Halloween Candy and Choices

or "Candy Gets Dusty"

It really is so different - calm, peaceful even, not having to regulate and control and count each piece.
—Deb Rossing

This is the middle of something longer by Pam Laricchia.

I would strongly suggest that you not announce "Hey kids, you can eat as much candy as you want!" There are a couple reasons for that. First, it would probably be a weird and confusing message for them to hear because it's likely the opposite of what they are used to hearing. We're not going for weird and confusing. And second, it's not really the message you want to get across (and you may not yet realize that if you're new to unschooling).

Here's why. With that pronouncement, you're implying that their immediate "want" is the sole consideration that goes into the candy-eating decision, and that's not really the case. And even deeper, with that implication, and their trust in your opinion, you're hampering their ability to fully explore the situation and discover those other considerations on their own. Things like how they're feeling in the moment (snacky? hungrier for something more substantial?), or if they want to save some for a future occasion (family movie night soon?), or if they are satisfying a taste for sweet (how much candy does that take?). At first, they may just be thrilled with the yes and have at it. But once that novelty wears off, they will begin to analyze the bigger picture, begin to discover and take into account other considerations that might go into their decision.

What can you do instead?...

Read more: LET'S TALK ABOUT ... Halloween
(halfway down that newsletter, on Pam Laricchia's site "Living Joyfully")

Sylvia Woodman
1 November 2011
It's the day after Halloween. The kids could choose to eat candy and chips for breakfast; but after an hour of sorting it, examining it, and generally wallowing in their candy wealth, they choose, french toast, milk and apples for breakfast. (Thanks Kelly & Sandra for helping me to see this!)

Tonight, while some of us were eating dinner:

Mikey (5 yr old ds) is going through his candy. I see something with white chocolate and mention I really like that.

Mikey: Oh, here, you can have it.

Me: Thanks, I'll eat it later. [chocolate and rice-a-roni together just didn't seem good to me!]

He finds another candy that dh is interested it and then goes back into the living room.

Later on, Mikey is getting another piece of candy for himself and reminds me about the one I wanted. He dumps the whole bowl out looking for it for me...

Me: I already ate it! Oh, there's the one Papa wanted to try.

Mikey: Here, Papa, this is the one you like. You can have it.

Dh: Thank you.

Mikey: You're welcome. I love to share.

Dh: <<thump>> [picks himself up off the floor]

I think to myself that this is probably NOT the same conversation going on in most of the houses in our neighborhood.


"I think to myself that this is probably NOT the same conversation going on in most of the houses in our neighborhood." It's not—I know when I was growing up, we would return home, mom would spend time, what would seem to be forever, checking the candy, we then could pick something like 5 or 10 pieces, and then each child's bag was dumped into one big bag and then locked up by my parents. The end.

When I did occasionally get my hands on candy, I didn't share, but I was constantly forced to do so.

When my kids got home the other night, they sat down, dumped their bags out and went to town. They decided how much to eat. They decided if they wanted to share—and each child was VERY generous. I don't tend to eat a lot of candy, but I have a few favorites that they know of and they would bring me some so I could eat it when I was ready (which most is still sitting by the computer). Even our 4 year old—"Daddy, here's your favorite!".


Seamus bailed out of trick or treating early...went down a few streets and then he was done. Just didnt seem worth the effort to get more candy than the bagful he had already, since he can have as much candy as he wants whenever he wants it.

He ate a mini-bag of chips, and a large Hershey bar (well, half of it)...the rest of the candy is just sitting there. I actually found a grocery bag full of candy in his bedroom that mightve been from last year. I bet we'll end up throwing away much of this bag too.


Since my kids were little they could have all the Halloween candy they wanted, and since they were little that has been no problem at all, because by the time they gave away what they didn't like and traded for favorites, and saved it and shared it with kids who came over for the next few weeks, there was still candy left. I have very often found the sorting boxes (a Xerox box lid or cardboard Coke flat) months later, and one year when it was nearly Halloween again, Kirby threw out the last of the candy from the year before. (Ditto for Christmas and Easter candy, some years.)

We were confident that it was control, not access, that made kids eat, do and want "too much" before we ever considered unschooling. Others come to the idea the other way around—unschooling first and releasing other control-urges later.

—Sandra Dodd

Subj: [AlwaysLearning] Halloween Candy
Date: Sunday, November 2, 2003 8:39:36 AM

Just wanted to share this for those on the fence about the food/candy issue.

Our kids went trick-or-treating Friday night and each came home with a cauldron, filled to overflowing (the size of those plastic pumpkins). They ate a few pieces that night, swapped a few, shared a few with us, and put them up.

Yesterday, as both kids weren't feeling well (colds and coughs) they watched a lot of Cartoon Network while eating, sorting, and trading candy. For breakfast, of course. ;). By day's end, I put their cauldrons up (as in on their bureaus so the dog doesn't get into it), and they were still nearly full (way more than 3/4) and DH and I each had a few pieces, too.

Today, no one has touched any.


From UnschoolingDiscussion, 2003:

One for the "they'll never eat anything but junk" people—yesterday evening after we got back from trick or treating and I walked past my 5 y.o. sitting with her basket of candy at the table and noticed that one of the first things she had eaten was the apple she got from our next-door neighbor.

-Cat (Catherine Aceto)

My boys are like that. They will have the Halloween candy sitting there for months. They just eat a piece here and there. Came home from Trick or Treating and set the candy on the kitchen table and made themselves a sandwich. They love to go Trick or Treating but the candy is no big deal because they can have it whenever they want.
Pam G

I wanted to avoid Halloween with Jonathan this year, only because of his apparent reaction to some artificial colors. However, I was ready to grin and bear it if he wanted to trick-or-treat, he announced that he hates Halloween and wanted nothing to do with it (the costumes scare him.

We got him a few of his favorite foods to celebrate, one of them being a bag of Milano cookies. When he asked about them I brought him two, he took one and said, "No thanks" to the second. At that age I would have taken as much as I could get, even braved the scary masks to get candy. I was looking at him wondering how it must feel to be so relaxed about food, it must feel good.


I agree! It was really amazing to see play out in my kids, too. It was COLD and snowy here and the kids didn't do much trick or treating (4 blocks). I would have been sorely disappointed in the candy haul, but they were just grateful for the *free* candy! They went out with their *best bud* and his brother, so mom got to stay inside and hang out with the grownups (rare treat!). The whole evening's celebrations were far more important than the amount of candy they received. I was horribly broke this past week and had no money for treats; to pacify them, I told them they could eat all the candy they wanted on Halloween ... They really liked the chips and salsa, ate chili with crackers and cheese and, oh yeah, about three small candybars each What a great night for breakthroughs!
The wackiest widow westriver...

My boys were ready to stop half way through trick or treating, my daughter wasn't. So we headed in the direction of home, with her stopping at the houses and them just standing there waiting for her to go on. At first, I let them just stand there and would take their pumpkins up to the houses for them, thinking that even if they were to tired to climb the stairs to the porches, they would appreciate still getting the candy. But my 6 year old kept saying, "Mommy, i don't WANT any more candy! I have enough!" I NEVER would have said that I had enough Halloween candy when I was little. :)
Sheila (Sheran...)

Isn't Halloween Grand!?? I love it. I love watching the kids run around the house, each with their enormous bag, trading, swapping, counting, going from room to room, comparing who's still got the most, who's gobbling theirs down, who's making theirs last the longest...
Nancy B. in WV

I had things to do all day and I couldn't take the kids with me. (well I could have, but they would have been bored to tears) They packed bags and games and went off to work with Darin. As I was walking out I realized I only had a few dollars to hand out for snack and drink runs so I grabbed a bag of candy off the coffee table and took it out to the car. As I handed it to Moly I had a momentary thought that maybe this might not be a good idea because one bag would be eaten out of and the kids might fight doing the "this is my bag" thing. But I put that thought out of my head because things have been going so good and why should I think something negative? (does anyone else think my kids are further on this path than me? *g*) I went on with my day.

This evening I asked Darin how his day went with the kids at work with him and specifically asked about the candy. He told me that they both came to him about three and asked for the keys to the car and that they came back with just a few pieces each and a pocket full each to give to the "guys" who work for Darin. No mention that Mom only brought one bag or that it was Moly's bag or Jack's bag.

If it were me in that situation I would have carried the bag in with me, never let anyone else touch it, never shared especially with adults, and probably would have eaten as much as I could before it was taken from me.

~Nancy (Dnowens)

More for unschoolers, about food and eating


parenting ideas

Halloween (prejudices against)

Halloween Costumes at my house