The Halloween Candy Post, 2011 Edition

by Bettina Elias Siegel on October 26, 2011

You can’t blog about kids and food and not address the looming question that comes around every year at this time:  what to do about all that candy?

Last year was my first Halloween blogging here on The Lunch Tray and I tackled that knotty question in two parts.

First, I justified (shakily) my own practice of giving out candy on Halloween (and took a reader poll to find out what treats you pass out), and then I talked about my own childhood in which I was given free rein with my Halloween candy, able to keep the stash in my bedroom for weeks on end with no parental oversight.  (My own mom chimed in on the comments section of that post to address my questions about this rather shocking practice!)

So what’s new this year?

Well, for all the reasons explained in the first post cited above, I would still be OK with giving out candy as our treat.  Not thrilled, mind you, but OK with it.  But a week or so ago I was driving with both kids in the back seat and I thought, what the heck  - let’s give it a try and see what happens.  Here’s a fairly accurate paraphrasing of our conversation:

Me:  So, um  . . . what would you think if this year we gave out something different on Halloweeen?

Extremely wary nine-year-old son, narrowed eyes visible in my rear view mirror:  Like what?

Me: I don’t know . . .  what if we had something better than candy, like toys or something like that?

[Dead silence.]

Preteen daughter:  You mean, like those fake fingers we got last year?  Those were pretty cool.   But still, how can you not give out candy?  That’s so weird.

Me, sensing an opening: Yeah, like those fingers!  And we could get other stuff, like tattoos and yo-yos.  I mean, everyone’s going to give away candy .  Maybe we’d be the house everyone wants to go to for something different.

Savvy preteen daughter:  Oh my god, Mom.  Is this about obesity?

Ha!  That’s what I get for taking the indirect approach.  At any rate, we talked the whole thing through and for whatever reason – maybe just the sheer novelty of it – my kids are totally on board with giving out something other than candy this year.  (I’m shocked at this result, by the way.) So here’s what you’ll get to choose from if you stop by the TLT house next Monday:

I can only imagine the conditions in the Chinese factories that produced these cheap trinkets and I pray there’s no lead or melamine involved.  But a blogger can only tackle so many social issues at once and this year, at least, my family won’t be adding to your child’s Halloween sugar and chemical glut.

When it comes to the consuming side of things, though, I felt quite reflective after re-reading the post about my own childhood.  I’ve often argued here on TLT that treats in 2011 can’t be viewed as they were in back in the 70s (or earlier) when our entire food environment was markedly different.  And there’s even some scientific evidence that kids don’t self-regulate as well as they used to when it comes to overeating.  But, at the same time, I’ve seen with my own children that putting too tight a lock on sweets can easily backfire, leading kids to hoard, hide and binge when they get the chance.

So this year I’m going to play the whole thing by ear, erring as much as I can on the side of giving my children more freedom, and therefore more responsibility, when it comes to managing their own Halloween loot.

I’ll let you know how that pans out.  :-)

What are your thoughts on all this?
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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Kat October 26, 2011 at 8:12 am

As a parent of a child with nut allergies I LOVE people who give out stuff like this. I know it’s at least something I won’t have to take away from her. We give out a similar assortment, which also means she can trade anything she gets with nuts for something from our stash. Maybe it’s because we’ve been doing it for 3 years (and my kids are only 7,5,2), but they love it and don’t think it’s weird at all to not give out candy (and so far their friends think it’s cool too).

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Timmi October 26, 2011 at 8:50 am

We don’t get many trick or treaters so we don’t stock up on anything. Every year someone is handing out glowsticks and our daughter loves them, they give out bracelets and necklaces, you can see the whole street with all these glowing kids makes it very easy to see them. I was also given free rein on my candy. I made myself sick every Halloween but then would make it last till Christmas! I know my kids can’t do that cause they will eat it all in one night, but I do let them go a little nuts on Halloween and if they get sick well they want less next time. Hubby and I are candy fiends so we help them out with the candy we also limit it to 1 treat a day and I will also bake them into brownies

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Jenny October 26, 2011 at 8:58 am

Ha! I laughed out loud in the part when your daughter gets what you are up to.

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Dana Woldow October 26, 2011 at 9:45 am

For anyone who needs inspiration on what to give out instead of candy, the “Resources” section of my website PEACHSF.org has a link to a good list of “Healthy Halloween Treats”, and it is also available in Spanish and Chinese, in case you want to share it with your child’s school. There is also a useful sheet called “Preventing Haunted Teeth” (also in Spanish) with some tips for parents on how to minimize dental damage on those days when sugar is unavoidable.
Here’s the link to all:
http://tinyurl.com/6aeycw4

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Susan Tang October 26, 2011 at 10:19 am

Pffffffffffff. What sort of killjoy are you, Bettina? That’s way too much fun! We’re doing a Halloween Hydration Station. That’s right, we’re giving out filtered tapwater in little eco-friendly cups. My table out front will be decked to the 9′s though in spooky stuff, so while I may personally be lame my table will still be fun. It’ll be interesting to see how it is received, don’t you think? I feel like trying something different.

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Bettina Elias Siegel October 26, 2011 at 10:32 am

What a neat idea – tell us how it goes!

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Jeanne @JollyTomato October 26, 2011 at 11:42 am

OK, your daughter just cracked me up. My kids are onto me too. This year (like last) we’re giving away those little packs of Halloween pretzels. My argument: Who doesn’t love pretzels? And don’t they taste great with chocolate? My kids’ response: Meh.

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NotCinderell October 26, 2011 at 12:50 pm

We had some neighbors who gave away those glow necklaces on Halloween when I was a kid. We loved them.

Play Doh is marketing its mini containers as trick-or-treat prizes this year. I got a coupon with ad copy that said “Ghost and Goblin tested, Mummy approved.”

I’m giving out candy. We pool everything and then ration it out, one or two pieces a day. The kids have never had a problem with that, and neither have I, except when I was pregnant.

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Nina October 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I’ve been wanting to do this for a few years but haven’t had the nerve. So this year I’m mixing some candy and some toys & pencils (Halloween theme) in the same bowl & letting the kids choose. If the toys go over well then next year there will be more toys and less candy.

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Bettina Elias Siegel October 28, 2011 at 9:33 am

Nina – it’s a first for both of us this year. Let me know how it goes on your end.

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Sophie Johnson October 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm

How should I interpret the coupon for $5 off a $35 purchase of See’s candy on my version of your blog post today? :)

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lindtfree October 27, 2011 at 8:25 pm

For health reasons, I have been candy- and dessert-free since 2003. I don’t believe in addicting children to sugar or television; had I become a parent, I probably would have been a staff sergeant for the food and TV police, but at least not a captain! However, it’s time for my own hypocrisy confession:

Before I was married in early 2008, I lived for several years in a neighborhood of apartments and condos filled with singles and couples. With rare exception, the few children who lived in the area were too young to go trick-or-treating, mostly under age two. Even though it was what I call a “real neighborhood” in that people often knew and talked to one another in building lobbies or on the street, I had not one trick-or-treater and therefore never had to deal with the candy issue.

My husband and I now own a “big old house” in an urban neighborhood that I often describe as being right on the line between a low-income area and a better one. One of the bad things about the neighborhood is that (like so many neighborhoods of mostly single-family homes nowadays) people mostly keep to themselves. There are a few neighbors whom I talk to if I see them on the street, but no one I know well enough to invite into our home or ask to water my plants if we need to go out of town. On Halloween, everything changes: as long as our porch light remains on, children keep ringing the doorbell, as much as I did with my friends in the relatively-innocent 1970s.

Why We Give Treats on Halloween:
1.) I love the sense of community the neighborhood has on Halloween, which seems greater than even during the December-January holiday season. Also, I enjoy seeing the children’s costumes.
a.) In the neighborhood where I did most of my own trick-or-treating, one older couple gave a huge stick of Big Daddy bubble gum to each child who came to their door. For this reason, I don’t think they EVER had trouble with any of the neighborhood kids. Halloween treats MAY help curtail yard trespassing and baseballs through windows!
2.) I was a child once, and remember how I loved Halloween. It wasn’t just the treats. . .it was the costumes, walking around outside at night on one of the last days of the year before we’d need our winter coats, and tuna casserole for Halloween dinner, an unintended tradition that started when I was seven or eight.
3.) To me, Halloween is a sort of Roman orgy for children. I don’t encourage regular junk-food access, but I do believe in having pizza delivered once or twice a month, birthday cakes, and, yes, holiday and Halloween candy. Besides, many children who are allowed to eat all the candy they want on Halloween night will eventually be regulated by their GI tracts: even though I never actually made myself sick, I know I learned my lesson!
4.) My husband (whom I envy because he isn’t a sugar addict and, unlike me, can always eat candy and dessert in moderation) would probably have me officially declared a killjoy if we didn’t!

The treats we give (with some hypocrisy):
1.) The first 2-3 dozen children who come to our house get Little Debbie snack cakes. We can’t afford to buy these for everyone, but we give them to a few. Why snack cakes? I would have LOVED getting these for Halloween when I was a child.
2.) Most children get small, chocolate-free nut candy bars manufactured by a local company. We give these for three reasons:
a.) Aesthetically as well as politically, I dislike Hershey’s and other cheap, non-fair-trade chocolate.
b.) I began supporting “buying local” about 15 years before it was trendy.
c.) My husband and I both loved these candy bars when we were children. . .he still does.
http://www.pearsonscandy.com/nutroll.aspx
3.) For children allergic to nuts, we give two more of my childhood favorites: caramel creams and (gasp) pieces of old-fashioned bubble gum.
http://www.goetzecandy.com/index.cfm?page=nutfree
4.) Last year, we had multitudes of trick-or-treaters and ran out of treats about 30 minutes before our self-imposed “porchlight out” time. In desperation, we raided our cupboards and began giving store-brand breakfast bars. A few of the older kids were actually impressed!
5.) I’ve thought about providing a candy alternative such as mini-superballs but am conflicted, partly because I don’t want to buy a bunch of “Made in China” stuff and partly because in some ways I’m my mother’s daughter: she hated “junky toys” and so do I. Nonetheless, alternatives are important. I still have a few days. . .maybe I’ll pick up some USA-made stickers this weekend.

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Bettina Elias Siegel October 28, 2011 at 9:27 am

l love all your reasons for giving out treats, whatever those treats are. It’s sad but true that Halloween is often the only time of year we talk with certain neighbors and it’s a great community-building experience. I really wasn’t thinking about it that way before. Thank you, as always, for your great comments on TLT, Lindtfree.

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