The day after Halloween, you’re greeted with a grinning munchkin with two giant fistfuls of candy, asking “Can we have lollipops for breakfast?” We’ve got some great ideas for weaning the kids off the candy and putting it to a sweet purpose. While each scenario ends up with the candy getting donated to a worth cause, the way in which you donate it determines the lovely life lesson learned.

girl-halloween-candy-flickr-peasapphoto: peasap via flickr

Switch Witch It
This is great for your little one’s first few Halloweens, when they might not fully understand the concept of giving to those in need. (This is the stage when “mine” is a favorite word.) So instead of giving it, why not switch it, with the switch witch? Make up your own tale to tell tots, but the gist of it is that if they leave their ‘extra’ Halloween candy outside their bedroom door, the candy hungry Switch Witch will trade it for a new toy.

As parent, you get to determine the definition of “extra candy” (some families leave all the candy, some let the kids pick out a piece or two a day for the upcoming week) and the size of the toy (or prize: movie tickets, a silver dollar, whatever you like).

What do you do with the candy you’ve switched? Secretly send it to one of the charities below…

1811135149_292c30475b_zphoto: Nina Hale via flickr

Dentist Swap It
You’ve got a timer, a character toothbrush that sings and 3 different flavors of kiddie toothpaste. And still they hate to brush. Use the candy swap at your local dentist as a chance to teach why too much candy is bad and dental hygiene is so important. Many dentists and orthodontists, worried about the damage all the candy from Halloween can do to little teeth, will “buy” the candy back from kids with cash, toys, toothbrushes, or prize drawings – each dentist has a different program. To make the candy-buy back process super simple, all you have to do is go to this page, and enter your zip code. They’ll tell you the dentists nearest you who are participating. And while you’re in the office dropping it off, the dentist or hygienist will usually be very happy to show kids pictures of the kinds of damage sugar can do to teeth.

Online at: halloweencandybuyback.com

EARN MONEY AND RAISE MONEY FOR YOUR SCHOOL BY HELPING US BRING SMILES TO THOSE WHO SERVE! Santa Clarita Advanced Dentistry will be holding its 8th annual Operation Gratitude: Halloween Candy Buyback event on Wednesday, November 2, 2016 @ 3pm to 6pm. We'll buy your Halloween candy and send it to our troops serving overseas! Remember: You don't have to be a patient at our office to participate in this FREE community event. HERE'S HOW YOU CAN JOIN: 1) Bring us your WRAPPED Halloween candy and we'll buy it for $1 per pound! (Kindly separate chocolate from non-chocolate. Pls. also note that we cannot accept Pixy sticks, as they can be messy for our troops.) 2) Students can write letters of gratitude for our troops and meet with our local military soldiers, who will be in attendance. 3) All participants get dental goodies and the chance to win prizes, such as t-shirts and electric toothbrush packages! 4) Schools can also win a $500 cash award even if they do not collect any candy in school premises. We'll be asking all participants which school they go to, and we'll give $500 to the school with the most number of participants that come to our event, PLUS another $500 to the school whose participants bring us the most candy. All of the candy and letters we receive will be sent to our troops serving overseas via Operation Gratitude. Should you have any questions, pls. don't hesitate to call us at (661) 259-4474 or email info(at)yourvalenciadentist.com. We hope to see you there!photo: Operation Gratitude

Hands On Giving
Think global, act local! Finding a donation spot in your own neighborhood is an impactful way of giving that allows kids see who is actually benefiting from their generosity. There are local soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters in every part of the city, all of which will usually take wrapped food to distribute. And there are also lots of retirement homes, and the residents there love getting visits from kids. Dress your tot up in their costume in the weeks following Halloween (it gives them one last use of this year’s costume, too!) and have them reverse trick-or-treat and give candy back to the elderly. And finally, your local chapter of the Ronald McDonald House will accept candy to distribute at parties for kids who are too sick to participate in trick-or-treating or upcoming holiday events.

Just be sure to call and check that they’re accepting donations at any of these locations before showing up!

9322472336_3c88e973e2_zphoto: SurfaceWarriors via Creative Commons

Ship It To Our Troops
For big kids who understand the nature of giving when we have so much, and with Veterans Day right around the corner, now is a great time to package up all that spare candy and ship it overseas directly. Your kids can even lead the charge at school, church or in the neighborhood in getting candy donated, as well as asking for donations of other key items that our troops would love to have shipped to them overseas. The following donation centers are the biggest, and easiest to donate to:

Operation Gratitude
Operation Gratitude sends over 100,000 care packages each year to U.S. Service Members deployed in hostile regions, to their kids who are left at home and to wounded warriors, veterans and first responders. Your candy goes right into those packages.

Check the details before sending off your candy – Pixy Stix and other powdered candies are not accepted, and it’s awfully nice if you include a few other goodies from their list, like toothbrushes, toothpase, beanie babies and handmade hats. Be sure to include a filled out Donation Form, too. Donations must be received no later than November 15.

Operation Gratitude
ATTN: Angel Cuevas/Receiving
21100 Lassen Street
Chatsworth, CA 91311

Online: operationgratitude.com

Or, you can drop off your box to that same address. They accept donations Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

CandyBuyBack4photo: Operation Gratitude

Operation Shoebox
Here’s another great option for simply putting all that candy in a box, slapping a mailing label on it and dropping it off at the post office, knowing it will find its way to our troops. Every year they send tons (literally) of candy to service men and women who are happy to have sweets you don’t want (they like coffee, too, if you’d like to add an extra treat). Note: they ask that you don’t just dump it in a shoebox anymore, but please use gallon zip lock bags and place them in a larger cardboard box.

Don’t forget thank you cards for the troops, too! And kids are welcome to include pre-addressed post cards or notes in the package to start up a correspondence with our troops. (No need to put stamps on these –soldiers can send cards and letters without postage from a war zone.)

Operation Shoebox
8360 E Highway 25
Belleview, Fl 34420

Online: operationshoebox.com/how-you-can-help/candy-donations

candy-buy-backphoto: Casey Fleser via Flickr

What do you do with all your leftover Halloween candy? And which ones do you sneak and eat? (Peanut Butter Cups cannot be denied!)

—Meghan Rose