I remember a family birthday dinner a few years back, my then-toddler son excitedly shoveled spoonful after spoonful of colored frosting directly off the birthday cake into his mouth.
As the rainbow of colors smeared across his face, my father-in-law whipped out his video camera and everyone else laughed and snapped pictures. The only child at the dinner table, all eyes were on him.
Once Brady realized he had everyone’s undivided attention he jumped from the table and sang the “happy cake” song (his version of happy birthday) when his crowd erupted in applauds, he began to run, literally, in circles around my in-laws living room. My mother-in-law laughed and said, “well, there goes that sugar kicking in!” But I wondered, was it actually the sugar, or was he just hamming up the undivided attention he was getting?
A quick google search confirmed my suspicion. Although generations of parents have blamed their child’s banshee-like behavior on too much sugar, scientific research says otherwise. In no less than 20 clinical, double-blind research studies, sugar was found to have no affect on children’s behavior or their ability to concentrate. In fact, the evidence is so conclusive; experts say the link is a “non-issue” in the science world.
So, what does cause kids to climb the walls after a dose of the sweet stuff? And does that mean I can let my kids go face first into their Halloween buckets tomorrow??
It is probably more likely the situation in which sugary snacks are served that causes the amped up behavior. For kids, excitement breeds more excitement. If you have watched a group of kids together in a super fun situation you know what I mean.
My son and his friends remind me of bear cubs when they get together and my almost 3 year old daughter has perfected a glass-shattering screech when she is excited.
Most parents wisely limit the amount of sugar their kids eat, so when they are in a situation where they get that piece of candy…the full thrill of the special circumstance leads to the excited behavior. They think;
“There is a bouncy house, a face painter AND candy??? This is so awesome I have to run around like I have rocket boosters in my pants!”
Couple that with the 10 other 5 year-olds also with rocket boosters in thier pants, and the frenzy just gets amped that much more!
Also, parents’ perceived expectations of behavior really come into play as well. In one study, two groups of moms were told their child either received a sugar drink or a non-sugar drink, in reality all the children received the non-sugar drink. Moms who thought their kids had the sugar, rated their child’s behavior as more hyperactive.
Now of course, there are plenty of reasons not to swap out the green peas at dinner for jelly beans. High sugar foods often replace more nutritious choices in the diet. High sugar intake is linked to obesity and tooth decay. There is also some links to artificial coloring, caffeine and some of the other things found in sugary snacks to be not good for concentrations and attention.
Tomorrow is Halloween and my son is still debating if he’ll be heading out as Captain Jack Sparrow or Spiderman. My daughter has been shrieking “Butterfly” at the top of her lungs for weeks, but my guess is the wings and mask won’t make it past the first house. But without a doubt, the excitement will be in full force.
After running from house to house and a stop at a Kindergarten Halloween party, my guess is that we are in for a night of mayhem and frenzy no matter what.
Mom’s going to need a peanut butter cup to survive.