Self-serve Halloween candy for trick-or-treaters: yes or no?

Halloween candy bowl. Photo credit: GinRobot via Flickr/Creative Commons

For those with sleeping babies, sensitive pets, or for those out trick-or-treating with their own kids, the self-serve candy bowl is often the answer. You put a big bowl of candy on your doorstep with a polite little sign encouraging trick-or-treaters to "Take one," and hope for the best.

But there's often a kid who empties the entire bowl into his bag (or takes the bowl and the candy) leaving everyone else feeling deflated…except that kid, who feels like he's won the lottery.

@goldentwig asks:


I retweeted her question and got some creative responses, including a fascinating data point from Ashley Merryman, coauthor of NurtureShock (a favorite book among ParentHackers):


Some fabulous responses on the Parent Hacks Facebook page as well.

How do you "treat" trick-or-treaters when nobody's home to hand out candy? Self-serve or lights out?

Halloween candy bowl photo credit: GinneRobot via Flickr/Creative Commons. The caption read "…we weren't home to give out candy, so I left candy on the porch. When we got home, the chocolate and the bowl were gone. They left the sign." Sigh.

Want more? We've got a big collection of Halloween hacks right here.


  1. says

    I had a sad experience celebrating a few years back. I did a similar thing, leaving a bowl of candies in the front porch, after 30 mins not only were the candies was gone but the bowl disappeared with it too.

    This year though, I would like to try what Ashley Merryman suggested.

  2. Daffodil says

    Two thoughts, although I live in a Halloween-crazy neighborhood so I have not tested either of these.

    1. Put out a small amount of candy at a time. Sure, you have to refill the bowl now and then but a small supply might encourage people to keep their selection to a piece or two.

    2. Instead of the “please take one” sign, maybe “take one piece if you are wearing a costume, take two if it’s a really great costume.” Maybe giving people a choice gives them a better idea of how many they should take than just suggesting to take one.

    Good luck!