Kids and sweets: are they ok in moderation or should they be banned?

Do you give your children sweets? And if not – or if they are limited – how do you respond to other adults handing them out at a party? We took to Instagram to ask our followers what they would do and it elicited a great response…

We all know that too much sugar isn’t good for children. Nor for adults. Naturally occurring sugars – found in fruit, veg and dairy – are OK in moderation but we’re advised to avoid giving our kids fizzy drinks, sweets and other food and drink products with added sugar.

Our daughter was invited to a party and on leaving, was handed a huge bag of pick ‘n’ mix. I’m not anti sweets per se, the odd one here and there (if given by a grandparent, or as a very special treat) is fine by me. But I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with this particular situation.

She’d seen the party bag, so I couldn’t pop it in a cupboard and pretend it had never happened. But also, I sometimes wonder if banning sweets will end up causing more issues.

When I was growing up, my mum was quite strict with sugary foods. Chocolate wasn’t allowed because my brother and I had eczema and psoriasis so we were a dairy-free household. And then mum followed the advice of health professionals and limited refined sugar.

And yet, I have the sweetest sweet tooth on the block. I love cake, chocolate, biscuits, sweets. Any time of the day. But while I’d like to say it’s perhaps due to being deprived of these things as a child; my brother and sister can usually take it or leave it – and they were raised on the same diet.

My husband, on the other hand, was allowed more sweet food than me – he still had a healthy diet, but sugar on cereal was allowed, and trips to the sweet shop – and he is notorious for being almost suspiciously disinterested in sweets (though he is partial to a sticky toffee pudding after a roast. And the odd doughnut).

However you’re raised, you either will or won’t continue loving sweets into adulthood – but apparently it’s based on genetics rather than parenting.

Feeling a little lost as to how I should combat the sweetie party bag issue with my three-year-old, I decided to ask the Instagram parents what they’d do in the same situation and it turns out people have fairly strong opinions on this. Here is my original post, followed by their responses… (there are some great ideas for rationing).

What are your views on kids and sweets? This was given to our three-year-old [left hand sweetie bag in main image] – a party bag, of sorts – and I’m not sure how to play it. In general, I’m fairly relaxed about food/sweet stuff but I panicked when I saw this, as she’s never had anything like it (just a tiny bag of Haribos, very occasionally). Would you hide it/give a few each day/eat them yourself/other? It should be noted that she’s already seen them.

  • badassmums Ration them..
  • helenwisbey We have a party bag shelf up high. All party bags go there. Some never come back.
  • botanicals_blooms Eekkk! That’s my first reaction… my son is nearly 3 and has never eaten any of what I would call ‘jelly’ sweets like haribo/jelly tots etc. They have no nutritional value. I don’t eat them, or if I do, not when he’s around! He occasionally has chocolate or an ice-cream but it’s not the norm. It’s just how we do things in our family – we have lots of fruit, veg and homemade stuff. Everyone’s normal is different.
  • nourish_mama_london I’m the same as you, pretty relaxed but having said that, they don’t have sweets too often. When we get something like that, I usually let them have a couple of sweets and then put it in a cupboard out of sight where it usually gets forgotten about and eventually thrown away. It depends on the child, though! My eldest is not really bothered, knows they are not great news and is happy to have a few and then throw the rest but the same can not be said of my other 2! out of sight, out of mind would be my tip!
  • omnomnourish For as long as I could get away with it I would make party bag sweets disappear and she’d never remember (she’d have a few on the day). She’s now 5 and has photographic sweet memory. So I ration it out. We got a sweet cone like that at a party 3 weeks ago and she still has some left. She’s allowed a couple of items after lunch a few days a week.
  • nareece_co_nook I let my 4 year old pick a few that he likes then me and hubby eat them! I know the sugar is the main bad thing but my biggest concern is choking so hard to dislodge one of those gummy suckers. I couldn’t bare him eating the whole thing or a packet of sweets just yet there’s plenty of time for him to ruin his teeth when he’s older! Those bags look great but in my opinion are too much for young ones!
  • abirube80 My seven-year-old has had to have five teeth out under general anaesthetic. So I’m pretty down on all the people/parties who pumped him full of sweets. We tried to be careful, but we weren’t always there and sometimes it’s harder to say no when all their peers are being said yes too. I think parents need to be able to supervise.
  • _lhobbs Argh! This is such a tricky one isn’t it! I worry about this all the time! Einar’s only 19months as is often given a ‘chocky bicky’ by his dad! I’d most probably give a couple as a treat each day… whilst eating some myself too! Good luck!
  • hannahmariacharlton We got one of these a couple of weeks ago and our thinking was that we’d let our 2.5yr pick a few each day… by the 3rd day she’d forgotten all about it.
  • frandoublem I’d ration them, definitely. Maybe split into sandwich bags or put them in a jar and have a few in one go? My three-year-old does forget about things that are out of sight. I’d not make a big deal, leave them around for a little while and let her have a few then hide them away when she’s gone to bed.
  • breakingwavesmindfulness We tend to explain that sweets are great but in moderation and ration them. Having said that, my husband has developed the nick name “Daddy Gobbler” because some things we ‘vanished’ early on, got noticed and we said Daddy ate them.
  • facefacefoot That’s whole lot of bribing right there.
  • pennywincer Tricky one…. my rule at Halloween etc is let them binge. Then they’re gone. Then there is no nagging more more – cause they’re gone! I have been known to siphon off some of the excess when they didn’t notice. A bag of sweets like that and guaranteed my kids only like half of what’s in them anyway – that helps!
  • kirsten_weis I don’t have kids yet, but I remember reading once about managing sweets by having a “day of the week” where they could be included. Like “donut Wednesday” or whatever, so they knew when sweets would be available.
  • mumspo I hide* them whenever we receive them and then I’m never asked where they are again. *in the bin
  • sarah_gane My sister does a sweet Saturday with her kids. They respond well to it and just pick one or two things from their pick n mix bags – they’re not fussed, to be honest. Occasionally she’ll let them have an extra sweet in the week as a reward, but it just stays in the cupboard the rest of the time.
  • anotherthingyettofathom Few in a bowl once or twice a week? (Obviously with a sneaky treat yourself, occasionally!). My nearly-two-year-old hasn’t had sweets either, I try to limit mega-sugar as much as poss and his tolerance is LOW, he had a mini milk at my MIL’s recently and LOST HIS MIND!!
  • missingfillmore For us these would go in the bin because we don’t eat gelatine and my kids are fine with it. Sticks of rock from party bags went in the bin this week and they didn’t care. They ate a small hard boiled sweet lolly though. The only time they have sweets is from parties or if a family member gives them one (which is always on a trip away so a special treat). When we camp they have vegan marshmallows. I’m relaxed but the no gelatine rule really helps out a lot.
  • craigdfreeman I would put it in a cupboard and drip feed it to her as little treats. Eating some yourself to selflessly save her from all that sugar!
  • becausekidsarecrazy I’d give her one and then so the old dash ‘n’ stash… then hit them hard later during the Friday night Netflix binge.
  • thembabesandme I would give a couple and then throw the rest away! That amount of sugar in one sitting would be too much.
  • allthingsantenatal I think the key is not making a fuss over crappy food and making it more desirable. We let our children have something from the party bag en route home then put them in the cupboard and portion out as and when. Egg cups are a good size for a bag of sweets like that! We talk to our children about what a portion is and why we don’t have more that day and focus more on talking to the children about how we know sweets, chocolate, cake etc taste good but they don’t do anything good for our body. We also make the point to them that it’s important we take the dog for a big walk, go out on bikes, do any sort of exercise if we want to eat these things! That way they don’t have to be a restriction. There’s so many environments where rubbish food is on offer to children which bugs me so we try our best to give them the understanding and tools to handle it.
  • _plyconic I still don’t give my 2.5 year old any refined sugar my reasoning is it is easier to say no to sugar if he has no idea how good it tastes. When we were out with friends he saw an ice cream van and went running to it all excited asking for an ice cream so we bought one to share. When we sat on a bench to eat it he spotted his grapes under the buggy and asked to eat them and didn’t even ask for a lick. I know the day will come when he does eat sugar but I just want to delay it as long as possible.
  • akatzkennedy We just had party season – 3 birthday parties in a row and all with sweetie bags. We let them pick something out after the party, they then tend to share a sweet with us and each other, and after that the bags are pretty much empty and it’s done with. If there are leftovers we put them in the cupboard but most of the time they are forgotten about (which is good because my husband and I have likely finished them already). That’s a mega size one though… so might be a little more challenging. Good luck!
  • nicole_pj I always say she can have one on the way home and then put it away and usually she forgets about it. I’m always a bit cross (especially with relatives) when she’s given things like this though as she’s only 3!
  • blanket_upholstery I let them choose one and then piff the rest!
  • ellen_benton At the risk of sounding like a grumpy arse…. I’d give him a couple then the rest would go in the bin. I’d feel a bit annoyed if he was given that. I mean it’s not the 60s!! It already feels like a daily struggle avoiding the copious amount of refined sugar aimed at kids everywhere you look. People think they’re being nice but sugar is just junk and fuelling kids sugar addiction just leads to bad habits and health problems… we know this about sugar now… (plus that amount of sugar would turn him into satan.)
  • helenfrancesmorrison I’m definitely ‘give them a few then have the rest yourself’ camp! I’m super relaxed about sweets/chocolate since mine turned one (she’s just turned 3) and she can take them or leave them now (unlike me). Forbidden fruit is always the tastiest! One thing I would say though is sweets etc should be eaten WITH meals. The worst thing for kids teeth is snacking, even if it’s healthy snacks. And juice.
  • mothers.wellness.toolkit I always hid/didn’t take sweety bags like that. We once went to a 2nd birthday where there were bowls of Haribo which @ellen_benton I’m a fellow grumpy arse about – I was so baffled as to why you’d do that for 2-year-olds…..I didn’t give mine crazy sweets until he was 3… didn’t make a fuss just didn’t ever take the party bag etc. He never noticed and although he loves chocolate he’s not fussed about sweets really. My first that is… I never really saw the point in plying them with sweets when they’re too young to notice or care and would be happier with apple bits. Why introduce a problem for no reason? It’s weird to me. My mum sneaked some Haribo into our party bags for my son’s 3rd birthday and I was so cross with her. Although it’s harder for the second child to keep them so sugar innocent… My second tried a cold can of Coke on holiday accidentally when he was 18 months…he’s definitely got a sweet tooth but yeah snacking, raisins, juice, it all adds up for the teeth doesn’t it.
  • mumwhoruns Would hide it as my kid would forget about it! I don’t mind mine having a bit of sweet stuff here and there butJjamie Oliver has done his thing well so have major heeby jeebies about sugar now.
  • wokerswithkids Ooh…my first son probably didn’t have any sweets until he was 3. He was given a selection pack one Christmas and didn’t know what it was! The rules went out the window for my second son, but I’d probably let them have a few of these and then bin them (i.e. eat them myself!)
  • sarah__billett We allow one or two after the party (to shut her up about them) but she will generally spit them out as just not used to sweets… very non fussed when we then scoff them all.
  • vickishenkinkerr My 2 year old was recently given a lollipop. I just didn’t take off the wrapper. He (funnily enough) didn’t like it! Not sure I’ll get away with that again though.
  • twothirdssky Chuck it in the bin and offer to buy your kids favourite fruit in return, or take out a few and eat the rest yourself!
  • My neighbour (86) was married to a dentist and she used to allow her kids to eat all the sweets they wanted for the one day and then that’s it. Its better for their teeth than spreading it over the days/weeks. I’ve tried it after getting a pick n mix at the end of 2 parties and my 4 year old eat her fill, shared the rest with us and was happy she was done. That night whatever wasn’t eaten disappeared and she’s never questioned me about it.
  • doveanddovelet Let her pick two. Then put the rest away for yourself/bin. The next day she will probably *hopefully* only remember the amazing 2 she got to eat not the rest of the stash. Kids at that age don’t really understand volume.
  • theshadybaker I say hide it or get rid of it while she is still young! As children get older it gets much harder to take these things away from them.

What are your views on kids and sweets: is it ok to give them out freely, or should they be limited/banned?