Each year, the pile grows. Back in the innocent preschool years, it was as easy a prospect as out of sight, out of mind. But as language and writing skills develop in growing boys and girls, so does memory and recall, and simply hiding the Halloween candy from your kids — hoping they will forget about its very existence — will no longer cut the mustard. And with my 8-year-old son old enough to trick-or-treat with his friends well over a half-mile radius, we’re talking about a really BIG pile of candy.
Curious how other parents deal with the annual candy deluge, I took a very unscientific poll of parents of school-age children in the Denver, Colorado metro area, asking simply “What’s your Halloween candy strategy?”
Tami, a second grade teacher and mother of 7- and 11-year-olds, relies on annual visits from the Switch Witch: “I am not really sure how we came up with the Switch Witch, but she comes every Halloween night to our front porch.” Tami allows her kids to choose few pieces of candy to eat right after trick-or-treating and then has them set their sacks on the porch before going to bed. Sometime during the wee hours of Halloween night, the Switch Witch comes and switches out the candy for presents.
“It’s not anything expensive, usually something in the $5 to $10 range,” says Tami. “Even though my kids are way too old to believe in the magic of the Switch Witch anymore, it’s still something we all look forward to. And the candy problem ends that very night.”
For 5-year-old Tori, the idea that the candy she collects on Halloween in any way belongs to her won’t even cross her mind. “We have a democratic household, and all our food is shared,” contends her father Carl, a production artist. “Once the candy is home, she can have 2-3 pieces on that first night, then it goes on top of the refrigerator — never in her room or within arm’s reach.”
Carl treats the candy as dessert and allows 1 to 2 pieces a night. “It never really lasts long, as we all share it. She’s still pretty small and doesn’t go out long. We’re talking about half of one of those really small pumpkin [containers].”
Virginia, an artist and mother of a first grader and preschooler, has her plan down to a science. Her children are allowed to eat 2 pieces after trick-or-treating and keep 12 pieces of candy each. The rest is bagged up and brought to the family dentist, who weighs each child’s haul and doles out $1 per pound.
A dentist who hoards candy? Though it initially sounds a bit wacky, many ADA dentists are jumping on the candy bandwagon and trading cold cash for that sweet source of cavities. “Last year we had 5 pounds of candy,” Virginia reported, still amazed. “Can you imagine all that?” The dentist in turn sends all the swapped candy to Army troops stationed in harm’s way.
Known as Operation Gratitude, this nonprofit organization signs on dentists nationwide to promote the candy exchange. If your dentist doesn’t participate in this program, you can set up a community-wide group through their website.
I still had to know: why precisely 12 pieces of candy? Virginia and her husband very purposely chose that number for the amount of candy their kids could keep. “12 pieces still is a lot of candy to a kid. It’s even bigger than 10. They definitely don’t feel deprived.”
Still, some parents feel that the best Halloween candy strategy is no strategy at all. M., who requested to be identified only by his initial for fear of community blowback, thinks his kids will self-regulate their candy consumption — or suffer the consequences. Known otherwise as the Bart Simpson method, he lets his kids eat as much candy as they want (or can stand) for the first few nights after Halloween. “Either they will eat the right amount of candy and move on with their lives or they will get sick as dogs. I figure it’s a valuable lesson and will keep them off the sweet stuff for a long time.”
Or at least until next year.