how to use halloween candy for (sneaky) fun learning
There may only be a few more days left until our Jack-O-Lanterns turn into lunch for the squirrels (if they haven’t already!), but the candy that my kids have collected this beautiful Halloween night will be around for days.
There seems to be more and more every year, as Maddy, Owen, and Cora get older and are able to hit more houses, pounding the pavement longer before their fingers and toes turn into ice cubes.
Though we are a huge sweet-tooth family, and we do have dessert almost every day after a finished meal, we really do try to limit the amount of j-u-n-k that the kids eat, especially from about October through New Years, when sweets seem to be at their highest volume in our house. But it doesn’t seem to matter what my kids are doing with their candy as long as they’re doing something with it.
They’ll play with it, organize it, trade it, and perform experiments on it, as long as they’re hangin’ out with it.
So here are a few things we have done–and will do–with our crazy stash of Halloween candy:
- Sorting Halloween Candy: The easiest and most natural thing for kids to do with their ‘loot’, the minute Owen dumped his candy on the table, he started sorting.
Owen sorts his candy, the second he’s finished Trick-or-Treating.
- Who can sort their candy by color?
- Let’s race to see who can sort their candy any way you want in three minutes–you just have to be able to explain why you sorted it that way!
- Try sorting your candy by type–chocolate, lollipops, gummies, etc.
- It’s a size race! Sort your candy from biggest to smallest!
- Let’s sort candy by shape–all of the squares, rectangles, circles, and crazy shapes we can find!
- This is a super-tricky one, but let’s sort candy from personal favorites to least favorites.
- Can we put our candy in rainbow color, creating a huge rainbow on our floor?
This should be totally low-key and fun. And if your kids are anything like my kids, they’ll play with the candy for much longer than you’d expect.
- Halloween Candy and Literacy Learning: Yes, it’s possible. And it can be shoved into the sorting fun above, or the experimenting fun below. It can be done in five minutes or ten minutes or one minute–it doesn’t matter.
Much like we did in the candy aisle of the grocery store, since there are letters and words all over candy wrappers, why not get kids using them for some sweet and sneaky learning? There are tons of ways to do this, but get started by having kids
- Sort candy that begins with a certain letter (M, H, S . . . );
- Find candy that begins with the letter of their name/ sister or brother’s name/ pet’s name;
- Identify candy that rhymes with ‘stars’ (Mars); ‘flickers’ (Snickers); ‘pounds’ (Mounds);
- Call out all of the candy they know or recognize;
- Read the candy that begins with a certain letter;
- Look for candy that had a funny letter in its name (coconut for ‘o’ in Mounds, etc);
- Put the candy in alphabetical order (pretty tough for younger kiddos!).
- Using Math Vocabulary: Having kiddos become ‘fluent’ in math vocabulary, learning to listen closely to what you say and to follow directions will reach new levels when adding candy to the mix.
Download this handy dandy Math Vocabulary Sheet that includes all of the words that kiddos in pre-K and K should know and love. And then have kids dump their candy on the living room floor (or kitchen table) and talk them through some prompts. Say,
- Let’s see who can place a red KitKat bar above a Snickers.
- Choose a yellow candy and place it next to (or to the right/ left of) the Snickers.
- Put a Smarties pack to the left (or right) of the Snickers bar.
- Squeeze a skinny/ thick/ wide candy in the middle of the candy bars.
- Let’s count all of the candy in front of you. Which candy is first? Second? Third?
- Does everyone have an equal amount of candy in front of them? Who has more? Less?
- Using two/ three/ four types of candy, let’s create patterns. . .
- Perform Science Experiments on Candy — Candy Experiments Part 1
Grab a few glasses, some vinegar, some hot, warm, and cold water, and candy. And get experimenting! It’s still Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s favorite thing to do with candy (aside from eating it, of course). They have begged me to do experiments already, and I’m totally game.
- Paint With Candy — (Or Candy Experiments, Part 2)
Water, Skittles (or any candy with a colored coating), and paper towels is all kids need to feel like they’re breaking some rules (when do we let them really play with their food!?) and to get their creative juices flowing.
My kiddos are also looking forward to ‘painting’ with candy in the next few days and weeks, and I’m looking forward to getting rid of a ton of candy this way.
- Create a Candy Countdown – We used recycled egg cartons for the past few years to let Maddy, Owen, and Cora choose twelve pieces of candy–one to eat each day for dessert after dinner.
What we found was that the choosing was taking forever, and with fewer choices, the kids did better. And I could put away the huge plastic pumpkins sooner. And my husband could (shhhhh!) take a boatload of the candy to work and get it out of our house before I ate it all.
- Talk About Colors (or practice some fine motor skills!) — For the little, little guys, throwing a piece of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and brown construction paper on the ground and having them ‘match’ candy colors to the paper is a great way to get them moving and ‘using’ their candy instead of eating it.
Or if they’re teeny, they won’t even know they can eat the candy, so playing with it in this way (supervised, of course!), gives them a ‘newish’ toy to handle, match, and talk about.
And that’s it for us! Super-fun, super sneaky games to play with the ‘sweet’ stuff.
Of course, if playing with candy in this way isn’t your thing, then donating it to your church, school, or a neighbor is also another way of avoiding a few cavities (or belly aches!) in your house. We also freeze a bunch of chocolate to throw in holiday cookies and cookie bars. . . which we probably shouldn’t but I just can’t help myself.