Halloween prompts the sound of doorbells ringing and calls of “Trick or Treat” to fill our ears. Images of pumpkins, costumes, and candy come to mind. But what if we went to the white board of our mind and brainstormed a few new ways to approach Halloween? What might we be able to teach, infuse, and model for our children that could benefit them long-term?
Deconstructing the conventional Halloween norms was necessary in my home for two reasons:
1) I wanted to infuse the joy of giving into every holiday for our Mini Men, and
2) we strive to have our family eat clean for health reasons.
Infusing The Joy of Giving
Providing children with opportunities to give is one of my favorite elements of raising humans. Purely taking their focus off of themselves to direct it onto those they’ll engage with is beautiful. So, instead of approaching Halloween with a “What’s in it for me?” mindset, we ponder how we can impact the joy-odometers of those who cross our path by pondering, “How much joy will they feel?” This changes the focus of the entire holiday. Imagine if your costume-cute-child rang the doorbells in your neighborhood and greeted each neighbor with, “I made this for you!” We have loved doing precisely that with hand-painted hearts.
A simple gesture of thoughtfulness is counter-cultural and impacts hearts deeply. As the Mini Men came away from each door, they were exclaiming about how excited each neighbor was when they saw their very own hand-painted, little hearts. The joy of Trick or Treating was found in the happiness of each neighbor’s face, not in candy. The fun of Trick-or-Treating came from bringing others joy, not in the number of pieces or type of candy that was filling the candy bag. Candy was not the star of the experience. The joy on the faces of each neighbor was the star!
The Candy Currency
Similar to exchanging tickets for prizes, the tradition in our home is to exchange the candy for prizes. We give the Mini Men experiential options that we know they would be thrilled to exchange their candy for — a $9-$10 Lego set they’ve been wanting, a new book they’ve seen has just come out, a one-on-one play date with a close friend, or a special outing with the parent of their choice. So far, the Lego Set has been the hands-down winner. And it is a continuation of the Halloween festivities because we go straight to the store to get it after Trick-or-Treating.
The candy is just a means to the experiential reward.
For my husband and I, that’s a win because we strive to eat as clean, whole, and helpful to our insides as we possibly can, and we are constantly teaching the Mini Men about how food directly impacts their insides. So, in an effort to replace the rewarding feeling a bag of candy brings to a child (or an adult), we are happy to provide them with a non-food, experiential option.
But, what if they want to keep just SOME? Great question! I’m glad you asked.
In an effort to NOT create two Mini Willy Wonkas who feel deprived of the tantalizing crinkle of candy-wrapper-to-mouth experience, I give the Mini Men the reigns to decide what’s best for them. They can keep 5-10 pieces of candy to eat 1 per day and their Lego Set will reduced to the smaller $6 set, or they can exchange ALL their candy for the larger $9/$10 set. It turns out the value of candy depreciates about as quickly as a brand new car!
But, what happens to the candy? Yup, I lovingly drop it like a brick in the deepest trash can I can find. If I wouldn’t feed it to my own family, I’m certainly not giving it to anyone else to consume, no ma’am. I hear that many dentist offices in the area will do a candy buy-back program, if that’s more your style.
Remember, Halloween (and every holiday) can be customized in your home to be a teaching tool. Just ponder what you want your child to experience and learn, and chase after that!