Halloween — What’s the Plan, Stan?

For a conscientious parent, the Halloween goals are to minimize the amount of junk the kids collect, how much they hold onto, and how much of it they ultimately consume.

If a family traditionally participates in the trick-or-treat ritual by passing out candy, a parent can introduce the concept of change by asking for ideas about whether something else could be distributed instead. It might be an opportunity to mention the horrible ingredients that are in some alleged treats, and just lightly touch on the very unfortunate results hidden in an overdose of sugar, especially if repeated often throughout a young life.

Start with the collecting part, and come to an agreement on at least one boundary, which could be spatial or temporal. The time limit could be 30 minutes or an hour. Parents and children can conspire beforehand to map out the most promising route, in terms of reward per time spent, and then stick to it. If your housing situation is fairly stable, it might be fun to keep note of what was distributed, at which addresses, and then later compare next year’s statistics. Why? Because keeping track of hard facts and learning to draw conclusions from them are valuable life skills.

Be best

Can kids be coaxed into setting arbitrary rules that increase the challenge? For instance, just to make things interesting, maybe they can only go to a house where someone is already on the porch. Or only to participating houses where nobody is on the porch at the moment. Or limit themselves to even-numbered addresses, or odd-numbered ones. It doesn’t really matter, as long as the rule originates with the kids, and will ultimately advance the parents’ agenda: to bring home less sugar at the end.

It seems to be fairly common for parents to decree “No eating while traipsing from door to door.” Be sure to lay the groundwork for this by making a nutritious dinner first. Then, during the collection process, anticipation makes even the best rewards richer. Furthermore, if kids plan to swap with each other afterward, it would be silly to gobble down anything that might be traded for an even better treat, if only they had waited. Also, whether or not parents believe that evil neighbors might poison children, it makes sense for them to give everything a once-over before anybody indulges.

The greater purpose here is to put some kind of a lid on the collection of loot, and to set a precedent. If parent and child can agree ahead of time on a well-defined trip, and both emerge feeling like winners, it sets a useful example for future compromise on other matters.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by vtgard/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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