We dread them, we hate them, we get thrown off our game when they happen.…
Did you love Halloween when you were a kid?
I did. I loved dressing up, but I don’t remember any of my costumes.
I do know that they were pretty simple back then. My mother was a dreadful sewer – my kids will attest to my inheriting that trait. So I just wore whatever was easy.
I lived on the eighth floor of an apartment building and delighted in knocking on everyone’s door, going floor to floor, and collecting gobs of loot.
Then my friends and I would usually gather in my apartment, pour all of our stuff out on the floor, and trade.
I actually don’t even remember eating it, but I guess I must have eaten some of it.
I do recollect some of it going really stale and gross – probably we didn’t have all the chemicals in our foods then. Maybe my parents took some and either threw it out or ate some themselves.
As I got older, it was considered rude to ask for candy, so we all went trick or treating for Unicef.
It was still great fun and some people gave us candy anyway. We were actually super stoked on how much money we collected and could bring to school the next day where it was collected and sent to Unicef.
When I had kids, I got into the happy spirit of Halloween.
When they were very little, it was lots of fun – we put a funny hat, or a dab of colour on their nose with lipstick, visited one or two neighbours and that was that.
We’d come home and then they switched to handing out goodies to the huge numbers of kids who came to our door. They enjoyed that as much as trick or treating.
They themselves had no idea what they had collected let alone how much and it was easy to throw out most of it (okay, we ate some).
But, as they got older, the costume thing became way more important and way more stressful every year. Being a lousy sewer and generally artistically challenged didn’t help.
I watched my kids’ friends mothers make these elaborate costumes that they started weeks in advance. I knew that when my kids announced that they wanted to be a martian or an elephant, this was beyond my capacity.
I tried, and eventually we figured out something (often renting something from the local theatre) – and, of course, it was usually cold and rainy on Halloween and the costumes were covered up anyway – but whatever. The stress over costumes was always, in the long run, a terrible waste of emotional energy.
But, even with all the pressure on getting a great costume, my kids loved trick or treating. There was a thrill and excitement about it and our neighbourhood was trick or treat heaven. Almost all the people were warm, and friendly and generous and always complimented my kids on their costumes.
As they got older, we went further afar. Eventually, they went out on their own with their friends with very tight parameters as to where and how far they could go and when they had to be back.
And they always were back, usually earlier. Because, carrying on my family’s tradition, they really wanted to come back to our house with their friends, dump out their collection and trade.
As they got older still, they enjoyed decorating the entryway and creating an “Experience” for the kids who came to the door. Never scary, just fun.
Of course, we always had to deal with the realities of all that candy.
Over the years we tried assorted approaches:
- trading for healthier but yummy food,
- trading for little toys, doling it out a little each day,
- throwing out the absolutely unacceptable stuff,
- giving them money in exchange which they could use towards a little something they might want,
- putting it out on the porch for the magic pumpkin who would generously leave something healthy in exchange…
Halloween candy is a real challenge for health conscious parents so some families stay away from trick or treating altogether.
There’s an endless list of options you can try for your kids. I know some families who just get together with friends and family and have a Healthy Halloween Party.Some go to community events that purposely avoid candy and scariness
But if your kids catch on to the fun and excitement of Trick or Treat, it’s hard to nix it.
Here are some ideas to help you make Halloween a positive, healthy experience:
- Every day, feed your kids healthy food. Help them learn what kinds of food makes them feel healthier and stronger.
- Kids love treats – if you get in the habit of making or buying treats that are made with good natural ingredients, commercial candy with all of it chemicals will actually taste kind of yucky to them.
- Feed them a good filling dinner before they go out. Carry some healthy food with you in case your kids get hungry along the way.
- Talk about how much fun it is to get the candy, but that after they get it you will choose other things to do with it besides eating it all (Good to decide this in advance)
- Be a role model for them – don’t sit around eating a ton of candy before they go out trick or treating. Instead, set an example by showing them how you are choosing just one or two to eat, and that’s all.
- Be a Treat role model – don’t give out candy to other people’s kids. Give out stickers, pencils, toothbrushes, little toys, markers etc. In surveys of kids on what they liked for Trick or Treat, the majority said they like things that lasted and they could use after Halloween (who would’ve thought?). Involve your kids in choosing what to give out.
- If you do give out candy, choose healthier alternatives like Organic Lollipops, or individual little packs of dark chocolate. There are definitely alternatives you can find at your local health food store.
- When you go trick or treating with your children, emphasize that people are being generous and giving to them and how very important it is to say “thank you”. People love it when your kids say “Thank you” and give them big smiles. Great reinforcement for “gratitude” behaviour!
- Engage your kids in handing out treats. This makes it all about sharing and giving graciously. And they will (hopefully) be thanked and feel appreciated.
- Start really small – preschoolers are fine with going to a few houses of people they know. Too many visits to too many homes can get overwhelming and they start to get glassy eyed and spacey.
- Take note of when your kids are getting tired and cranky. Put an end to the evening when you see the signs. You want to end the festivity on a happy note.
- Quiet time together, a warm bath, a cozy tuck in with a few books and quiet lullabies, will bring a nice peaceful end to a very exciting and stimulating time.
- Enjoy yourself!
The Halloween experience you have with your kids doesn’t have to be stressful and sugar filled. With a little bit of effort, it can be a healthy opportunity to connect with friends and neighbours complete with grace and gratitude.
Wishing you a fun and as healthy as possible Halloween!
(image credit: Presidio of Monterey)