On Monday I shared with you some different approaches parents take in deciding what to pass out to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Today I want to talk about what to do with the sack of candy coming home tonight.
Just Let ‘Em Eat It
In 2010 I told you how kid/food expert Ellyn Satter urges parents to let kids manage their own Halloween candy without parental interference. She writes:
Halloween candy presents a learning opportunity. Work toward having your child be able to manage his own stash. For him to learn, you will have to keep your interference to a minimum. When he comes home from trick or treating, let him lay out his booty, gloat over it, sort it and eat as much of it as he wants. Let him do the same the next day. Then have him put it away and relegate it to meal- and snack-time: a couple of small pieces at meals for dessert and as much as he wants for snack time.”
If he can follow the rules, your child gets to keep control of the stash. Otherwise, you do, on the assumption that as soon as he can manage it, he gets to keep it. Offer milk with the candy, and you have a chance at good nutrition.
Others agree with the “Just let ’em eat it” approach. K.J. Dell’Antonia, then writing for Slate and now editor of the New York Times Motherlode blog, said this in a post that was widely circulated last year:
I have my rants about candy, too. . . . But it’s Halloween. And Halloween is about dressing up in spooky costumes and being given candy. There is no tradition that’s been set aside in favor of the emphasis on candy, no requirement that we “remember the reason for the season,” no need for bemoaning the horrible commercialization of the whole thing. That’s it. That’s all there’s ever been to it . . . . [I]n the long run, what’s the absolute worst thing that will happen if you let the kid eat every single thing out of the bucket that he or she wanted, whenever she wanted it? Dare to find out.
I’ll admit that the free-for-all notion makes me squeamish, but in 2010 on this blog I recalled how my mom dealt with the Halloween candy:
. . . I do have vivid memories of being alone in my room as a child with my big bag of Halloween candy, free to eat it — entirely at will — for weeks after Halloween. (I know! And this is my carob-and-brewer’s-yeast, 1970′s, Prevention-reading mom we’re talking about!)
Whether that was the result of a lack of parental oversight or deliberate parental strategy, I have no idea (Mom, if you’re reading, feel free to comment), but I will say this: I was neither overweight nor sugar-crazed as a result, and as an adult, I love candy and eat it often, but I rarely over-indulge. And maybe that wouldn’t be the case if, as a child, my candy had been carefully doled out (or entirely withheld from me). Maybe then it would be such tempting forbidden fruit that I’d go candy-crazy whenever I had the chance.
(And, by the way, my mom did come by and comment! You can read what she said here.)
Get Rid of the Candy – Creatively
Another popular approach is getting the candy out of the house as fast as possible by letting kids exchange it for money or toys. In some communities, there are candy exchanges run by dental offices — one dentist even released a thoughtful You Tube video about it [hat tip: Casey Legler Hinds]. More often parents arrange the swap, either openly or via a pretend “Switch Witch.” (Sarah Vance of ReBalance Life sent me her article about the Switch Witch here.)
But for those of you considering a candy buy-back, Dina Rose of It’s Not About Nutrition makes this interesting point:
The buy-back programs, however, don’t do much to teach kids a general strategy for surviving other situations where there’s also an onslaught of sweets and treats. That’s a lesson they really need to learn. After all, kids still have to navigate past Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday parties, the drugstore candy aisle and, of course, Grandma’s house. (And I don’t know about any buy-backs for those occasions.)
Dina actually has this unorthodox suggestion: let your child exchange candy he/she doesn’t much like for candy he/she adores. Read her rationale here.
I’ve also seen suggestions that parents find other uses for candy such as craft projects, decorating gingerbread houses or conducting crazy science experiments, and many people donate candy to the troops or to children in homeless shelters. (I’m OK sending candy to adult members of the military who can make informed choices about eating it. I don’t, however, love the idea of dumping candy I don’t want my own kids to eat on less fortunate kids who might not have anyone looking out from them that way. But I suppose one could also argue that homeless kids have the same right as every other American kid to overindulge.)
Something in Between
What we do in my house is somewhere between a strict doling out of candy and a crazy free-for-all. Basically I let my kids have as much as they want on the night of, and then after that they can have a “reasonable” amount each night until they get sick of it and we toss the dregs.
And while we never did the switching thing in the past, my son got wind of the idea and — always eager for more spending money — he’s been pestering me to consider it. Given how eager he is, I’m certainly willing to shell out a little cash to reduce the stash!
What’s Your Plan?
And now for my second highly unscientific poll of the week. What do you do with the candy? I’ll share the results in a future post.
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