Strategies for a Happier Halloween with your Picky Eater
Halloween is right around the corner, and in the US, it kicks off the Winter holiday season. This year, many things are likely to be different, however, these same tried and true recommendations are still just as applicable as ever. Learn why holidays can be so difficult for your child, and help set them up for success!
What makes the Holidays so difficult for the Picky Eater (or Problem Feeder)?
Holidays are about eating specific, traditional foods (some of which our children may not see at any other times of the year)
Holidays are about sweets (which suppress appetite faster than any other food)
Holidays are about lots of people (who our children may or may not know)
Holidays are about family members who have certain expectations about how our children should behave (and what they should be eating at meals)
Holiday Food = LOVE (if you don’t eat grandma’s special cranberry sauce, you are being unloving, disrespectful, rude, etc.)
The holidays are about fun, excitement, anticipation, and noise. All of which may be disorganizing for a child
Holidays are about being allowed off the normal schedule (plans change frequently, and not knowing what to expect can be disorganizing)
Holidays frequently include traveling and not being in the child’s usual, safe environment (Picky eaters may not travel well, and problem feeders usually don’t travel well)
Minimize and limit changes. Limit the number of Halloween parties and events that they will attend, based on your child’s age.
Preschoolers – one family activity, plus Trick or Treating on Halloween
Kindergarten – 2nd graders – They will likely have a school event. Choose one other activity (either Trick or Treating on Halloween or one other family event)
Prepare your child in advance
At least 2-4 weeks before Halloween, discuss what the plans are going to be (plan costume, events, etc.)
Prepare your 3-6-year-old by talking about how people dress up for Halloween but that their costumes are NOT REAL
Practice dressing up in non-Halloween costumes
Give your child a simple explanation about what Halloween is and how it fits with your family’s beliefs.
Don’t let your 3-6-year-old answer the door at Halloween
Feed your child BEFORE the event
Offer them a simple meal or snack of preferred foods before the event (try to make sure their school snack or lunch is given BEFORE the Halloween Party, and make sure you send easy to eat foods)
Make sure this meal/snack is heavy on the proteins. However, still offer a balanced meal/snack that includes 1-2 proteins, 1 starch, and 1 fruit or vegetable, plus their drink.
Trying to make kids eat challenging foods may spark power struggles in a child who may already be over-excited and not able to handle increased eating demands
Don’t make participating in the Halloween event contingent on what they eat
Limit the Sweets
Allowing free access to sweets suppresses the appetite for more nutritious foods and can lead to craving more sugary foods.
One small “sweet treat” a day for no more than one week after Halloween is sufficient to celebrate this Holiday.
Tie how many days in a row they will get a “sweet treat” to their age. For example, if they are 3, they will get to pick one “sweet treat” once a day for 3 days in a row.
Have your child pick out which treats they want for their number of days and put those in a special place.
Do NOT make whether they get their “sweet treat” contingent on their eating. Pick a meal, after which, they automatically get their treat.
The rest of the Halloween candy goes up and out of their reach for “later” (and thrown out before the December holidays).
Make sure kids know that they need to ask first before taking their “sweet treat”.
If they eat all of their “sweet treats” early, they get no more as a consequence.