Dear Boston Mamas: How to Handle the Halloween Candy Craze

Today’s Dear Boston Mamas query comes from reader Jenn:

"Christine, how did you handle Halloween with Laurel and Violet? Specifically, when did you allow them to start going door to door and how did you curb their candy intake? My husband thinks Halloween candy is the gateway to disaster and serious addictions to junk food/candy afterwards."

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Dear Jenn,

Thanks for writing in! My view on candy is like many things: in moderation and with some general guidelines it is totally fine. I think the real problem comes when you restrict completely. I've seen this happen with other families and also am speaking from personal parents were super restrictive with sweets and I became a lunatic driven to shoplifting Swedish fish. I truly wish the convenience store from which I procured my Swedish fish was still there so I could pay them back.

First, regarding age, babies obviously won't collect/eat candy. Laurel wasn't interested in going door to door until she was 3 but last Halloween Violet (at 2 years old) wanted to go out with her sister and it was more about the acquisition than anything else. In fact, last week we discovered her pumpkin bucket in the closet, still full of candy!

Now, here are my 8 tips for handling the Halloween candy craze. Both Laurel and Violet love sweet treats, but we have been able to establish a decent balance by keeping to the below guidelines.

1. Real food first. A good rule of thumb is that real food consumption – ideally including fruits and vegetables – must precede sugar. The whole, “everyone who eats a good dinner can have a treat afterwards” thing does work.

2. Teach moderation. Kids do naturally self-regulate, but as they get older (and their eyes get bigger than their stomach) you may need to remind them about moderation. We’ve always encouraged the girls to listen to their stomachs and in the face of something richer than usual, offer a reminder such as, "Is your tummy starting to hurt? Don't eat until you get sick." (If your kid had an experience in the past where they ate treats until they got a stomach ache, this is a good time to remind them of that feeling.) This approach has worked really well.

3. Set firm limits. Decide on a fixed limit for consumption. For example, allow 1-2 pieces of candy after a meal, no negotiations.

4. Be consistent. Whatever rule you set up in #3, BE CONSISTENT. This is the key to almost everything with parenting. The less consistent you are, the more your (clever) children will realize they can beg and whine until you cave in. Less begging and whining = good! BE CONSISTENT!

5. Limit the drama. Kids feed off our emotions. Like 100% restriction, the bigger a deal you make of it, the more they will want it. Just be matter of fact about your decisions and limit the drama.

6. Make teeth brushing contingent on eating candy. It’s amazing how the nuisance of teeth brushing (not at the typical teeth brushing times) will kill the desire for eating candy. But even if it doesn’t, it’s a good thing to follow candy consumption with teeth brushing.

7. Teach about consequences. If candy consumption really becomes a difficult issue, teach your kids about consequences. Give it away via a local buy back or donation to the troops. Trust me, they will remember next year.

8. Change the giving rules in your home. If you want to model less candy, try passing out Halloween candy alternatives. It will show them that there can be other ways to celebrate.

Do you have other effective ways to handle the Halloween candy crazy at home? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Image credit: candy corns via