Inside: The Switch Witch can be a fun Halloween tradition for your kids. Here are the do’s and don’t for making it work.
Years ago, I was chatting with a neighbor about Halloween and the mountain of candy that enters our lives every year after Trick-or-Treating.
“The Switch Witch comes and takes some of our candy,” she said slyly.
What is the Switch Witch?
I came to learn that the Switch Witch is a mysterious enchantress who arrives on Halloween night after bedtime.
Kids set out some of their candy for her at the end of the night. She takes the pieces of candy and deposits something special in their place.
The annual deluge of suckers and fun-sized Butterfingers stresses out a lot of parents–so is the Switch Witch the answer?
What The Switch Witch can teach kids
Besides being a fun tradition, the Switch Witch concept has a useful life lesson that a lot of grown-ups could use too: How to put a value on what you really like–and not to waste your time on the stuff you don’t.
How often have you been handed a big piece of mediocre, store-bought birthday cake and just ate it because it was there? Or scarfed down a second slice of pizza even though it wasn’t very good?
Putting a priority on our favorite foods–and not wasting time on what we don’t–is a skill we need in a world where food is everywhere.
It’s also a nice way for children with potentially life-threatening food allergies to swap what they can’t eat for a special surprise.
Should you do the Switch Witch?
Personally, my boys loved the Switch Witch. They loved the mystery of it. They loved waking up the next morning to see what she brought.
They loved dividing their trick-or-treat stash into piles: Keep. Trade. Switch Witch.
In the end, they were still left with a sizable pile, which they’d eat a little bit at a time over the course of many weeks.
Some years, our own Switch Witch brought a fun toy, book, or five-dollar bill. More often than she likes to admit, she raced to Target on Halloween night before it closed because she forgot to plan ahead. Ahem.
If you’re considering doing the Switch Witch with your kids too, here are some do’s and don’ts:
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DO make the Switch Witch optional
The Switch Witch is supposed to be a fun tradition in the spirit of the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. She’s a good witch, not a punishment–there’s no shame in liking and wanting candy.
DON’T make candy the enemy
Yes, Trick of Treating can bring a massive amount of candy into your house. And yes, there’s a lot of sugar intake happening on the night of Halloween. Candy is a big part of Halloween–and that’s okay. It’s natural and normal to celebrate some occasions with food. And sure, glow-sticks and plastic spider rings are nice to pass out for Trick-or-Treating. But there’s no doubt that for most kids, candy is the main event.
So if you demonize Halloween candy or ask your kid to give it all away, it’s confusing. Your child worked hard running from house to house to earn his haul. Wasn’t that the point of dressing up and going house-to-house, of sifting through the pile and trading favorites among friends–isn’t it what they’ve been waiting for all month?
DO let your kids decide what they give the Switch Witch
In our house, my kids left her the stuff they felt kind of “meh” about–what they might eat if it was there but didn’t prefer. In other words, our Switch Witch’s broomstick was made largely of Mounds, Good & Plenty, and Necco Wafers. My kids often tossed in what they have a surplus of as well.
DON’T pilfer your kids’ candy without asking
Parents stealing their kids’ Halloween candy is a long-running joke, but I encourage you to ask first so your child doesn’t have to feel obsessive or protective of her stash. Kids who worry their parents will take their stash may end up sneaking and hiding candy–or believing the message that they can’t be trusted around candy or other sweets. And asking your child first for a piece of candy gives them more practice sharing–and you get something yummy!
DO consider letting your child enjoy Trick-or-Treat without interference
I’ve seen too many parents arguing with their kids during Trick-or-Treating about how many pieces of candy they’re allowed to eat. You should do what works best for your family, but personally, I always let my kids have as much as they wanted on Halloween night. If they felt sick, we talked about how overeating can cause bellyaches.
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Questions about the Switch Witch
What if your kids aren’t on board?
If your kids don’t want to give away some of their candy, don’t force the issue. It’s important to trust our kids–and for our kids to trust us. Otherwise, you may end up with a child who sneaks candy and other “forbidden” foods and feels shame that she wants it.
How much candy should the Switch Witch take?
That’s up to you and your kids. Remember–we don’t want our kids feeling cheated or tricked out of the candy they worked for.
Can’t I just throw my kids’ candy away?
My vote is no. Hey, I get it–it’s a lot of candy! And you just want that pile gone so there’s no begging or negotiating in the days ahead, right? So you wait a day for the sugar-hangover to wear off, let them have a few pieces, then take the rest to the office–or dump it in the trash.
I definitely understand the inclination. When my kids were younger, I did some stealth “candy relocation” myself. But I’ve since changed my tune. Because that won’t teach your kids anything, except not to trust mom and dad!
Taking away your child’s Halloween candy stash sends a clear message: I don’t trust you with this.
So how do I manage the pile of candy that’s left?
Here are some ideas:
- Make a plan together. The day after Trick-or-Treating, talk about what you think is a reasonable way to handle the rest of the stash. Does one or two pieces a day sound doable? Would your child prefer to pack them in her lunch box or enjoy them at home? My two boys’ Halloween candy was kept in separate bags in a cupboard they could access. We decided together what a reasonable portion was. When they were little, it was one piece a day, which worked most of the time. They could have their treat whenever they wanted: in their lunchbox, after school, after dinner, even WITH dinner. As they got older, they managed their own stashes.
- Take away some of the power. Candy isn’t the end-all-be-all if it’s readily available. Two strategies you might consider trying: serving the candy along with dinner (yes, your kids may eat the fun-sized bar Snickers, the move on to the rest of the meal and that’s okay!) and occasionally offering as much as they want at snack time. Those approaches come from feeding expert and dietitian Ellyn Satter. I’ve tried both, and though they’re scary at first, I found them very helpful (and effective).
- Bake cookies! If your kids are cool with it, bake this Skillet Cookie together using some of the extra candy.
The Switch Witch can be a fun tradition for your kids and teach them lessons around prioritizing their favorites. But the Switch Witch should be something your kids WANT to do, not a sneaky way of getting rid of extra candy.