Halloween is one of those "holidays" I love and dread. I have always been a sucker for a good dress up party. In fact, my husband and I have a costume bin for theme parties we used to throw before we had the kiddos. I LOVE dressing up. I LOVE that my girls love dressing up. It's fun. It's cute. It's silly. It makes for awesome pictures that I treasure.
Now the idea of Halloween is bizarre to me as I think about it from a parent view. Where did the whole idea of kids dressing up and going door to door to beg and look cute and ask for candy really originate? Hmmm... I know we have friends that celebrate the holiday faithfully and get as excited (if not more so) as the kids. We have friends that have chosen to forgo the whole thing because of faith based reasons or a true disgust for all the refined sugar, dye filled candy being passed out to the littles.
I have found that, as most things in the world of parenting, we are striving for a balance. I was talking to a girlfriend the other night and we were laughing about how we used to be such perfect parents in our minds BEFORE we had kids. Now it is a lot of learning as we go. Halloween is one of those things. My girls are old enough now they know about it and ask about. We talk about it. We realize it's fun. I LOVED it as a little girl. We also talk about food and candy and chemicals and food dyes and what it looks like to find balance. As I am sure you've gathered by now if you've been reading this blog, I really really want my girls to love real, whole foods. BUT even more than that I want them to grow up with a healthy view of food and health and in my opinion (remember I am learning this as I go too) I have realized completely restricting something is only going to want to make them want that thing more. (I have my own versions of this as an adolescent...no drinking alcohol lectures=why not try binge drinking in college..). Ok yes it's very different and yet it's the same.
I love that as a culture we celebrate so much around food and around gathering together with friends and loved ones around a table. What I wish we could change is how we celebrate young children by giving them ridiculous amounts of candy. I am all for balance. If this was the only holiday of the year that candy was dished out so freely I would probably relax a little more about it. But every holiday seems to be an excuse for people to give kids bags, baskets, stockings, valentines, etc.. full of candy. Parades. Schools. Birthday parties. Birthday parties at school. It seems to be a never ending cycle. Think about how much candy your kiddos are given in a year. My word!
So here are a few thoughts about what we do for Halloween but also throughout the year for holidays and candy laden events.
The most popular approach we've come up with so far is trading it in. I grab some "healthier" versions of candies that I am comfortable giving my girls. Things that don't have refined sugars, food dyes, etc..
I make up a little goodie bowl. I usually keep a stash for unexpected events as well. You know that time you have to run into the bank and the sweet teller dishes out suckers to the kids. I also add other goodies or treats into that bowl. I like Target's dollar bins. I have found some super cute coloring books, headbands, glow sticks, stickers, activity books, crayons, and much more in those bins. This way it isn't just food that is a "treat".
When we trade our candy in we make it a game. An example would be "this headband costs 7 pieces of candy.." It becomes fun and a also a time of learning numbers and value. So far this goes over great with my girls. We've never done it any other way so this is what they know at this point. Will there be a day they say "NO way mom"? Sure there will and we will cross that bridge when we get there. Right now this is where we are in the journey and it seems to be working. But we've also talked about why we want to trade it in so it doesn't appear that we are just being nasty parents that don't want our kids to have fun. We make the trade in time fun and silly and sometimes munch on a few of those alternative goodies while we are trading.
My husband has been doing some little lessons on money with the girls lately. So this year he told them they could trade some candy in for money (a.k.a coins) and save them to buy something else they would really like.
In our Halloween bowl for tomorrow we let the girls pick out some extras that they thought would be fun to hand out to the neighbor kids. They chose tattoos(mustache tattoos included), a few whistles (neighbors beware!),glow sticks, and these silly little animal critter toys. All from this place in town called Kent Novelty. We tossed in some all fruit snacks and a few Trader Joe's suckers. There's a variety in that bowl. It's fun to have a mix of treats in our bowl. We didn't spend anymore than all those big bags of candy from the grocery store which certainly aren't cheap and usually get eaten before the festivities begin.
So these are just a few rambling thoughts from a mom who is learning along the way.