This is a consideration for any event or holiday at which kids are given an excessive amount of candy, sweets, or junk food. However, it's on my mind since Halloween is coming up, and the amount of candy they get is going to be much greater than other occasions.

In previous years, I've let the kids keep all their candy but rationed how much they can eat every day. I hate this for a lot of reasons:

  • It takes up a surprising amount of space in the pantry.
  • There are fights over which bag belongs to who, and the "better" candy mysteriously moves from one bag to another.
  • They take extra when I'm not in the kitchen.

Instead of learning self-control and reasonable portions, they learned to sneak.

Last year, their dentist had a "buy back" program, where they "sold" a pound of candy to the dentist for $1 (up to $5 per child), and got a toothbrush and some floss. What I found particularly funny was that I broke this took them weeks in advance, that I had a plan to get rid of the majority of their upcoming haul and they could have lots of candy Halloween night, but the next day we'd be trading it in. They didn't believe I would go through with it -- I pulled into the dentist's parking lot and my nine-year-old commented that I was really committed to this joke-- until we were actually in the dentist's office and they were handed a few bucks.

Unfortunately, the dentist's office isn't doing it this year.

I realize that every parent has their own definition of "too much," so I am not concerned with knowing exactly how many candy bars your kids are allowed at any given time -- just what happens when you have to deal with quantities far greater than normal. What are some strategies to avoid having a giant stash of candy in the house for weeks? How do you encourage your children to enjoy treats in moderation when an external situation -- holiday, school party, indulgent relatives -- is creating an opportunity for excess?

  • I know lots of parents who buy back the candy from the kids themselves - then they bring it into work and let their co-workers eat it ;).
    – Ida
    Oct 31, 2014 at 17:26

2 Answers 2


I think this depends on the age of the child, to some extent. I have two toddler/preschool aged kids, and for us rationing from a common bowl on top of the fridge works perfectly: they can't steal extras, and there's only one bowl so no arguing over 'better candy'.

However, once they're a bit older (and probably not much), I think rationing is the wrong approach, as is elimination. Halloween candy is the perfect opportunity to teach self control. Children are capable of exerting self control when given the opportunity to practice it. However, they often are not given that opportunity, because their parents enforce rules that limit their activities to 'acceptable' ones, rather than teaching them to do so on their own - leading to never learning self control.

Halloween candy is the perfect opportunity, because overconsumption leads to very obvious short-term negative effects, and a long-term lack of candy, but realistically doesn't hurt your child very much. If they ate the entire bag the next day (11/1), especially with that being a Saturday, you'd have one day of a sick kid, and afterwards he/she would be pretty much normal. You're not going to get diabetes from eating a bag of candy (unless you already have diabetes - this doesn't apply to kids who do!). What you will do is get sick to your stomach, or at least a stomach ache, and probably get a bit dizzy or light headed from the too high sugar consumption. These are obvious short-term effects, and that's good for teaching self control.

What I plan to do in a few years - I wish I could this year, but we haven't really been focusing on this strategy until very recently and I just don't feel comfortable doing this with a 3 year old until we do - is have a talk about the candy, where we explain that the candy is going to be up to him to ration, but we're not buying candy except for christmas/easter baskets during the year. If he wants to eat it all in a few weeks, that's fine: but be aware eating too much will make him feel bad, and it will mean he has no candy/dessert for a month afterwards.

  • I like the approach you're describing about self control. It is quite true that it's a critical skill, but hard to balance with setting boundaries :)
    – Acire
    Oct 31, 2014 at 15:09

There are two ways we've handled halloween specifically.

The first is that you are in control of the nights activities. You can limit the number of houses they go to while acquiring their bounty. Just watch how full those bags get and when they are close to the limit, let the kids know they have "2 more houses". Then take them home or do a different activity.

The second way is once trick or treating is over and you are back at the house, have them dump the candy on the table and then let them pick 10 (or whatever) of their favorites. The rest is thrown away. One of my kids has no issue sneaking candy, however dumping something completely unappetizing into the trash with it has been a very good deterrent.

As to the other situations: we've communicated our desires to the relatives and our families are more than willing to accommodate. School Parties aren't an issue as the schools our kids go to are more than happy to keep things limited, after all they don't want to deal with the monsters this could create either.

Now, my in-laws do keep a candy dish by their front door year round. Every time my kids visit they are allowed to have 1 small treat prior to leaving.... as long as they are good.

Yes, Halloween has the opportunity for excess. However, again, you are in control of the amount of candy collected. Just because there are 100 houses in your neighborhood doesn't mean you have to go to all of them.

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