It’s Not All Mary Poppins

How do you Handle the Candy?

The daycare Halloween Party was all it should be: small children in ADORABLE COSTUMES!!!, lots of good food, conversation which got steadily louder and more animated, only one whining child (bonus!), a few adult costumes, too, a bonus grandmother, and a happy mess when everyone left.

(Mental note: next potluck party, I ask everyone to bring their own dishes and cutlery. Much quicker clean-up when they take their dirty dishes home!!)

They talked about Halloween, of course. And with Halloween came the Big Question: What do you Do with the Candy?

There are two main schools of dealing with candy:

1. The Gluttons. Let the kids go wild. Let them chomp their way unsupervised through the entire bag as quickly as they want. And then we brush and brush and brush our teeth.

2. The Rationers. Parents take ownership of the bag, and dole out candies, one or two a day, until they’re gone.

There are some variants:

The Hoarders: parents who take some candies and set them aside for Christmas stockings or upcoming events. (November birthday party? PERFECT!)

The Hiders: parents who take a portion of the candies and set them aside FOR THEMSELVES!!!

The Eliminators: parents who take candies and THROW.THEM.OUT.

(It is far, far better that these three be done in secret. Do not let your children know, if these are in your candy-dealing arsenal. Well, except the Eliminator. That one is hard to hide…)

One approach discussed at the party which was totally new to me:

The Scientists: You eliminate the candies by performing science experiments on them. How do they handle water? (Some will dissolve right away!) What’s their boiling point? I don’t know what all else you could do, but apparently there are all sorts of ways to scientifically eliminate candy without ingesting them.

Another approach was discussed: take the candy away.

“She doesn’t know what’s going on,” one mother said of her daughter. “So I’m just going to take the bag when we get home, and it’ll vanish.”

Inside my head, I rolled my eyes. (You’ve never done that? It’s a useful trick, if a bit painful… You’ll use it a lot when your kids are teens.) You think? She might not know now, but as soon as that first handful gets dropped in the bag, SHE’LL KNOW. You can trust me on that. I didn’t feel the need to say any of that. Experience will prove me right. (Or wrong, but I doubt it.) Natural consequences: Not just for toddlers!

Emma, however, was horrified: “What? Let them go out, but don’t let them have their candy?!?!?” She shook her head, disgusted. “That’s totally unfair. These are toddlers. If you don’t want them getting more than a couple of handfuls of candy, you only take them to three houses. Pfft.” (Obviously, this occurred in a conversation with me after the party. My polite Emma did not say this to the mother.)

Now, I have my preferred method. Not that I need it any more, with my three giant, grown-up children. But I’m not going to tell you what it is yet. (Okay, so I did pretty much tell you I think the “take them away” option is not highly favoured.)

I want to know from you: What do you do with the candy? Dole it out? Let them gorge? Something else?

October 31, 2011 - Posted by | holidays, parenting | , ,


  1. My kids are 6 and 3. On the night itself, I let them gorge before bed. One night. It won’t kill them. Then, the next day, I take the bags and dole it out as appropriate. Until they get bored, which they invariably do.

    I’m lucky, mine don’t like a long list of candy. Nothing gummy. Nothing even slightly sour (more Rockets for me! woo-hoo!). Nothing too hard (candy necklaces are a big epic fail). Really once they’ve eaten the chips & the chocolate bars they are done. So I keep managing to avoid the worst of the problem.

    I like the science experiments idea. Hmmm…

    Comment by Hannah | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  2. Unwrap all the chocolate bars and thrown them in a pan. Melt. Use as chocolate fondue.

    I’ve never done it with Halloween candy, although my sister does. We do it with Easter Candy.

    Comment by suzanne | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  3. My older boys are 8 and 5. I dole it out and also my husband and I help ourselves to their stash. He says that’s their tax for us taking them out. 🙂 They’re starting to get old enough to actually notice what we eat, though. Of course we also have a toddler and a baby, so our stash to steal from is growing, not shrinking. Just like our waistlines…hmmmm. 🙂

    My problem is the kids get lots of cheap, gross candy from a Labor Day parade. They still have their bags with some of that candy in it (since I don’t give it to them that often). I need to get rid of some of that today or tomorrow…maybe it’ll be less noticeable tomorrow. 🙂

    Comment by athenamiles | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  4. I let them gorge once and then the leftovers go in a bowl on top of the fridge and we dole it out a couple at a time until they forget about it and then I set aside any good candy that’s left and throw out the rest. We went trunk or treating last night and my 2 year old figured out on the third car exactly what was happening.

    Comment by Rayne of Terror | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  5. Problem 1: 90% of the candy we get, my son can’t eat (he’s dairy- and gluten-free).
    Problem 2: He pretty much never eats candy any other time of the year. He doesn’t have much of a taste for it, and I don’t want to change that! Most of his desire for candy at Halloween is because our culture is telling him it’s all about the candy.

    What I’ve been doing: I secretly supplement his bag with “safe” candy that I buy myself (has the bonus of being ethically produced), and let him have a piece or two per night for about a week, sometimes less. By then the novelty has worn off and the rest can disappear without notice or fuss. (No, really, it does.)

    Dunno how long it will work, but it’s going fine right now!

    The science experiments idea is awesome!

    Comment by Heather Freeman | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  6. E gets to have a few pieces on Halloween, but otherwise, we’re rationers — E has a candy jar (that occasionally gets refilled by things other than Halloween), from which she can partake whenever she eats enough of her dinner (it’s almost always her choice for dessert). Not only does her Halloween candy last months that way, she’s happy with being in control of whether/when she gets any.

    With H joining this year (just shy of 21 months), it should be interesting to see if/how our dynamic changes.

    Comment by argo0 | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  7. What? The stupid “Halloween Fairy” has not yet made it to Canada! You’re so lucky!

    A number of my son’s friend’s parents do this: You go out trick or treating. When you get home, you pick 10-ish things you want to keep. The rest goes in a bag, and you leave the bag out for the Halloween fairy to come and she swaps the candy for … a toy. If you Google around there is even a book.

    Among the four families we go trick or treating with, we are the only family that lets him keep it all. He can eat whatever he wants within 24 hours, and then the rest stays in the bucket and he can choose to have some each night as an after-dinner treat. Here’s the interesting part … I’m about to go dump out the remainder of his candy from *last year* (supplemented a little bit with Christmas Stocking candy) that has sat in our kitchen uneaten for a year.

    I’m all for teaching kids to moderate themselves.

    Comment by anastasiav | October 31, 2011 | Reply

    • I could have written this!

      I can’t stand the Halloween Fairy thing. We do pretty much the same thing. I let the kids “sneak” candy as we are trick or treating then they can have a piece each night after dinner. I just dumped left over Easter candy. On Easter we will dump Halloween candy.

      Comment by Bethany | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  8. I used to ration it out when they were younger (and when my first was really little, we did the only a few houses thing). Once they got older (9-10), I started letting them keep it all (less a few favorites of mine I would convince them to give me). For any candy occasion, my 15 yo will steadily eat it all, though spread out a bit, such that it’s not too bad. My 12 yo will hoard it and not eat it. They went to a Halloween party at church last night and he came home with a bucket full, almost all of which he wanted to keep. I pointed out the box full of candy he threw out last week – candy from last Christmas, Valentines day, Easter – and he finally agreed to part with about 10-15 % of the candy – for now to go into my stash to give out tonight.

    Comment by Katherine | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  9. I do what most of the other posters mentioned… they’ll eat quite a bit tonight (Halloween) and after that I dole it out until they get bored. But I have a couple of other options… our orthodontist will buy candy off of his clients (I’m not sure what the going rate is) and then he ships it off to soldiers somewhere. I’ve also heard of this “halloween fairy’ someone mentioned, or for older kids, just a voluntary swap… parents get the candy and they pay the kids for it.

    Comment by Anita | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  10. We never were allowed to go trick or treating as children – it isn’t a big thing in the UK, or at least wasn’t 10-15 years ago, it might be now – but I think I’d probably try a bit of most of these. I love the science experiements one! From my own experience, I would have just eaten my way through the entire jar even if I didn’t really want to, so rationing might have been the way to go with me. My brother, however, was always very good at rationing himself – he’d still have bits of his Easter chocolate left in the summer. I think it depends on the child; it might be hard if two siblings have different personalities but then perhaps I’d take the approach that suited the one with least impulse control, on the grounds that they needed to learn that waiting doesn’t mean missing out. Interesting thing to think about! I’m convinced I’ll be a better mother from having read your blog than I would otherwise have been.

    Comment by May | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  11. This is the first year we’re going to have to deal with it. (Our oldest is three.) The plan is to let her have as much as she wants though we won’t go to more than three houses so that’s mostly coming from any leftovers we have. However, I know my child and know that she’s not a big candy eater. I gave her a piece last night and she ate about half of it. She told me it was yummy but sticky and she didn’t want it anymore. She didn’t ask me for another for a couple of hours. We’ll see what happens!

    Comment by Tairgire | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  12. I end the evening when I think my kids (ages 7 & 10) have enough candy (even if they might not agree). Go to a manageable number of houses and you get a manageable amount of candy. Then I let them gorge themselves. After the first night it all goes in a family bowl, my husband takes some (nut filled items) to work and we set aside some fun pieces to use on our Christmas gingerbread house. The candy bowl is pulled out after meals and passed around. The boys sometimes negotiate to be sure they get a particular favorite candy, but we all share until it’s gone.

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  13. Um… all of the above? We don’t actually “do” Halloween, but we still end up with candy from well-meaning friends. And it happens at other holidays as well. I’m super restrictive about sugar, but I try to not go overboard. So whenever we have candy around, I allow some to be eaten right away (okay, not gorged on, exactly, but more than I would normally allow), then I put it in the candy canister. After that, I keep what I like (ha!), dole it out as appropriate, and secretly drop a handful in the trash every now and then. Science experiments had not occurred to me, but I’ll add that to my arsenal!

    Comment by rosie_kate | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  14. One other question – what if you have one younger child who gets tired after just going to the end of the street, and an older child who wants to go for hours? I accommodate both, but then C1 has a much smaller bag of loot than C2, and is sad. Which, okay, good metaphor for life and all, but I still make C2 share the loot with C1 so that they’re more or less comparable. Then we do one night of gorging and then doling out. But at least they have similar sized bags of goodies to choose from. And I point out to C2 that now they each have more candy than they would have if we all stopped at the end of the street, so it’s a win-win.

    Their school also has a candy donation box for extra candy that is then given to a local homeless shelter.

    Comment by nan | October 31, 2011 | Reply

    • Essentially just that. The kids share and always have. Helps that the older one has never cared for anything crunchy/”hard” – so he’s willing to part to make little sister happier.

      However, this year he’s decided he’s too old to go out, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when sis comes home with candy and he does not.

      Comment by ~A | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  15. When I was younger my parents would pick out a few pieces to let my sister and I have that night, the rest had to be ‘inspected’ by them to make sure it was safe. Meaning they grabbed all their favorites, this worked for a number of years before we found the hidden stash of ‘unsafe’ candy. After we got our buckets back we were allowed to binge for a day and then it went into a giant bowl on top of the fridge to be given out sporadically. As we got older we were just allowed to keep our buckets and you would find my Sister and I trading back and forth for our favorites.

    DD isn’t really old enough to trick our treat yet but when we come to that road we’ll probably follow a few of the same rules. DH and I get to inspect the candy first, dole a few out to her, keep a few in a bowl and the rest we’ll take to her pediatrician or to the dentist. A lot of the Pediatrician and Dentist offices down here take candy in exchange for money or small stuff (stickers, toys, etc) and sends it all the to soldiers overseas to give to the kids over there.

    Comment by Melissa V | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  16. I want to know who all these people are with children who get “bored” with candy. I would eat all of mine within the week after Halloween and then start sneaking from my sister’s stash (she never ate it, but the only thing she dislikes more than candy is sharing). And then that would be gone within a month. I have certainly not ever lacked interest in downing as much candy as I possibly can.

    Actually, lacking children myself, maybe I’ll have to go sneak some from my niece and nephew starting tomorrow. Yum!

    Comment by Kristy | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  17. My kids use their candy (minus a handful or 2 of their favorites) to “buy” a new toy. They are (almost) 7, 5 and almost 2. The 2 year old had her first halloween, really, tonight, and gorged on chocolate when she got home (well, 2 or 3 is about enough for a 2 year old!!). The older ones had a whole bunch tonight (I lost count), chose a few more, and dumped the rest back in the bowl and then proceeded to give it out to the trick or treaters. They will be treated to a new beyblade and a bit of Lego tomorrow for their trouble.

    They are now given the choice, by the way, of keeping the candy or trading it. They chose their trade, as well.

    Comment by NaomiNOMI | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  18. I have no idea. We just took our son trick-or-treating for the first time. He got a small amount of candy, but since he (at 18 mos) hasn’t seen chocolate bars or lollipops before, he just thinks they make interesting sounds. He liked shaking the smarties box. Relatives put fruit in his bag as well as candy, so he tried to eat that.
    My parents rationed. We each chose 2 candies per day. They also inspected, and any suspicious candy was thrown out. At this time they also took their favourites: they asked if they could have them and we agreed.
    This year, I think we’ll eat his candy and let him try a little bit. In future years, we’ll help him to ration it.

    Comment by kimi | October 31, 2011 | Reply

  19. Our school does this awesome thing where they collect any non-chocolate candy and send them to the troops. So the kids sort theirs out and get anything they think the soldiers would like almost immediately after getting home. We keep it in a bag for about a week until the school sends homethe letter. They love helping out.

    The chocolate stuff gets thrown in a bucket, and they get some occassionally. My kids are picky eaters, so they don’t get candy often. I can’t give them much, or they refuse to eat supper. Which – you know – is their choice, but I’m not going to make it easier for them to substitute sugar for real food. I eat some, and if the next candy holiday comes around and we have some left, I bring it to work and let me co-workers gorge.

    Comment by ktjrdn | November 1, 2011 | Reply

  20. Late to the discussion, but we’ve been w/o power for 4 days. Sigh. I guess we’re rationers. On Hallowe’en night, I let them eat what they want, as long as it isn’t enough to make them sick. Then a few candies a day, for a few days. Then they pretty much forget about it.

    We did some science experiments last year and that was good fun.

    Really, though, our Hallowe’en pumpkins have evolved into year-long candy holders. Our two kids get a “10 minute treat” on days that they accomplish the pick-up from school in less than 10 minutes. This involves the preschooler getting out of the car, into the elementary school, elementary school child and preschooler both back in the car, with a minimum of distractions. If done in less than 10 minutes, they get a piece of candy at home. I honestly do not care if they eat one piece of candy a day after school and it speeds up the process enormously.

    Comment by Sarah | November 2, 2011 | Reply

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