Trick or Treat…When should kids start? What To Do…With all that candy?

One year your child may be happily running from house to house and openly asking for treats. The next year, they are not so enthusiastic. That is why it makes sense for parents to be sensitive about what their kids can handle at different ages.

Here is the scoop on when to start and how to cope!

From birth to around the age of 2 yrs. kids don’t know enough yet to be scared. So with you carrying them or standing by their side holding your hand they seem to breeze through the ‘scary’ masks and goblins at the door.

By the time kids turn 3 yrs. and head toward age 4 yrs. their brains are functioning at a level where they definitely know enough to be scared.

If you take a 2 yr. old child to Disneyland to see a huge ‘Mickey Mouse’ they run right up to hug him. A year later, it is very obvious with their reluctance to approach ‘Mickey Mouse’ that they now know that if a mouse is that big they don’t want to have anything to do it.

Every year in my Toddler Talk group (1-3 yr. olds) during the Halloween season I walk into the group looking exactly like I do every other week. Then half way through the group, I openly, so all the kids can see, put on the witches mask. Immediately those kids start to look worried, withdraw from me and some move closer to the security of their parents. This is because they are not sure if I have actually transformed into the mask.

If your child shows reluctance to participate in Halloween, listen to them. Do not expose your kids to what they perceive as ‘real threats’. Just wait until the next year and they will be ready and your parenting experience will be all smiles.

As for older kids, make sure you give safety tips, like don’t eat anything you received trick or treating until you get home where your parents can check it out. As a teenager, if you are not willing to ‘dress up’ you are too old to trick or treat.

So, if your kids are Trick or Treating the age old question is what to do with the candy? My suggestion is introduce the “Candy Fairy” early and tell your kids that there are kids who don’t get candy on Halloween (which is the truth) & our family believes “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, so we are going to put most of our candy in a bag for the “candy fairy” and she will take it to kids who didn’t get to go trick or treating. Say, “Just take out a few favorite pieces for yourself and then fill up that candy bag for the fairy”!

Be respectful of what your kids can tolerate, teach them how to give to those less fortunate and then don’t forget to have fun in the process, Dr. Ann

*Coming soon: Pocket Full of Feelings, a product for family emotional literacy learning.