If you don't know about the Switch Witch yet, it's a novel way to get rid of Halloween candy that seems to be catching on. Similar to Santa and the Easter Bunny, the Switch Witch comes while children are sleeping to leave a present. The catch? The Switch Witch wants Halloween candy in exchange for the small gift. It's a win win for everyone involved — kids get a small present and Halloween candy is gone after a couple of days. Since it's a newer concept, families can create the tradition as they see fit. There's even a Switch Witch doll and book almost like Elf on the Shelf that you incorporate into your Halloween festivities.
I checked in with some former and current experts from the Inquirer's Health Advisory Panel to get their thoughts about the Switch Witch. A good or bad idea? Are we losing a teachable moment about moderation by simply taking candy away? Here's what they had to say:
The Switch Witch is fine, but I would use this opportunity to teach kids to be charitable. There are some great programs where children can donate their candy to others, such as Operation Gratitude, which donates candy to troops or some other charitable organizations. Each year my children donate some of their candy and it gives us a chance to talk about those in need, the importance of giving, and gratitude. —Jessica Glass Kendorski PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
I am uncomfortable with the Switch Witch because it is another way not to say "no" to your child when "no" is appropriate. Parents do not need to be confrontational with their children, but they do have to be authority figures and reasonably set limits. Set reasonable rules rather than make up a new myth. For example, just say that the child can eat five favorite pieces of candy on Halloween and maybe put aside 10 pieces of candy to eat two pieces each day over the next week instead of that day's desert. —Gary Emmett, MD, FAAP, Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University
It is important to teach kids the idea that healthy eating can include some treats, but moderation is something parents might struggle with themselves. If modeling moderation is difficult, or if you just don't want to have a conversation with the idea of a candy bargain for the next month, the "Switch Witch" is a cute idea to end the season. Parents should do what feels right for their family. If the candy isn't a big deal in your home, model moderation. If you feel like you need some creative assistance to handle the post-Halloween treats, the Switch Witch is a fun way to do it. —Beth Smith, MA, RD, LDN, CNSC, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Kids need to learn how to eat all types of foods and to balance their diets. Teaching kids that it's OK to eat candy in moderation will prevent sneaking and feeling guilty about eating "bad" foods. —Megan Robinson, MS, RD, CDE, CSSD, LDN, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
While exchanging some of their hard earned trick or treat bounty for a toy might be an incentive, I think encouraging kids to donate the candy to the troops would make for the perfect solution. It's easy to find a drop-off site near you through organizations such as Soldiers' Angels Treats for Troops Halloween Candy. I'm planning on doing the same thing with my leftover treats. If you like to incorporate both ideas, you can tell your kids the Switch Witch will donate on their behalf. —Anita Kulick, Educating Communities for Parenting
Here's an idea using the Switch Witch concept that helps our kids learn how to make good choices instead of just imparting these choices on them.
1.Talk to your kids about the Switch Witch concept, but encourage them to become a "Switch Witch."
2. Identify how they want to play the "Switch Witch" by finding some organizations that take candy or letting your kids come up with their own idea of what to do with the treats.
3. Discuss the concept of moderation and decide together whether they should keep candy for themselves.
4. Document the "switch" by taking pictures or writing about the event and share it with friends! Who knows, maybe they can encourage other kids to do the same thing! —Sarah Levin Allen, Ph.D., CBIS, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine