Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Scary Idea: Christmas at Halloween

Choice of Toys Over Candy Could Help Offset Childhood Obesity
By
WebMD Health News

Oct. 24, 2003 -- It's a scary thought: disappointing kids on trick-or-treat night. Who has the guts to offer anything but candy -- despite the childhood obesity problem?

Well, be brave. A new study shows many children actually choose toys over candy, when offered both.

"This may reassure adults that children will not be disappointed by noncandy treats," writes researcher Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, a psychologist at Yale University, in New Haven, Conn. Her study appears in the latest issue of Journal of Nutrition, Education, and Behavior.

When parents impose restrictions on unhealthy foods, the efforts backfire. Children end up sneak-eating the bad stuff whenever they get a chance, fueling childhood obesity. All that Halloween candy just glorifies high-sugar, high-fat foods at the heart of the childhood obesity problem, Schwartz writes.

How to teach kids to control their own bad habits? Offer options they like -- such as toys.

Schwartz tested this theory one Halloween night, with the help of seven households in five Connecticut towns. All told, 284 boys and girls came to these doors -- and each was offered the choice of a toy or a candy.

It was glow-in-the-dark insects, funny pumpkin men, Halloween stickers and pencils vs. lollipops, chewy candies, crunchy wafers, or sweet-tarts.

Only one 4-year-old child wanted both a toy and candy. Of the rest, 135 chose toys and 148 chose candy -- numbers close enough to show the kids were equally satisfied with toys or candy, writes Schwartz.

Halloween is special, with children dressing up, walking around the neighborhood at night, and socializing with other children and adults. "Nonfood treats" may easily become a positive part of the tradition, she writes.

SOURCE: Schwartz, M. Journal of Nutrition, Education, and Behavior, July/August 2003; vol 35: pp 207-209.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow