Learn the ins and outs of the Switch Witch Halloween tradition—including what exactly it is, how it works, and how it can help kids practice flexing important intuitive eating muscles.


Switch Witch

Switch Witch is one of the newer holiday traditions that we probably didn’t have as kids and it’s become quite popular around Halloween.

The idea is kids invite the witch (no worries, she’s nice!) to take some the candy they don’t want and leave a “healthier” treat in its place. And while I’ve totally ignored the Elf on the Shelf, I have been doing the witch and find it to be super useful around Halloween—though I have changed it a lot to avoid sending mixed messages around candy.


Switch Witch Book

If you want to go full out with this, you can get the Switchcrafted book and witch doll set…but to be honest, you don’t really need either do this tradition! And I actually find that it’s more fun to just take the idea and run with it at home. I also don’t love that it focuses on Halloween candy being “sugary” in a negative way that may be confusing for kids.

TIP: There are printables, poems, and really all manner of things to make this complicated if you spend any time on Google. You do you, but know this is perfectly fine if you streamline it or skip all of that!

Who is the Switch Witch good for?

I like using this idea for kids over about age 3 or 4. Younger than that and the nuances of how it works may be a little hard to understand. I didn’t know about it until my oldest was about 5 and we’ve been doing it ever since.

How to Do the Switch Witch, Step-by-Step

Here’s a look at how we use the concept of the Switch Witch at Halloween.

  1. After trick or treating, let the kids enjoy their candy without boundaries apart from removing any choking hazards.
  2. Once that first session is done, ask them to sort the candy into two piles—one pile to keep to eat and one to trade in with the Switch Witch. The only candy they separate out is candy they don’t want. I do not recommend using this as a way to get rid of candy they do want since that is not fair to the kids. And it’s confusing!
  3. Place the candy into a bag for the Switch Witch and leave it in a specific spot that night. (We put it by the back door.)
  4. When the child is sleeping, trade out the bag of candy they don’t want for something they’d like to have instead. See below for ideas for what can work well—it doesn’t have to be anything fancy!
  5. Let the child find the item in the morning and enjoy it!

TIP: We don’t go into detail as to who the Switch Witch, where she lives, or any other details, but you can get inspiration from the book or make it up yourself! This is sort of like Elf on the Shelf in that if the kids have friends who do this, it’s likely not the same in each house. Personalizing it is fun!

Why the Witch Doesn’t Steal Candy (this is Important)

If you participate in Halloween and trick or treating, my feeling is that the kids have the right to enjoy the process of eating and tasting the candy. (Don’t want them to eat a lot of candy? Don’t let them trick or treat for it!)

The Switch Witch is NOT an attempt to restrict their candy intake, but is an opportunity for them to practice zeroing in on the candy they actually like to eat and enjoy. This is a great learning experience for the kids to flex their intuitive eating muscles.

If you feel the urge to use this tradition to prevent the kids from eating their candy, I would urge you to consider why.

And then perhaps simply limit the duration of trick or treating to reduce the total candy haul in a way that likely feels less punitive and less confusing.

It sends a very confusing message to let the kids bring home a bag of candy only to force them to give it up or not be allowed to eat it.

Again, the witch doesn’t force kids to give up their candy and doesn’t take it away. The kids are in charge of what is offered to her and the parents get to decide what object can be given to the kids in exchange.

TIP: If you decide to do this one year and you find it to be just one more thing to do (in a not good way!) feel free to change your mind in future years.

switch witch ideas on countertopBest Switch Witch Ideas

We usually keep the items left by the nice witch simple, but you can be as creative (or not creative!) as you like. Some options include:

  • book
  • coloring book and markers
  • small car or figurine
  • playdough
  • sticker book
  • bubbles
  • temporary tattoos
  • a coupon for a date with a parent
  • craft supplies

TIP: We usually pick one of these for each child. You do not need to replace each piece of candy with an item!

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Have you tried this with your kids? I’d love to hear your experiences (or your questions if you have some after reading this post so please comment below!


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  1. Like the other commenters, our 3 year old has food sensitivities and severe eczema. Sugar, dairy and additives all make her condition worse, but we want her to be able to enjoy the experience of trick or treating with her friends. Very excited to implement this idea this year and hopefully it will still work going forward. I don’t want to overly demonize candy but at the same time, just one fun size milk chocolate candy has a big impact on her health. 🙁
    Grateful for ideas like this and also for YumEarth allergy free suckers! Thank you.

  2. As the other commenter mentioned food allergies are also the reason we do switch witch. My 4 year old has an anaphylactic nut allergy so Halloween candy can be tricky. We go trick or treating then have some safe treats at home for her after. She leaves her bag of candy out and the switch witch comes and swaps it out for some other types of treats – colouring books, a small stuffed animal, stickers, tattoos and a few safe candy and cookie options.

    This concept is great for allergy families so they can still participate in a fun way.

    We explain the switch witch can visit families with kids with food allergies so make sure they have safe treats. She is a friendly witch who wants to help kids have a happy Halloween.

  3. Love this page and it has some really good tips, ideas and points. My son is 3 and is allergic to dairy and eggs, but we don’t want to exclude him / hide him away from the trick or treating experience, this is the first year we will be taking him trick or treating so in the lead up to Halloween we are talking to him about the switch which, he is very aware of his allergies and is really good at asking if there is dairy or eggs in items first, so we are using the switch which as a way to replace the chocolate and sweets he cant eat (I will have a small selection of allergy free items at home that he can have ) and the switch witch will leave some Halloween themed toys / games for him to wake up to the next day.