How to Handle Halloween Candy With Kids

Published October 21, 2021
By Renae D'Andrea

Halloween is just around the corner, and it’s a holiday that many parents dread. What should you do with all the candy? Let them eat it? Take it? How do you handle it all? Keep reading for my recommendations!

Halloween Candy Is Not Bad

Let’s just get this out of the way first. Candy isn’t bad. In fact, it’s a delicious part of life. And it’s a part of life that we want to help our children become comfortable with. Because at the end of the day, they need to know how to navigate a world with candy in it.

Even if somehow you do manage to keep candy and sweets from them for their entire childhood, they will still be exposed to it as they get older. They will need to know how to handle it around them. And that’s where you come into place!

Bucket of spilled halloween candy

Choosing What Halloween Candy To Buy

Before we get to talking about how to handle Halloween candy once your kids have it, let’s talk about what you should buy for your own house. You’ll find many recommendations out there for finding the “healthiest” candy to get for your kids.

But my recommendation is to forget all that! Buy the candy that you yourself enjoy. And even buy what you think your kids will enjoy. Period.

That doesn’t mean you have to get the most expensive candy out there. And it doesn’t mean you have to get the cheap stuff just to say you did. Buy what you want to!

I personally like dark chocolate candies, and especially love some of the fancier ones. So I will be buying at least some of those. It’s not because they’re healthier. It’s because that’s what I enjoy. I encourage you to do the same! 

Pay Attention to Choking Hazards

The only ones to truly avoid are the choking hazard ones for your kids. Choking hazards for kids 4 and under include candies with whole nuts, sticky caramel, hard candies like lollipops or jolly ranchers, gum, taffy or other hard sticky candies.

That means that a lot of popular candies out there are choking hazards for kids. So your choices are already limited. Don’t limit it more than you need to outside of that!

A Plug For Non-Food Halloween Items

Allergies are becoming more and more prevalent in kids. That also means that many kids are not safely able to trick-or-treat as a result of their allergies. This is where the teal pumpkin project comes in. Grab a teal pumpkin, or paint one, to indicate to families that you have non-food items. Then grab some low cost things (think simple like stickers or pencils here!) to hand out instead of, or with, candy. It will make a lot of kids who can’t typically participate safely in Halloween happy!

kids trick or treating

Let’s Keep the Switch Witch Out Of It

Every few years it seems like there’s a new way for parents to “handle” Halloween candy. Whether it’s hiding it or using the Switch Witch to take some candy away, it can all lead to a confusing message for kids.

The Switch Witch specifically is one that has been popular lately, and deserves it’s own mention. This is a tradition where kids leave their Halloween candy for a witch who switches it for a toy or some other small item that they want.

Avoid This Version Of The Switch Witch

There are many different ways that I have heard of the Switch Witch being used. One way is where the witch takes the candy without letting the kids decide what to give her. Essentially stealing the candy. This isn’t something that I advise in really any situation, as it puts a lot of meaning behind candy for kids. 

From feeling like they aren’t allowed to eat the candy they trick-or-treated for, to feeling like sugar is bad if they have it, there really isn’t a lot of good done for their relationship with food with this tradition.

This Version Of The Switch Witch Is Slightly Better

The other way I have heard of parents using the Switch Witch is to allow their kids to decide what candy they don’t want, and offer it to the Switch Witch in return for something else. While I have much less of a problem with this version, it still has undertones of negativity around candy.

I’d much prefer to see candy traded with other people, kept for later, thrown away, given away, or really anything else that doesn’t involve it being traded for value. 

I don’t imagine any parent would have their kids gather up all the veggies they have in the house and trade them for something else. And doing that with candy implies to kids that candy is important and has more value than other foods.

If Not The Switch Witch, What Should You Do With Halloween Candy

First, remember what we talked about in the beginning of this article. Candy is not bad! Even candy that is full of what you might deem questionable ingredients- like high fructose corn syrup and tons of food coloring. Candy is just a type of food. Some of it tastes better than others, some might be more nutritional dense, but it isn’t inherently bad! Candy holds no morality.

When it comes to candy, let your kids go trick-or-treating for it. When they return home, check the candy for any choking hazards if they are under 4 and remove those. I recommend being very up front about that. Tell them what you are taking, and that it is a choking hazard. Let them know they can have that type of candy when they are older.

Handling Candy On Halloween Night

2 kids sharing halloween candy

Let them eat as much of the safe candy as they want. Seriously. That’s a big part of Halloween, and often results in a lot of fun memories. I still remember sitting on the rug with my sister after getting home from trick-or-treating. We would spend a long time sampling and trading with each other until we both had our favorites. And that was 30 some odd years ago!

Handling Candy After Halloween Night

After Halloween, plan to have some of the candy on your meal plan for a while. Choose a frequency throughout the day that feels good to your family. For us, we usually have some with our lunch, and then put it away for the next time. You don’t need to offer it at every eating opportunity.

I usually recommend only restricting things like candy if there is a finite amount of it that needs to be shared with others. But in this case, it’s their candy. Let them eat how much they want of it when you serve it. (If you want some help with specifics on how to handle desserts in general, make sure to head here.)

When it comes to exactly how frequently you should serve it, there are really two tacks you can take. Which one you choose will be dependent on your family and your child. The goal of your choice is to make the candy just like any other food that is available to them. It’s nothing special!

Offer Candy Every Day After Halloween

The first way of offering the candy is to do it every day or every 2-3 days after halloween. If you have a kid who is really excited about it, and just wants to eat their candy, this is often a good bet. 

It shows them that you’re comfortable with them eating the candy, and it’s okay for them to eat something that they enjoy. I think of it like making a batch of cookies and then eating them every day until they go bad or are gone.

Incorporate the Candy Into Your Normal Dessert Rotation

The other option is to incorporate the candy into your normal dessert rotation. I usually advise having some form of dessert 2-3 times (or more) a week, depending on your family’s normal eating habits. The benefit of this is that it helps to make desserts and sugar a regular thing that isn’t put on a pedestal for kids. 

Incorporate the candy into this normal rotation, so maybe you are having it once a week in between your normal cookies, cake, or whatever else you have. I think of this option as something like making a pan of cookies, having some the first day, and then putting them in the freezer so you will have them to eat for a while going forward.

Neither of these ways is better than the other. They will both just work differently for different families. Again, at the end of the day, our goal is for the candy, and sugar in general to be just another food.

Let’s Make Halloween About The Memories

By making their candy just another food, we allow Halloween to be the social tradition that it is meant to be. Without the negative connotation of sugar and tendency of parents to be overly concerned.

It’s okay for kids to have sugar. And not only that, it’s vital that we teach them how to approach it and that it really is just another type of food that they will come across in their life. 

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