Halloween is taking off in Australia, and with it come the sweets. Lollies are either the best or second-best part of a kid's Halloween, depending on how much they love costumes. But what do you do when your kid brings home mountains of gut-busting, tooth-rotting sugar? Here are your options for shrinking the pile without sucking all the fun out of the holiday. Illustration by Angelica Alzona. Photos by slgckgc, Jim, Cindy and via VisualHunt.
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One day of gorging on lollies won't lead to health problems or bad habits. What kids eat year-round matters more than any one day. The real problem is, any proficient trick-or-treater will come home with far more than one bellyful of sweets. You can only shrug and say, "Eh, it's Halloween," so many times before what you have is not a special occasion but a new habit.
So if you're inclined to let your child gorge, make it clear that the free-for-all only lasts a day or two. Two days sounds optimal to me: On the first day, they won't feel compelled to eat everything; by the second day, the best pieces will be gone and their enthusiasm may begin to wane.
If you'd like to teach kids to question the tradition of stuffing themselves with sweets, do like Yoni Freedhof and ask them, ahead of time, how many lollies it takes to make the holiday feel special. On Halloween night, they get to eat that many -- and you can expect them to pick their favourites. The rest can await the next phase of your plan.
Dole Out the Stash
Once the novelty of owning a massive amount of lollies has worn off, fun size Mars bars make fine treats for lunchboxes. Consider allowing a piece or two every day in early November. (If your kids are too young to obey this rule without help, and you'd rather not prolong the agony of being the gatekeeper, skip to the next section.)
Younger kids will forget, pretty quickly, exactly how many lollies they had. While I would never condone stealing from your child, a parental, say, "sweet tax" may be taken with nobody being the wiser. When the supply dwindles to the lowest-tier lollies, or when the child's attention wanes, consider dumping or donating the rest.
Enlist the Kid's Help to Get Rid of It
If you're more the type to rip plasters off, you may prefer to get the lollies out of the house ASAP. With a good enough deal, you can get the kids excited about helping you. Here are some of the ways to cooperatively disappear the loot:
- Buy It. Just straight up purchase the sweets from your kid. You can place a bid for the whole bag, or set up a buyback program with list prices: Say, 10 cents for a roll of fizzy sweets and 25 cents for mini chocolate bars. Or, set up a kilojoules-to-cents exchange rate to sneak a maths and nutrition lesson into the deal.
- Swap It. If you'd prefer something more magical than a buyout, tell the kids that the Tooth Fairy's sister the Switch Witch will be flying around to exchange sweets for toys while they sleep. If your child has already started dreaming of holiday wish lists, and has picked out their favourite lollies from the pile anyhow, chances are they will gladly make the swap.
The key to these strategies is giving your child some decision making power. If they don't choose to sell or swap, you're just confiscating the sweets. That's your right as a parent, but not the best way to build trust. On the other hand, if they choose to give it away, they're learning to balance their hunger for lollies against other benefits for their lives.
Try Creative Solutions
Besides the straightforward scenarios above, there are a few more ways to have fun with Halloween lollies in ways that make it go away:
- Explore the science of sweets. Who would have guessed that Warheads both float and sink or that purple Nerds turn water red? Check out Candy Experiments for more ideas like these, or invent your own.
- Use sweets in recipes. While this doesn't do much to lower kids' kilojoule intake, turning lollies into dessert can be a fun craft and a way to share the bounty with others. Try a chocolate sweet bark, make granola bars with a sweet topping or mix lollies with popcorn and pretzels for a fun snack mix.
While we're talking about creative solutions, don't forget that there's no law that you have to take your kids trick-or-treating, especially since celebrating Halloween is still very much an optional holiday in Australia. If you can get together a few like-minded families for a party next year instead, that's a fun tradition that allows for plenty of treats without the logistical problems afterwards.
Finally, you can do your part to reduce the number of sweets that go into the Halloween ecosystem by giving out toys and party favours instead of being another house doling out packets of sugar. This strategy is also friendly to kids with food allergies. Try noisemakers, tiaras or bubble mixture.
When it comes to the lollies your kids bring home, every family is different, so what works for somebody else's kids might feel too controlling -- or too freewheeling -- for yours. By choosing the best strategies for you, Halloween can still be fun without turning into a month-long lolly marathon.