Thursday, October 1, 2009

What, more candy?

What to do with Halloween candy is a dilemma for every parent, and even more so for those of us managing our children's allergies. On average, Americans eat about 23 pounds of candy per year, and much of that is consumed in the weeks leading up to and including Halloween. Each year as the holidays draw near, I have two major food questions on my mind:

1. How can I help my kids to continue to make good eating choices during this time of year?
2. What can I do to help Sophie feel happy and create positive memories despite her dietary restrictions?

Over the years, I have developed a few ideas for managing Halloween candy, and friends have contributed others.

First, since Sophie loves to Trick or Treat, when I purchase Halloween candy to pass out at our door, I generally buy only items that are safe for her. I also set aside some of the safe candy so that when she gets home from Trick or Treating, or from a party or other event, she can give me her forbidden items in exchange for things that she loves and that are safe for her.

Second, I have several friends who pay their children for their Halloween candy. They have a set amount of time during which the kids can eat what they want (maybe 1 or 2 days), and then they buy the rest of the candy. They set a price either per piece or per pound, and it gives the kids a way to earn some money, and Mom and Dad don't have to worry so much about cavities.

Purchasing the candy generally only works for kids old enough to understand and appreciate money, so my third suggestion is an alternative to the candy sale for younger children. For younger kids, or kids who don't care about the value of a $dollar$, purchase a toy that you know your child really wants. You can spend whatever works for your budget. Then, offer to trade your child that toy for their Halloween candy. For many kids, the concrete toy is much harder to resist than the more nebulous dollars and cents.

The fourth idea is simply another version of the third. Rather than offering to trade, explain to your children about the Halloween Fairy. The Halloween Fairy is friends with the Tooth Fairy, as well as the less-well-known Bottle Fairy and Diaper Fairy (courtesy of SuperNanny). They operate in much the same way. All of the fairies come at night. They require a certain offering, in this case, Halloween candy, and in exchange will leave something of value, in this case, a new toy.

Whether you trade your kids for their candy or let them keep it and slowly consume it over the coming weeks and months, you can also find ways to control the eating a little. In our family, we ask each of the children to go through their candy and donate supplies to the Decorating Bag. This is a large ziptop bag used when we make and decorate cookies, Gingerbread houses, dipped candy canes, etc. For the sake of simplicity, I require that all donations to the Decorating Bag are Sophie Safe.

My husband has a suggestion as well: Daddy Tax. Daddy Tax is the tax, paid in candy, which all children must pay their fathers any time the children eat candy in front of them. I'm not sure that his motive is reducing their sugar intake, but it does the job just the same.

I hope you all have a safe and Happy Halloween!

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