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. And this year, how to do it all safely. (Here’s the CDC’s guidelines on safe 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. But, if you can keep in mind that this is just one day, just one holiday, you can probably relax a 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 is often a simple way to satisfy a little one’s urge to participate because they don’t have any expectations of eating a whole pile.
- Keep the candy out of sight once it’s in the house and they’ll forget all about it.
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 pick a few pieces of candy to enjoy on the holiday, then out of sight, out of mind.
- Let them pick a few pieces of candy to keep, then trade in the rest to the Switch Witch.
- Let them pick a few pieces of candy to eat on the holiday, then let them pick one treat to have with a meal on days after for as long as they remember it.
TIP: If your 2 year old sees people eating candy, it’s normal for them to want some too. 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. 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, then have once piece with a meal each day after until the candy runs out. Join in on their candy tasting. Spread it out and talk about how things taste. Have fun with it!
- Let them 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.
- Let them eat the candy they want to on the holiday and sort the pile into one pile to keep (so they can have one or two pieces a day with a meal of their choice) and one pile to trade in with the Switch Witch for a book or stickers or some other small nonedible treat..
TIP: Read more about why serving Dessert With Meals works here.
What candy do you like to hand out that’s safe for toddlers?
Some great toddler treat options include Yum Yum Earth pops, Bunnies & Bats Treats, spider rings, small crayon packs, and fruit leathers. 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. Tasting and sharing candy after trick or treating with my kids has actually become one of my favorite traditions—it’s within a structure, 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.