Written by Julie Paiva, CHHC
As October comes to a close, we are once again faced with the sugar-laden holiday, Halloween. Children, of course, always enjoy finding the best costumes, getting their faces painted and consuming large amounts of candy. On the other hand, we, parents, may worry as they are learning unhealthy habits and overloading on high fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes and preservatives. The truth is we don’t have to just sit back and cringe as they stuff their mouths with undesirable sweets and all too often end up sick. Instead, we can do things differently and in turn promote healthier habits for all.
One great way to encourage children to make better choices is by passing out healthier Halloween alternatives at your home or festival booth. Small toys and art supplies can often be purchased in bulk and for reduced rates. Kids love items like spider rings, glow sticks, bubbles, glider planes, bouncy balls, glasses with fake mustaches, mini notebooks, pencil top erasers, pencils, mini coloring books, colored pencils, crayons, mini play-dohs, and water color paints, just to name a few.
Healthy food alternatives are a great option as well. Try giving out things like apples, bags of mini carrots, gluten free snack crackers or local honey sticks.
Mini pumpkins or gourds are fun too. They come in different colors and shapes. They can be decorated by kids and displayed in homes.
Mini flashlights are a functional gift that are great for the children to use while out trick-or-treating. You can find little key chain flash lights that are always fun to play with in the dark and can provide some safety when out at night.
Toothbrushes are the perfect way to encourage a healthy habit when surrounded with sugary options. Neat kid-sized toothbrushes can be ordered in bulk and come in various colors and character designs.
Play the trade game!
Instead of just snatching your child’s candy basket when they get home, explain to them why all those sugary items are unhealthy choices for their body. Then, let them trade in their candy loot for something you find more acceptable. For instance, kids love activity “treats” like watching a movie together, going on a date with mom or dad, having a friend over for a play date, doing an art project together, or having a picnic for dinner in your living room. You could even “buy” the candy back from them, and let them go on a little shopping spree instead.
Do a learning activity!
Before you toss those spooky sugary snacks, use them for an educational opportunity. Look at how much sugar each type of candy contains. Sort them into categories such as high sugar, moderate sugar, and low sugar. Count them and graph your findings. Make a pattern out of your candy. For children who are a little older, let them see if they can read and pronounce the ingredients inside each type of candy. Educate them on how harmful some of these ingredients are for them.
Providing your children with feedback on why candy is unhealthy (rather than just telling them they can’t have it) equips them with knowledge and empowers them to make better choices in the future and when on their own. While it may be hard to go against social norms, rest assured that your efforts are not in vain. Your good example promotes healthy habits for your children that will impact them throughout their lifetime!