Candy—just the thought of it brings a huge smile to a child's face. But it also strikes fear into the hearts of parents.

Besides tasting good, candy has few redeeming qualities (although, maybe tasting good is enough). Many people believe that candy is a major contributor to ]]>tooth decay]]> . In addition, while providing calories, candy rarely provides any nutrition. And although science has never corroborated the claim, many parents blame the sugar in candy for causing ]]>hyperactivity in children]]> .

Halloween: A Candy Celebration

Halloween is rapidly approaching, and kids are already getting excited. Halloween ranks right at the top as far as favorite holidays go. Not only do children get to put on fun costumes, but they also get to collect pillowcases full of candy. What could be better?

As fun as Halloween can be for kids, it can be a challenge for parents. As a parent, how do you keep the holiday fun but make sure that your child doesn't overdo it when it comes to candy. Most experts agree that the first step is setting guidelines in advance of the special night.

Picking a Candy Plan

After trick-or-treating, have your children spread their candy on a table or the floor. You can try one of these three approaches:

  • Let your child pick 10 favorite pieces to keep. Donate the rest of the candy to a senior citizen center, shelter, or some other charitable organization.
  • Let your child "trade" their candy for a prize such as a toy, book, or a fun event.
  • Let your child pick out two or three pieces of candy to have each day. You will probably have to deal with a little whining and begging in the first few days, but stick to your guidelines and she will adjust.
  • Let your child pick a set amount of candy for the week. Once the week's allotment is gone, don't let your child fish back in the bag for more.

Or, develop a system that works well in your home. Whichever approach you choose, make sure you let your child know what the plan is before the big night. And if it works well, stick with it every year.

Some Additional Tips

Halloween doesn't have to scare off good nutrition habits. It just takes a little bit of planning and some dedication on your part. To help Halloween be a more healthful time, the American Academy of Pediatrics provides some tips.

  • Serve kids a healthy dinner before trick-or-treating.—Make sure the meal includes food that they like. This way, they will be full and less tempted to fill up on candy.
  • Offer trick-or-treaters something other than candy.— Although it is tempting to give a piece of fruit, like an apple, this is not a good idea. Fruit is difficult for a parent to check for tampering. Instead, give them colorful pencils, stickers, large erasers, or decorative shoelaces.
  • Set guidelines about how much candy your children can have.—Have a set number of days that candy can remain in the house before it gets thrown out. Determine how much candy they can have each day or week from their Halloween haul.
  • Children shouldn't snack while they're trick-or-treating.— Make sure your children understand that you need to check all the treats at home before any are eaten.
  • Watch for signs of tampering.— These include small pinholes in wrappers and torn or loose packages.
  • Parents of young children should get rid of choking hazards.— These include gum, peanuts, hard candies, and small toys.

One additional candy tip: Try not to reward your child's good behavior with candy or punish bad behavior by withholding candy. Use non-candy things, like a trip to the park or new crayons, to acknowledge good behavior.