For most kids, enjoying some candy on Halloween is part of the fun – all things in moderation. But a scary thought for many parents is their children consuming so much Halloween candy that little tykes turn into sick or sleepless little monsters, says Jill Walls, assistant professor of child development at Ball State University.
“I think it’s important that parents remember that children, just as adults, are subject to the stimulating effects of chocolate and sugar, ” says Walls, a faculty member with Ball State’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. “If you don’t want them to be up all night long, regulate their intake of candy.”
Walls points out that chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which can have side effects similar to caffeine. While it has less of an impact on the human central nervous system than caffeine, too much theobromine can cause sleeplessness, tremors, restlessness and anxiety. Additional side effects include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and withdrawal headaches.
“Parents of children younger than 2 years of age should find appropriate and healthy alternatives to the traditional Halloween candy, such as fresh fruit, ” says Walls, the mother of a 3-year-old girl. “For toddlers and preschoolers, I’d suggest limiting their candy. Children are starting to become more independent at this age so you can honor that by providing them with a choice of candy but limit them to a certain number of pieces. So you might say something like, ‘Tonight, you may choose two pieces of candy.’ ”
Some kids will completely forget about Halloween candy if it’s out of sight. If not, it might be best to save candy consumption for the weekends.
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