How To Handle The Halloween Haul

Recently one of the parents I work with asked me: How to handle Halloween candy? Because even though she had a great way to limit her child’s candy intake, as she put it, “There are inevitably still a lot of fights with this method.” Here are some strategies I’ve used with the strong-willed, “spirited” kids I work with:

1. Trading: Set it up so that your child can buy a new toy or a fun experience (e.g., a trip to the Science Museum) with a given number of candies. A new stuffed animal might cost 15 candies. A trip to the zoo might cost 40. Wait ‘til you see the haul before you set the prices!

2. Choosing: Some parents have success asking their kids to pick a certain number of favorites from the candy they collected, and then the rest of the haul is given away. For example, have your child pick 14 favorites. Then, to give her some control in this situation and increase her buy-in to the limits you’re setting, you could ask her to choose how many candies she eats each day. She could choose to have one a day for 14 days. She could eat all 14 in one sitting!

(Yes, eating 14 candies at once is not all that great for one’s health, but if your child is basically healthy and it won’t cause lasting harm, I think it’s nice to give this kind of choice. The child may not make the best decision, but they had a real voice in the candy rule, and when you set limits and give kids have a real voice, kids become more willing to work with you!)

3. Donating: Some kids are happy to share their candy with a homeless person, and you can also send candy to servicemembers. I had kids do this when I was a teacher – I had a Candy-Money Store at the school where kids could buy stuff with their candy, and then I sent the candy to a unit overseas. Here is a link to services that are coordinating this kind of thing: https://www.candystore.com/blog/holidays/send-troops-candy/

4. Inviting the Halloween Fairy: Like the Tooth Fairy, the Halloween Fairy comes in the night – and switches out ALL the candy for an awesome, amazing, super-duper toy. Of course, as you process the candy (throw it out, give it away, etc.), do this behind the scenes, so your child doesn’t see it. Also, you have to tell your child in advance about the Halloween Fairy, and your child should agree to this. (If you don’t arrange this with your child in advance, she may try to hunt that Halloween Fairy down and pull its wings off…)

5. Recycling: This tip will sound crazy, but it’s worked for some of my clients! Go trick-or-treating early enough to get home before the trick-or-treaters are done for the night. Then have your child hand out the candy she just collected! This idea actually came from one of the kids I work with – he thought managing his candy in this way was a kind of hilarious misbehavior, and he cared less about the candy than he cared about doing the quirky and unexpected! Of course, your child has to resonate with this approach for it to work. Be sure she agrees to this and don’t try to just spring it on her!


Halloween is a lot of fun, but all that candy isn’t good for us! The tips I’ve shared here are ideas for limiting the Halloween intake in ways that tend to work for kids. If you and your family are trick-or-treating tonight, be safe! And I’d love to hear about the candy-management techniques that work for you!