How you handle Halloween candy with toddlers can change according to their age and awareness of the holiday (and candy!). To help you plan your approach, here’s how you might want to approach the holiday, year by year.
There’s a lot that goes into Halloween—including toddler Halloween costumes, treats, games, and trick or treating. It’s a fun time of the year, but it can often be a little stressful for us adults to consider the onslaught of candy—especially with all of the messages we get about sugar.
But, if you can keep in mind that this is just one day, just one holiday, you can probably relax a whole lot. And enjoy the holiday more!
How to Handle Halloween Candy with a 1-Year-Old
For the most part, if you choose to ignore the candy part of Halloween, your 1 year won’t notice. (Okay, if they have older siblings and they are closer to 2 they might!) Here are some tips for handling Halloween with a one year old.
- Focus on the costumes. Because costumes are fun and your one-year-old will likely be delighted to run around like a monkey (or whatever!).
- If you do go trick-or-treating or have some candy around, a lollipop or a soft piece of chocolate like a Hershey’s bar is often a simple option.
- Keep the normal routine the same and carry on with life. There’s not really a need to formally introduce candy, so if your little one doesn’t encounter it or you don’t feel strongly that they participate in this part of Halloween, no worries!
TIP: Remove any potential choking hazards from accessible candy such as things with hard, whole nuts, anything super sticky or chewy, round candies, or gum.
How to Handle Halloween Candy with 2-Year-Old Toddlers
A 2 year old may or may not have a clear sense of what Halloween is all about. It might depend on how close they are to 3 and/or if they have older siblings.
They will almost always know there is candy involved, once the holiday itself gets going, so you’ll have to decide how to handle their loot if you go trick or treating. Here are some ideas:
- Let them sit down and enjoy their candy, once you separate out any choking hazards, as much as they want with a drink. Tell them what things are, talk about how they taste, and have fun with it.
- If there is any candy they don’t want, you could use the Switch Witch. (Just don’t do it as a way to get them to hand over candy they do want!)
- Pick a set number of pieces to have on the following days and let them decide when to have it during the day. In my experience, we did that for a few days and then the kids forgot and I just left it alone.
- Or, if they aren’t really curious about the candy, they could just pick a piece or two and then you can put it away. See how much they’re aware of and go with your gut.
TIP: If your 2 year old sees people eating candy, it’s normal for them to want some too—this is not a sign of any sort of a problem or obsession. And it’s okay to let them enjoy the experience.
How to Handle Halloween Candy with 3-Year-Old Toddlers and Up
The Halloween game changes more with a 3 year old, especially if they are an only child. When my oldest was 3, she talked about it for weeks ahead of time (she dressed up as a hyena from the Lion King, yes really, and was SO excited about it!)
She knew that she’d get candy while trick or treating and she didn’t forget about her loot the following day. 3-year-olds do, however, have the ability to reason (at least a bit) and to delay gratification (at least for a little while).
Which means that despite them being much more all in, you have more options.
- Let them eat the candy they want to on the holiday, separating out any choking hazards. I like to sit down with the kids and explain what things are and sort of do a taste test. This is a fun experience to explore new foods! You could then do a piece or a few pieces with a meal each day after until the candy runs out.
- Many families let the kids choose a certain number of pieces of candy on the holiday (such as 3 because they are 3!), and do a piece of candy with a meal each day until the candy runs out. Letting them choose when to have their daily candy (at snack, at lunch, after dinner) can help them feel more in control too.
- If the kids seem to be “obsessing” or asking for candy or worrying about it, you may want to give them another chance to eat more of it—allowing more access is usually a good way to lessen food obsessions.
TIP: Read more about why serving Dessert With Meals works here.
What candy do you like to hand out that’s safe for toddlers?
There are also Halloween themed applesauce pouches and pretzels that can be good options too. Basic chocolate like Hershey’s bars or Three Musketeers are a safe option too.
How to Balance Nutrition with Holiday Fun
When we let kids learn that treats are a fun part of certain holidays and just another food that we have a little less often than others, we’ll likely face less power struggles over them. They aren’t off limits, they aren’t forbidden, but they are simply a food that’s eaten within a structure at this time of the year.
(Though of course it’s also fine to eat candy at other times of the year too!)
Tasting and sharing candy after trick or treating with my kids has actually become one of my favorite traditions. It’s fun and it’s a learning experience for them as they learn what they like and what they dislike.
Kids should be given the chance to enjoy holidays—even when the holiday in question includes more candy than they’d eat on any other day—and you shouldn’t have to feel like the food police.
For me, it’s all about perspective and knowing that in the grand scheme of things, it’s all going to be okay.
TIP: Listen to more q&a on all things Halloween in a recent conversation on Burnt Toast.