Thursday, October 31, 2013

9 Tips for Controlling the Candy Chaos

Halloween candy and other sweets can get out-of-hand -- for you and your kids. Here's how to limit the sugar high.Halloween candy and other sweets can get out-of-hand -- for you and your kids. Here's how to limit the sugar high.

Halloween is all about the candy, right? While that may be true, it's still important to remember that too much of a good thing is, well, not such a good thing.
Here are nine tips from Mimi Wu, MS, RD, a nutrition information specialist with, and Dr. Warren Brill, president of American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, for how you can manage the candy in your home -- during Halloween and the rest of the year. If your nanny or babysitter is taking your kids trick-or-treating, share these tips with her/him.

1. Fill Bellies
Before going trick-or-treating, feed kids a hearty snack or dinner to ensure their bellies stay full while trekking around the neighborhood. Make the festivities extra special by serving up a favorite (hopefully nutritious) meal. "This will help ensure that [they] fill up on something healthy, and be less likely to overindulge when confronted with a tray full of treats," says Wu.

2. Stay Informed
Not all Halloween candy is the same. If you and your kids are going to indulge, learn what the best choices are.
Experiment with organic candy products this year. Many companies, such as YumEarth, now offer options that taste great and are better for you.

3. Choose Wisely
And controlling how much sugar kids get isn't as important as controlling what kind of sugar they get and what form it comes in.Dr. Brill recommends choosing candy or sweets that are eaten quickly, rather than something that stays in the mouth. "The important thing with sweets is how long the sugar sits in the mouth," he says. "The sugar turns into acid and demineralizes teeth." So forego the lollipop or lifesaver, and offer a Hershey's Kiss or peanut butter cup.

4. Set Expectations
Kids (and parents!) get very excited on Halloween and it's easy to overindulge. Set ground rules beforehand. What's allowed during trick-or-treating, when you get home and the days after? Have a plan, so it's not a free-for-all. "Let him know that he will have an opportunity to eat treats at a certain time (i.e. after dinner, as a snack), how much of it (i.e. two pieces of candy, one mini-cupcake), and that he can choose what he would like to eat," suggests Wu. "This helps to teach him how to prioritize his preferences."Or you could just tell your kids that you ate all their Halloween candy!

5. Savor Treats
Just because kids get a lot of candy during trick-or-treating, at a party or during a holiday season, doesn't mean that it all has to be eaten at once. Stretch the stash so everyone can enjoy their treasure for a little while longer.

6. Drink Water
Water is not only important for hydration, but also protecting your teeth. When your kids are enjoying sugaring foods (like Halloween candy!), give them water to wash it down. "Water will help [kids] feel full and prolong the amount of time it takes to eat the treat, possibly leading to him eating less of it," says Wu. It also helps rinse sugar away from teeth.

7. Be a Good Role Model
Children follow in the footsteps of their parents and caregivers. Limiting your kids' sugar intake is great, but it'll be useless if they see you constantly slipping your handy into the candy jar. But if you make healthy choices and reduce sweets, your children are bound to do the same. "If you are hosting [a Halloween party], serve fun treats that are still nutritious, such as fruit kabobs, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and fruits and vegetables with healthy and fun dips, or smaller portions of popular treats, such as mini cupcakes or doughnut holes." Check out healthy eating advice and recipes from, and the USDA.

8. Visit the Dentist
If your child hasn't been to the dentist in a while (or at all yet!), this is a great time to make an appointment -- while candy is on the brain. The earlier dental care is started, the less likely serious problems are to emerge. "As soon as a child gets teeth, they need to see a dentist," says Dr. Brill. Find a pediatric dentist who can help your little one develop good dental practices at home.

9. Don't Stress
Childhood and experiences like trick-or-treating are meant to be enjoyed. "Remember that one day or even a few days of indulging in sweets will not cause long-term damage to your child's health," says Wu. "It is his overall pattern of eating that makes the greatest impact. If he is making healthy choices the majority of the time and staying active, then you can rest assured that he can indeed have his cake and eat it too (in moderation, of course)!" 

Jillian Amodio is a Contributor for, the largest online care destination in the world.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

13 Halloween Party Games for Kids

Host the best kid's Halloween party ever with these lucky (or unlucky) 13 games.
Planning a Halloween party for kids but don't know where to start? Don't despair. Here are interesting and unique party games that will please trick-or-treaters of all ages.

Pamela Layton McMurtry, the author of "A Harvest and Halloween Handbook," and Jessica Fauster, a party-throwing mom whose annual Halloween fetes are the toast of Springfield, Ill., share their best bets for creative Halloween fun.
Need an extra set of hands to help out during the party and run games? Hire a babysitter for a few hours.

1. The Fishing Game 
Any good party begins with a theme. "It's easier to coordinate games when there is a theme in place, such as 'Halloween in the Enchanted Forest,'" McMurtry says.

A game she recommends, which can be tied to any theme, is the Fishing Game. Set up an area with a short curtain or barrier to hide a helper sitting behind it, and have assorted small toys and cute objects that match your theme on hand as prizes. Give each child a fishing rod made of a bamboo pole with a string and a clothespin. Have the children cast their lines and the hidden helper attach a prize for each child to reel in.

2. Halloween Treasure Hunt 
One of McMurtry's go-to activities for children's Halloween parties is a treasure hunt. Buy a thrift store dollhouse, decorate it in Halloween colors and call it a "Fairy House."  Then hide it in the yard or other party location and fill it with bags of treats. Decorate the area with Halloween items like jack-o'-lanterns, fake spiders, owls, fairies, elves and wreaths hanging on trees, and make up clues to direct the children from place to place as they solve riddles.

Gather the kids and explain that the fairies have hidden a treasure in the house -- and hidden the house, too! Have them find the first clue and start the hunt; the final destination is the dollhouse and the treats.

3. Eyeball Hunt 
Instead of an Easter egg hunt, throw an eyeball hunt! Purchase bags of plastic eyeballs from a party store and hide them in a room or your backyard. The child who finds the most wins a prize.

4. Beanbag Toss 
Set up a target area, decorated like a haunted forest, magical ocean or spooky graveyard. Place targets that match the scene in place, and use bean bags to knock off the targets.

5. Pin the Tail on the Goblin
"Some of the most old-fashioned games are still very popular, especially with kids who are unfamiliar with them," says Fauster. One of her favorites is this take on the retro Pin the Tail on the Donkey game.
"Have small children draw a life-sized Goblin creature, like the ones featured in the Maurice Sendak classic, 'Where the Wild Things Are,' which an adult can attach to the wall. Blind-fold and spin each child in turn, who will attempt to pin the Goblin's tail to its gruesomely goofy body."

6. Hat's Off
Ask each party goer to bring a hat as part of their costume (tell them the hat will temporarily be shared with other kids at the party). Set up an indoor or outdoor area for musical chairs and have the children place a hat on each chair. As the music stops and children find their seats, they continually change hats, winding up with silly variations of their costumes.

7. Who's Who? 
Supply each arriving parent or nanny with a ghost-like sheet that will cover their entire body and the back of their heads, with a hole cut out for their faces. Have children make ornate, adult-sized masks at the beginning of the party. They can be in the likeness of the animal or creature that most reminds them of the adult they're with (monsters, zoo animals, etc.) Set out a wide variety of supplies, like feathers, felt, glitter, child-safe scissors and at least one hole punch with string, to fasten the masks on with. Let the adults put on a mask they pull out of a grab bag in another room. Then children have to identify their grown-up.

8. Halloween Charades
Choose spooky books or Halloween-themed movies and sayings for a scary round of charades. Give the winner of each round a small treat bag.

9. Slimy Monster Snack Attack
Make homemade slime by combining green mint or apple jelly with water. Watered-down lime Jell-O also makes a great, slimy substitute. Once the consistency of your slime is sufficiently gross, throw in orange slices, gummy worms, raisins, candy corn or other unwrapped yummies. (You can also include plastic bugs like spiders and other crawly, icky things.) Have the children close their eyes and reach in to grab what the slime monster left behind and guess what it is. Chowing down on the found goodies is optional, but make sure there are no chokable pieces floating in the slime if small children are playing.

10.  Magic Number Guessing Game
Decorate and fill a jar with plastic eyeballs, candy corn or other fun objects. Have the children guess how many objects are in the jar. The child who comes closest to guessing the magic number wins the jar and its contents.

11.  Look Ma, No Hands!
Everyone has had their share of soaking-wet hair from bobbing for apples. A number of other, hands-free games can be just as much fun, but less soggy. Try a round of Pass the Apple, having the children run a relay race with an apple tucked under their chins. Hang apples or doughnuts from strings and see which child can finish first. Enjoy the slightly messier (and sweeter) no-hands, apple pie eating contest -- Dads love competing in this one, too!

12.  Telephone Tag, Halloween Style 
Have the children sit in a circle and start this improv game by whispering a nonsensically-spooky saying into the first child's ear, such as, "Frankenstein eats bugs for breakfast, but I prefer brains." Have each child whisper the saying into the next child's ear until the circle is complete, with the last child in the circle sharing the saying aloud. Typically, the end result is scarily different! Start again with a different phrase, going around the circle in the opposite direction.

13.  Treat or Dare
Have the children write down a treat (get a candy) or a dare (howl like a werewolf) on a piece of paper shaped like a witch's hat, pumpkin or other Halloween symbol. Place all of the papers into a caldron or large witch's hat. Have each child pick a paper and either get a treat or act out a dare.
Halloween is a joyful time for kids and for the people who love them. Cavities aside, a little imagination, planning and unique games like the lucky (or unlucky) 13 activities listed here, can turn the average, ghostly get-together into the most fun fright fest of the year.

Corey Whelan is a Contributor for, the largest online care destination in the world.

Friday, October 25, 2013

8 Tips for Teaching Kids about Halloween

Make your Halloween celebration even more fun by incorporating history and family bonding into this exciting fall holiday.

For kids, Halloween is a time to dress up and get free candy, but the holiday actually has a rich history. October is the perfect time to teach your kids about the origins of Halloween and help them understand some of the facts behind the traditions. It's also a great way to sneak in a little history that kids can get excited about.

Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, Halloween expert and author of "Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America's Fright Night," and Deborah Heiligman, author of "Celebrate Halloween With Pumpkins, Costumes, and Candy," share tips on how to teach your kids that the holiday is about more than just princesses, pirates and candy.

1. Brush up on Facts Before you teach kids about Halloween, you need to know some information yourself. Read about how Halloween began as a Celtic holiday (called Samhain) where ghosts would come back to earth (spooky!) and how it evolved into All Hallows' Eve.

2.     Keep it Age Appropriate Halloween may seem like a kid-friendly holiday, but Heiligman advises keeping it light for smaller children who could get scared.
"The best age is when kids start asking questions, which will differ from child to child. You can gear your answers to the age your child is. Older children, around 8 or 9, probably will be ready to hear all about the Celts. But all children can learn about the harvest holiday aspects of Halloween."

Bannatyne also recommends editing some of the spookier aspects for younger kids. "To make Halloween history un-scary, and yet still tell the true story, parents can talk about Halloween as the holiday where people were allowed to dress up as someone or something they imagined."

     Make it a Family Affair Many of the harvest traditions, such as pumpkin patches and hay rides, are a fun way to incorporate family bonding. Take your kids to a fall festival or a pumpkin patch and spend the day with them. They can have fun getting their faces painted and picking a pumpkin. Then take the party home and make jack-o'-lanterns.

4.     Be Personal A great way to discuss Halloween history is through old photos and stories. Dust off the old photo album and talk about traditions from generations ago. What were some of your family's traditions when you were growing up?

"Over time, we've retooled [Halloween] to be more child-centered, about candy and costumes and community," Bannatyne shares. "Little children today are not aware that their grandfathers and great-grandfathers once soaped windows and egged cars."
While you probably don't want to encourage pranks and vandalism, it's always fun for kids to see old pictures of their parents and grandparents as young kids and it provides a context for the lesson.

5.     Get Cooking If you have a child who loves to help in the kitchen, this can be a great time to talk about Halloween history while prepping treats.
"Making food together is a fun activity," Heiligman states. "Make pumpkin bread or roast pumpkin seeds. Talking while cooking is always a great thing."

If you're making pumpkin cookies, talk about this history of the jack-o-lantern, which Bannatyne says: "was once used as a prank!تChildren used to carve them, then jump out from behind a wall and try and scare their neighbors and friends in the dark of late October.

6.     Encourage Creativity Halloween is a great holiday for kids with huge imaginations. Everything from making decorations to choosing costumes allows their minds to roam free.
"Halloween is about trying to imagine what's out there in the dark and using your creativity to take control of it for this one night," Bannatyne says.

This is a great chance for you to help kids who may be scared realize that monsters are works of fiction. Heiligman advises always reminding your kids that the spooky things -- such as scary lawn decorations -- are imaginary.

7.     Celebrate Your Own Harvest Use your backyard or community garden to talk about how Halloween used to mark the end of the harvest season -- and what that meant for people. Help your kids pick any leftover autumn vegetables and make a hearty harvest feast together. (The veggies are also a great complement to the overdose of Halloween candy your kids are probably consuming!)

8.     Start a Fire During Samhain, Druids built bonfires to celebrate the holiday and burn crops as sacrifices. Wind down after trick-or-treating by using your backyard fire pit and telling age-appropriate ghost stories.

Alaina Brandenburger is a Contributor for, the largest online care destination in the world.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Want to Win Advanced Screening Passes to See Free Birds?!

In this hilarious, adventurous buddy comedy for audiences of all ages, directed by Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!), two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to change the course of history- and get turkey off the Thanksgiving menu for good.

This animated Thanksgiving-themed comedy featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Amy Poehler hits theaters November 1st, but you could win passes to see it on Saturday, October 26th.

Visit our Facebook page this week and next for more information on your chance to win.

The screening will be held at:

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1011 South Delano Court E
Chicago, IL

On Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 11 am.