The Halloween Conundrum – What to do with Extra Halloween Candy
By the Kids Place Pediatric Occupational Therapists

pattern 4Many parents struggle with what to do with all the leftover candy their kids have from trick-or-treating.  Candy can be used in many fun activities that do not involve actually eating it, but rather promote the development of fine motor skills, visual processing skills, cognitive processing skills, and sensory development.

First, try sorting the candy by color, size, shape, first letter of the name, the type of candy, or any other way you prefer.  To improve your child’s fine motor skills, encourage the kids to use only their index finger and thumb or only the index and middle finger with the thumb.  Sorting this way will help children develop isolated finger movements necessary while using writing utensils.  Also, by using the index and middle finger with the thumb, you are promoting the correct positioning your child should use writing with their pencil.

pincer cup 2Furthermore, you can have your children sort their candies using clothespins.  With the index finger and thumb, or index and middle fingers with their thumb, children can pinch the clothespin to grip and move the candies.  The resistance of the clothespin will help strengthen your kids’ fingers and improve their endurance during writing tasks.  Tweezers and chopsticks are other tools that encourage isolated finger movements.

Secondly, making crafts with candy can also be a fun way to use the extra.  You can draw pictures and have your kids glue candies on the lines.  You can also have your children draw their own picture and explain what each candy represents at the conclusion.  Candies, such as lifesavers, can be strung to make bracelets or necklaces.  This activity promotes bilateral integration, or using two hands together.  If a candy does not have a hole, your child can use a toothpick to push through the candy, also helping to strengthen the fingers.

Additionally, candy can be used to create a gingerbread house.  You can either freeze the extra candy until it is closer to Christmas time, or make a Halloween/Fall themed house.  Using frosting as the glue, place the candies on graham cracker walls for decorations.

water colors 1Extra candy can also be used for finger painting.  Place one color of hard-shelled candy (Skittles, M&M’s, etc.) in a class of water and watch the coating dissolve and become colored water.  Children can then dip their fingers in the water and “paint” paper towels.  For more concentrated colors, use just enough water to cover the candies.

These crafts are fun for all ages, but they are especially beneficial if your child has difficulties with messy play (does not like to get food on their fingers, does not like to play in sand boxes, or does not like to play with finger paints, etc.).  Your child will most likely get frosting on themselves in small amounts while placing the candy, and will need to dip their fingers in water to get color on them.  These experiences will provide them with tactile input (or feeling it on their skin).  Working with small amounts of tactile input and increasing it over time can help your child become less hesitant towards messy play.

We hope some of these suggestions will help your family enjoy Halloween candy in new ways that promote positive development in your child.

Happy Halloween!