Halloween is just around the corner and children will be transformed into princesses, cowboys, superheroes and an assortment of other characters. Doorbells will ring and sweet voices will yell, “trick or treat,” as tossed candy echoes off plastic pumpkins. While Halloween is a joyous occasion for most children, it can be a point of stress for parents trying to control the amount of sugar and candy their child consumes.
Many parents are making concerted efforts to cut back on sugar for a variety of reasons including reducing cavities, eliminating excess calories and improving overall health.
When selecting treats for all the visiting goblins, consider alternatives to candy such as prepackaged snack bags of pretzels, sugar-free gum, granola bars or small boxes of cereal.
Non-food items such as pencils, spooky erasers, small bottles of bubbles, trading cards, stickers, coupons for free items or other appropriate party favors are also great alternatives, especially if you know that you will have visits from children with food allergies.
Before heading out for an evening of fun, feed your little ghosts and goblins a healthy snack or a light meal. This can help curb appetites and make it easier to monitor food and candy consumption throughout the evening.
An easy way to monitor your children’s consumption so they do not end up with a bellyache or headache is to allow them to select a couple pieces of their favorite candy once they return home, then set a limit for each day after. This simple act is also a great way to teach or reinforce counting and sorting by the type of item and color.
A great way to continue the fun is to create a special container or jar with your children. After the fun of sorting and counting, fill the jar three-quarters-full with the smaller items they received. Each day, allow the children to reach in and pull out two to three items. It will be a surprise for all of you and make having to wait a little more exciting.
Also, remember to only stop at homes of people you trust and who have their porch lights on. Many communities have special events during trick-or-treat night as a safe alternative to going door-to-door. Local churches, businesses and schools may also sponsor events before or during Halloween.
When you get home, dump all the loot and take time to thoroughly inspect each item before giving it to your child. Throw away all damaged items, potential choking hazards or food in torn or opened packages. Be sure to look for pinholes or other signs of tampering.
Planning ahead and providing structure is a great way to make trick or treating safe and fun for your child.
For more information on childhood nutrition, contact the Letcher Extension office.