan of this myself because I think it normalizes eating candy and prolongs the food addiction 🙂
- The Halloween Fairy! This strategy can be used in combination with any of the others. Halloween Fairy gets all the candy… or most of the candy… or some of the candy. In return, the Fairy provides toys or other valuable experiences/stuff. Or maybe money in classic Tooth Fairy style.
I’m not sure what exactly we’ll do next year, but if our daughter ends up eating a little candy I’m not too worried. She loves broccoli, brown rice, and tofu and we already have a lot of conversations about food, what is it, where it comes from, and what it does to our bodies. And it’s the overall composition of the diet that really determines health outcomes. But I’ll probably be thinking about this all year, and I think my own goal will be to enlist the help of the Halloween Fairy to take all the candy in trade.