Halloween candy provides a wonderful opportunity for you and your child to extend the sweetness of Halloween into some simple, playful interactions.

As a child, coming home after Trick-or-Treating and spilling out my candy stash was as much fun as going house to house. I fondly remember sorting the candy into piles, trading with my siblings, and sharing a few pieces with my dad. Using some of the ideas below, you can create some of your own stimulating and sweet Halloween memories with your little one.

These ideas will give you a few ways to get more fun out of Halloween after trick or treating is over. Yes, they can be seen as “educational”. However, please recognize that this is not a how-to-kill-a-naturally-fun-time parenting tip. The idea is to extend what is already fun.

For example, if you say, “Let’s get out your candy and count it again, but by 5s this time.” The goal is not to have your five year old counting by 5s. The idea is to just show him in a hands-on way with interesting objects that there are lots of ways to count. No reciting or drilling of facts required, or desired. (Although, you both will probably want to demonstrate how to subtract a piece of candy from the amount counted. Yum.)

When time allows and it is a good time for your child to enjoy a piece of Halloween candy, don’t just let her pull out a piece. Dump the whole mess out and try one (or more) of these activities:

Sorting
This one comes naturally. But you can help your child see new ways to organize the candy. Sorting is a foundational concept in math that is worth exploring in a play environment. Seeing that one large mess can be divided up in multiple ways is an important critical thinking skill (not bad for toy clean-up either). Here are some different ways to sort the loot:

  • Type—chocolate, fruit flavors, gum, coins
  • Colors on wrappers—especially with toddlers
  • Size—stack large to small candies in pyramids & knock them down
  • Favorites—Mom likes these; Dad likes these; Everyone like these.
  • Shape—lay each size in a straight line to see which shape makes the longest line. If the fun lasts, get out a ruler and measure the line.

Word Play
Use this time to be silly with words. Have your child pick out a piece of candy and a share thought related to its name. Demonstrating lots of ideas in relationship to one idea shows your child how to think expansively and creatively. These critical thinking tools are great for developing a sense of humor. While the possibilities are as limitless as you and your child’s imaginations, here are few ideas to get started:

Give the candy a new name

  • M&Ms could be Mommies and Mushrooms or Martians & Muck.
  • Lollipops could be Circlesticks or Globepops.

See what your child comes up with. Even if they don’t quite work (not m words or no apparent connection to the candy), laugh.

Make the name or type of candy a noun

  • Hershey is a chocolate lab puppy who likes to jump into a pond full of peanut butter.
  • Mentos can be found in Daddy’s shoes.
  • Thanks. You’re a Lifesaver.
  • The Milkway has more stars than I can count.
  • I think that you are such a Smartie because you can put your own shoes on.
  • Hey, did you just call me a DumDum?

Free associate
Just pick up a piece of candy and say the first thing that comes to your mind. After you do it a few times, your little one will join the anything-goes fun. Thoughts don’t have to make sense. The idea is not have a vocabulary lesson. The idea is to extend the thrill of the holiday loot by silly word play. Really, if you go with it, you will end up laughing a lot and making less and less sense to anyone else.

Counting
As I mentioned above, dividing the candy up in lots of ways is a fun exercise and so is counting it. Show your child how to count the candy by 2s, 5s, and 10s. Just hearing the rhythm of the sounds of the letters being named is delightful to your child. He will love watching the big pile transferred bit by bit into the next big pile. Most likely, he will try to count along, so go slow and let him repeat the number after you. Keep in mind that you probably just want to work with a part of the stash—maybe fifteen pieces or less depending on the age and precociousness of your child—eating remainders is a good idea.

Relish these sweet Halloween moments by adding playfulness to your little one’s candy stash.

By Anne Oxenreider

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