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Tips to Help Kids Practice Self-Control During Halloween

Written by Beth Richman, Ed.M., Noggin Senior Curriculum Advisor

Halloween is an exciting time for kids! Little ones can spend weeks deciding what costume to wear (and then changing their minds!) and looking forward to trick-or-treating, school parades, parties and, of course, candy. In the middle of all the fun and festivities, it is also important to remember that the holiday can potentially be overwhelming to some young children and test their ability to focus and make good choices. Halloween is a great opportunity to help your child practice self-control – learning to wait, share, and think before acting are all important life skills!

Here are tips to help you support your child’s development while enjoying all the fun of Halloween.

Trick-or-treating

Make a plan! Decide ahead of time where you will go, how long you will stay out, and who will be going with you. Be sure to share this plan in advance with your child to help manage their expectations and set them up for success when trick-or-treating is finished. Include your child in a countdown to the end, and mark the time left with concrete activities. For example, “Okay, we’re going to trick-or-treat until the end of this block, and then head home for pizza!” or “We have time for two more houses! Which ones would you like to go to?”

Candy! (Of course!)

How to manage treats in your home is a personal decision. But whatever you choose to do, there are a variety of ways to help children develop self-control around the day’s collection of sweets. (Of course, be sure to inspect any food items coming into your home for safety, allergies, etc. before allowing your child to eat.)

Let your child pick their favorite candy to keep.

Help them understand that choosing treats you really enjoy is more important than the number of candies in their collection. Quality over quantity!

Have your child donate the remainder of their candy.

Remind them that sharing their treats with others who will appreciate them can feel great for both the person who gives and the one who receives. Ask around in your neighborhood for places accepting donations of candy – lots of schools, libraries, local businesses, and even dentist’s offices will collect treats for military troops, homeless shelters, children’s hospitals, or senior citizen centers. Encouraging your child to think of others will help them to flex their empathy muscles too!

It’s hard to wait!

It can be tempting for kids to eat candies one after the other… right down to the bottom of their plastic pumpkin bucket. Help your child to exercise self-control, listen to their bodies, and think ahead by setting up a plan for the coming days. In advance of the holiday, decide how many treats you are comfortable with them eating on Halloween after trick-or-treating. Then discuss when they will be able to enjoy any remaining candy. For example, you might allow your child to eat five candies on Halloween, and then pick two treats to have after lunch each day for a few days. To make this plan even more concrete and clear, your child can put two treats in reusable snack bags, containers, or small plastic bags, and label them for the days ahead.

Halloween parties.

Halloween gatherings – whether at the home of family or friends, at a community center, or in a classroom – offer valuable opportunities for children to practice self-control. As they patiently wait for a treat, take turns during a game, or share supplies for a Halloween craft, kids have many chances to pause, think before acting, and make good choices so that everyone can have Halloween fun.

Happy Halloween!

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