Your little one is not a baby anymore, and you’re wondering how to handle Halloween for toddlers! This may be the very first time they’re experiencing candy. And it’s not just candy, it’s candy in ABUNDANCE. I share what you want to have in mind (no matter what age your little one is) and what my top “healthy” candy picks are for your little one.
While there’s no candy that I consider to be a health food, I do think it has a place in your little one’s diet – at least this one time a year at Halloween. Food is part of how we celebrate as a culture. And while yes, it can certainly be excessive at times, it’s also part of being a human! It’s important for our kids, from an early age, to learn how to appropriately handle sweets and treats. If you want more info specifically on dessert, read this post and this one!
Now I just have to say…Halloween is the CUTEST holiday with little ones. No matter their costume, they just look completely adorable. Once you have their costume picked out – you can think about how to handle Halloween for toddlers with all the candy, trick or treating, and parties.
Here’s what I suggest, broken down by age.
12 months and under
No candy. They have no idea what they’re missing, and though they may try to grab something you have, they don’t actually know what it is.
Try to avoid candy. If they have an older sibling or are around other kids, it’s harder to avoid. They are going to want what the big kids have. Limit to 1-2 pieces if they are going to have some, and my top choice is plain chocolate. You need to pay attention to choking hazards, including:
- hard candies (including suckers)
- anything really chewy (like gum or gummies, taffy, and caramel)
I recommend sticking to non-food treats, like stickers or small toys.
Age 2 and up
You’ll still want to avoid candy that can be a choking hazard, up until they are around 5. See list above.
For daycare/preschool parties, I like to send treats that don’t have any added sugar in them to help balance things out. Some ideas:
My clementine and blueberry pumpkin! Just arrange slices in a circle and add blueberries for eyes, nose, and mouth. I used cupcake liners to contain them but you could probably do without.
Another clementine treat: just use a dry-erase marker to draw jack-o-lantern faces on (if the kids are old enough to peel themselves).
And how cute is this – applesauce pouch mummies! Perfect for the 1 to 2 year old crowd. (Image from thenerdswife.com)
How to Handle the Candy
They’re probably going to end up with a decent amount of candy, one way or another. If you’re worried about how to handle it, here’s what I suggest.
At ages 2-3, it’s appropriate for you to limit them to a couple pieces, and cut it off there. Tell them you are stopping them because too much candy can make their tummy hurt, and you don’t want them to feel sick.
Ages 4 through 6: I recommend allowing them to eat as much as they’d like on Halloween. Serve filling meals for lunch and dinner to help balance their blood sugar and so they have an opportunity to fill up on whole foods. Remind them to listen to their belly to know when they’ve had enough candy, so that they don’t feel sick.
After Halloween is over:
If they are 3 or under, I’m going to guess that they didn’t do a whole neighborhood’s worth of trick or treating. Either way, I would suggest just letting any leftover candy “disappear” after Halloween. In my house, that means putting it on the top shelf in the pantry. No judgment if you want to keep the candy for yourself, too. 😉
If they happen to ask about it, you can tell them that it’s gone. In most cases when it’s out of sight, it will be out of mind, too.
Ages 4 through 6: if they trick or treated, they may have a LOT of candy. I prefer to allow them one opportunity each day for several days (you choose when – could be after dinner, could be afternoon, whichever you choose) and allow them to have as much as they like. Yes, they will probably eat more than you like. But this gives them an opportunity to learn how they feel when they eat too much candy. And that’s an important life lesson!
After a few days, if there’s still a significant amount of candy left, I would suggest to your little one that you do a good deed together and donate the leftovers to an organization that sends fun-size candy in care packages to troops overseas, like Operation Gratitude.
Link up with a couple friends from the neighborhood, preschool, or church, and pool candy together to make a donation to Operation Gratitude. Make handwritten thank you cards for the troops with your kids to send (there are instructions on their website of how to send the items).
Should I just allow them one piece per day?
Maybe. If they are satisfied with one piece, and not freaking out about wanting more, then this is perfectly fine. But if you find that they are REALLY wanting and begging for more candy, I suggest the approach I talked about above, where you would allow them to choose how much to eat on their own. This is important in developing a healthy relationship with food and learning how to listen to their internal cues to tell them they’ve had enough.
If you had to choose candy for a toddler or preschooler, what would it be?
My top choices would be Hershey’s Kisses, fun-size Reese’s cups, or other small chocolates like the fun-size Dove chocolates or fun-size Hershey’s bars. The reason I like these options is because the fat in the chocolate helps stabilize their blood sugar (vs. just spiking it with something that is just sugar and no fat). They also are not going to be choking hazards like many other candies can be. And, they are free of artificial food dyes. We don’t know for sure whether artificial food dyes have an impact on children’s behavior, but there is some evidence that there can be. For that reason, I prefer to limit artificial dyes.
Do you need snack ideas for toddlers?
Check out the posts below, and make sure to get my Healthy Storebought Snacks for Toddlers guide!