Halloween: Ways to Cut the Candy Without Dampening the Excitement

I love Halloween. Although it’s supposed to be eerie and dark, the whole spirit of the holiday ironically warms my heart.  I love that our children are still silly enough to dress in costume, and that our neighbors are still friendly enough to open their doors and hand out treats. I love that parents walk their children door to door, and that people put in the effort to carve pumpkins and decorate their homes. It is a tradition that seems to belong on Leave It to Beaver, and yet somehow still thrives today.

This being said, there is a new challenge we parents face which was conveniently underemphasized in generations past. Sugar. We are now fully aware, no excuses, that sugar is way over-done in our culture and frankly, bad for our and our children’s health. We have issues with child obesity, diabetes, and ADD to name a few. So, how do we avoid those huge buckets of candy our children bring home without having them miss out on all the fun? Here are a couple ideas.

  • Make a deal ahead of time for your children to trade their candy for a desired toy. There are even books/toys to use (sugar goblins and switch witches) to make it more magical. I used this tactic with my kids last year. We conducted a straight trade directly after trick or treating, and the tin of Pokémon cards was successfully far more exciting than the bucket of sugar.
  • Make it known, in advance, that your children may pick out X number of treats, and then help you hand out the rest in the give-away bowl. Children will make a big production out of picking their favorites, and may surprisingly enjoy the fun of giving to others.
  • Have the “one-sweet-a-day” rule, where one candy may be picked from the bucket each day. The bonus – no gorging on sugar. The draw-back – there’s a good chance you will have that bucket through St. Patty’s Day. Also be prepared, if your children are looking at their candy every day, there is little chance of sneaking any of it away to the trash (or for yourself).
  • Focus on visiting the allergy-friendly houses. The Teal Pumpkin Project was something I learned about last year after discovering my middle son’s food intolerances. In short, if a house has a teal pumpkin displayed, they are giving away little trinkets instead of candy. This is very exciting for those kiddos that can’t have most processed sweets anyway.
  • Go to a no-candy Halloween event. It’s never too late to start a new tradition, and there are always some pretty cool venues hosting Halloween events for kids. Skip the candy collection and in with the new.
  • Use excess candy for baking, holiday gingerbread house-making, or send it to the office. This, of course, only works when our children do not have an exact count of their inventory, and really only encourages others to eat the sugar instead of our children. So… take this one at face value.
  • Trade it in to a dentist. There are many dentists and orthodontists that actually take candy trade-ins for gift cards. Pretty good deal (if your child likes gift cards… or toys at the store).

With any of these options, you have a definite advantage if your children are young enough for you to make the decision without them. But if they are old enough to really feel they’ve earned their candy – a deal must be struck in advance. For success, the agreement must both sound like a winner to your kids and meet your requirements for sugar consumption. And I can say in all honesty, with all the negatives that go along with too much sugar – I have never regretted the extra effort put into finding a crowd-pleasing solution. After all, Halloween is still eerie and exciting – even when the candy is taken out of the equation.


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