Ugh! All that Halloween candy! Just sitting in a bowl, taunting you. ‘Have a hankering for a snack? I’m right here and it’d be so quick to unwrap me and pop me in your mouth… What’s the harm in one little peanut butter cup?’ It can be hard on even the most dedicated Real Foodie. And it’s even more tempting for your children. How can you prevent your kids from consuming all that garbage? (And I don’t mean gorging on it yourself Halloween night while your kids are asleep :)).
First, let’s briefly discuss why this is so important. Is there really harm in having a little candy? It’s just once a year, and people have been celebrating Halloween for decades! Well, a lot has changed…
As we all know, kids nowadays are bombarded with junk food more than ever. What used to be a luxury for holidays or special occasions is now available cheaply and offered everywhere. On top of that, the quality of the candy has changed dramatically. Junk food didn’t used to be quite as junky. But with the advent of cheaper sweeteners (such as HFCS) and the proliferation of food dyes and artificial flavors (look for future posts on both these issues), what our kids get in their plastic pumpkins is now made up of mostly chemicals, and dangerous ones at that.
Further, we all know we need to limit sugar of any kind, but especially ultra-refined sugars, and we certainly want our children’s palates to be geared to better sources of sweetness. (Even a super-delicious uber-sweet Honey Crisp apple would taste bland after a 1.7 ounce box of Nerds candy, which provides a whopping 44 grams of sugar!)
[Before we move on to the solution to the candy problem, I need to sidetrack and brag about my daughter's Halloween costume. For the past year, she has been wanting to be Bombalurina from the musical CATS. For a very uncreative and not-artistically-gifted mom like me, this was terrifying! I tried to find someone who could make it for me, but could not. So we made it ourselves and it ended up being a wonderful thing to do together. And she was a hit!]
So, back to Halloween candy. We had a ton of it, even though she’s only four and we didn’t go far! Besides lollipops (which, ironically enough, she was introduced to at the doctor’s office!) and candy offered to her at friends’ houses, Abi hasn’t really had much candy in her life. And I want to keep it that way. (I’m not saying she doesn’t WANT candy, that’s just ingrained in children, I think.) So we use our Mommy Store as an encouragement to give it up.
The Mommy Store
The Mommy Store is a special section of my closet, and is usually used in conjunction with her responsibility chart. The chart helps keep track of her chores (picking up toys, helping with the dishwasher), personal habits (taking her cod liver oil (look for a post about this soon!), brushing/ flossing), and behavior changes we want to reward (not whining, etc.). We go over it once a week, and she receives Mommy Dollars for each magnet she receives. Mommy Dollars are good in the Mommy Store. But at Halloween, she gets a special trip to the Mommy Store using her candy as Mommy Dollars! She’s thrilled to turn in the candy, and it’s become an exciting part of our tradition.
So What’s in the Mommy Store?
The Mommy Store is stocked mostly with items I get at consignment sales. Sometimes the prices are so cheap I can’t resist, and I have an overflow from my birthday/ Christmas present stock. (I used to joke that since my kids always got second-hand things, they didn’t realize toys had packages :).) I also include things from the Target or Michael’s dollar sections, or things I probably would get her anyway but I know she’ll enjoy “buying,” such as fancy hair clips or sparkly belts. I also buy cheap used books, toys and videos at amazon.com. Here’s how the store looked when Abi traded in her Halloween candy.
It is important to choose things that will be both high and low “priced.” Having a variety will enable your child to receive timely rewards, but also learn about choosing between options, and even “saving up” for items.
So What Happens to the Candy?
Truth be told, I put it in a big ziploc and pass it out the next year. The “good” thing about that candy is that with all those chemicals, it will last forever!
Additional Resources and Reading:
*Mommy Store Dollars (This is a Word document of the Mommy Dollars that I use. Hopefully the formatting will stick.)
*Great places to donate your candy: Operation Gratitude, Any Soldier and Operation Shoebox. Remember to include a personal letter!
*A different perspective: A great post from Modern Alternative Mama about why her family doesn’t celebrate Halloween.
*And finally, if you want to have lollipops in your home, check out these Organic Vitamin C Lollipops.
Coming Next Week: A review of Kate Tietje’s e-book In the Kitchen: Real Food Basics, including a sneak peek at some of her recipes and a chance to win it for free! You don’t want to miss it!