Trick or treating is arguably the epitome of a child’s dream; getting to wear a costume, walking the streets at night with mum and dad holding out a bucket that ends up overflowing with sweets and treats by the end of the night.
What’s not to like?!
While Halloween and the crazy amount of sugar consumed might feel less like a dream and more a like a nightmare to you – it is hard to argue with the reality – that Halloween has become one of the highlights of the Autumn.
How can we embrace this tradition in ways that SERVES us rather than feeling obliged to buying too much pointless plastic tat and consuming copious amounts of sugar?
The good news is that Halloween can be a time to teach our kids a good lesson about physical and oral health, kindness, saving, earning and making good choices.
- Re-use where possible.
Rather than hitting Pound Land or purchasing yet another highly flammable costume from a leading super market – consider visiting your local charity shop. Often, there will be rails with Halloween props and costumes set out making it easier to source. If sewing isn’t your strongest suit, your NCT or school parent chat group might be a perfect place to source a costume that’s not brand spanking new – but new to your child. Swapping outfits and re-using is a brilliant opportunity to have conversations with your child about the importance of reducing waste.
- Allow your child to lean into the fun
Trick or treating is about sweets. And to your child it will feel thrilling to watch their buckets grow with every door knocker they touch.
Rather than constantly monitoring your child’s sweet consumption on route – agree before you set off to a plan that feels acceptable to everyone. Eg. you can have x amount of sweets while you trick or treat or you can have as many as you like while we walk. If our rules around sugar are too strict, sweets will become even more irresistible and lead to other problems: sneaking sweets or eating too many sweets once they’re out on their own. Instead, let them have the joy of Halloween in all its sticky goodness and the experience of going to a party or trick-or-treating.
- Consider creating a ‘sweets bank’
Once you return from trick-or-treating or a party, consider introducing a ‘sweets bank’. This is a brilliant opportunity to practice decision making and learning about value.
If your child is up for it, you can price up each sweet; eg. 10p per lolly and 20p per mini bag of sweets and allow your child to make the choice of keeping all of the sweets or earning money.
- Make an agreement
One of the least attractive things about Halloween from a parents’ perspective is the sugar high that ensues once our child has consumed their own body weight in sugar. For many, the next day is a school day and the sugar hang over is real and can make for some epic meltdowns that don’t serve anyone. A great way to reduce the sugar crash is to agree with your child what is going to happen with any left over sweets post party or trick or treating. Allowing your child to keep an agreed number of sweets for themselves to administer and holding on to the rest for them means that your child gets to have some autonomy without having to enter into endless negotiations.
- Use the actual pumpkin
How often do pumpkins get carved – only to throw out all of the flesh and seeds? Consider turning the evening’s meal into a pumpkin inspired feast – creating a scrumptious pumpkin soup (perhaps even served in hollowed out mini pumpkins) or roasting chunks of pumpkin and toss them in a chicken and feta salad. Or do like the Americans – make a pumpkin pie.
My point is there is something beautiful about using seasonal ingredients and reducing waste. And while Halloween is perhaps not your favourite holiday, creating a new ritual around the food you eat on that particular day – is going to create strong childhood memories for your child.
- Have fun
Many of our anxieties as parents pertain to things that have not yet happened but things that we fear will happen if we give green light. This is true for screen time and this is true for sugar. As the old saying goes; it’s all about balance. Banning and restricting only leads to preoccupation with the very thing we can’t have – and limitless consumption has negative outcomes too. While Halloween IS a time of fun and indulgence there IS a way to tailor this holiday to sit well with your family values without having to be too extreme; either banning sweets or letting your child overdose on sugar. Use this holiday to get playful and creative and connect as a family