A little girl dressed as a cat with cat makeup looking at camera.

How To Steal Candy From Your Children: A Parent's Guide To Halloween

I am not ashamed to admit that, as a grown woman who loves Halloween, I am one of those parents stealing Halloween candy from their children. Not. Even. A. Little. Bit. Ashamed. And because my two children have enough energy without loading them up on a pillowcase full of high fructose corn syrup, I've learned a few things over the years. Sneaky things. Mom things. Stealing-candy-from-a-baby-type things. Things that, I have no doubt, will help the rest of you parents as you attempt to confiscate a slew of chocolate-coated treats.

Hey, don't get mad at me! I mean what, in the name of heaven and all the saints, does a child need with a small mountain of Snickers? Candy is fun! I'm even in favor of having a special day where you eat way more than is strictly speaking healthy, because some eating is good for your body and some eating is good for your soul, and I think having gobs of candy of October 31 falls solidly into the latter. But there's a limit, right? Because even if your kids gorge on one night, chances are they're still going to have a ton left over, and I, for one, don't want my kid chowing down on a fistful of Tootsie Rolls every day until New Year's Eve. Plus, your kids owe you at least a dozen fun-sized Twix, because you're the one who took them out. I see it as a candy tax.

So here are some of my favorite tricks to make the treats disappear (see what I did there?):

Try To Distract Them From What They're Actually Getting When They Get It


Contrary to most parenting advice, on Halloween you want to keep your kids good and distracted so they don't remember what they got and therefore won't ask for it later. You can't miss something you've never had... or don't remember ever having. Ooh! Look at the spooky decorations! Check out that kid's awesome costume! Oh wow, was that a friendly witch flying across the moon on her broomstick? What super-fun night this is! No! Don't look at your candy now! Let's wait until we get home!

Keep the contents of the bag as vague and hazy as possible.

"Check" The Candy

The idea that Halloween candy is tainted with poison and razor blades has been thoroughly and routinely debunked. So too has the idea that people are handing out marijuana edibles. (Who the hell is going to waste a THC-ladden candy on a child? This is common sense, people!)

Still, "checking candy" to "make sure it's safe to eat" (no need to give fake and traumatizing details about poisoned lollipop, though, just keep it general) is a great way to swipe a whole bunch before they get a good chance to assess what they have.

Oh, and obviously, all the peanut butter cups need to be inspected thoroughly by adults. (And by "thoroughly inspected" I mean "eaten in a single bite, one after the other, until they're gone and you're sick.")

Let Them Have A Candy Feast On Halloween Night

Not only is this a fun tradition (my kids are very fond of their annual "Candy Dinner") but it also makes Halloween seem like one night of candy and not a month of slowly eating too much candy every single day. This also means they're likely going to eat most of their favorites right up front, so what remains is easier to take without incident.

This may also be because all that sugar and cocoa is making it hard for them to see straight, and I say lean into that natural advantage, particularly since you'll be paying for it with a sugar crash tomorrow anyway.

Talk About The Items They're Most Excited About

This lets you know what they will absolutely notice. Some battles are not worth fighting. Let it go. Save yourself the headache and definitely never try to spirit away a King Size candy bar as they will absolutely miss it.

Try The Switch Witch

People have told me they've found great success with "The Switch Witch," a new-fangled, Tooth Fairy-esque figure who will bring children a toy if they leave her most of their candy out for her on Halloween night. I believe that those parents have found success and that it works really well for their families.

My children have unequivocally banned the Switch Witch from coming within 100 feet of them at all times. They've all but drawn a circle of salt around our home. When I brought up the idea to my son a while back, not only did he burst into rage tears, he was terrified of the Switch Witch thereafter, begging me to take extra steps to make sure the hag didn't thieve his candy. I told him she only takes what someone is willing to give, but he didn't buy that.

Fun sibling bonus: he instilled his Switch Witch fears into his sister, who, at 5, can imagine nothing more tragic than someone taking her candy.

So, yes, I have to be sneakier.

Tell Them The Candy Has To "Ripen"


You can't do this with the entire bag, but you can take a decent amount and tell them that some of the candy isn't quite ready yet and that the best way for it to ripen is to put it in a brown paper bag in the back of the pantry. They probably don't know that candy doesn't work the same way peaches and plums do so there's a decent chance they'll buy it... and then promptly forget that candy ever existed.

If they don't, just bring down some of it. They won't remember exactly how much went in there. And if they did?

"Aw darn! Now it's gone bad! Womp womp!"

Blame Ghosts

Will you make your children terrified that the souls of the dead return to devour the things we love? Like... probably? But also, it's sort of funny?

What's childhood without just a teeny bit of this level of "trauma?" Like seeing the cover of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark when you're in second grade and having it haunt your dreams until you're a 30-year-old woman who's still scared of scarecrows.

If You Steal Gradual, Don't Do It *Too* Gradually

It can be done, but it's a balance, and you must practice the following sentence until you yourself believe it: "Are you sure you didn't eat it already, sweetie?"

"Isn't that gaslighting?" you're asking and the answer is yes, yes it is. Textbook definition, in fact. Normally I do not recommend doing this to your child, because I'm all about open and honest conversations. But candy makes already irrational children into mindless sugar monsters and this is sometimes the only way. No one needs that much sugar and you need to get it out of the house by any means necessary.

Just Take It Because What Are They Even Going To Do?

Babies are notoriously easy to take candy from. That's why we have that saying!

Look, I'm not going to judge anyone if they take their children's hard-earned candy through nefarious means. You gotta do what you gotta do and not everyone wants to have a hug blow-out fight with an indignant kindergartener in sugar withdrawal when they know they can just as easily slowly diminish the candy supply and no one will be the wiser. But it's also totally OK to say, "You get this much candy and we're donating the rest because too much isn't healthy/other people could use this candy/because I said so." You can do it and your kids will get over it...

... and then you can repeat it again when the chocolate and candy cane winter holidays roll around.