Kids enjoy dressing up, whether it’s in imaginative play or for Halloween. Here are some of the important things to keep in mind when choosing a dress up costume for your child for the spookiest day of the year.
Who chooses the costume?
For infants and toddlers, you usually control over their costume choice. However, as your kids get older, they have more say in what they get to wear on Halloween. If you’re hesitant about relinquishing control, keep in mind that it’s beneficial to allow your child to make developmentally appropriate choices, as long as you have some input over the options that they present to you.
For a young child, shop around for ideas before settling on a costume - you can either go to a local store to preview the options or look online and narrow down to a small number of reasonable options. If you’re shopping with your child next to you, there’s the chance that they may gravitate towards something inappropriate for one reason or another, and then you have to deal with tantrums if you say no. It’s easier to think through the logistics and weigh your options before offering your little ones the final choice.
For an older child, make sure you set the ground rules for what’s acceptable, and what’s not, before shopping for a costume; for example: “Our maximum budget is …”, or “we need to look for something that’s appropriate for the dance and for trick-or-treating”.
Considering your children’s interests
There’s nothing quite like seeing a child all dressed up in a fancy costume that they really love. Sometimes your child’s costume preferences might confuse you, or you might make assumptions about what it might mean that they choose a particular costume. Instead of shutting them down, try asking them why they are interested in a given costume - you may find that their reasons may be very different from your assumptions, and might lead you to some new insight into your little one’s personality and view of the world.
Consider the weather
If you live in places like Minnesota or Wyoming where the temperatures are often below freezing for trick-or-treating, your kids may need to have costumes that fit over their jackets or have them wear their coats on top of the costume. If you live in Seattle, the chances of rain on Halloween are very likely, so you’ll want to go for a costume that can handle the rain, or have an umbrella with you.
When and where will the costume be worn?
Some kids wear their Halloween costume once, while others wear them many times for several occasions - to a party at school, to the costume parade in the neighborhood, to a party the day before Halloween, and then trick-or-treating. If your child falls in the latter category, make sure you go for a costume that is practical for all the venues.
The importance of safety
If you plan to take your kids trick-or-treating in the evening, make sure that your child won’t be dressed in a solid black outfit that will make it hard to point them out in a crowd of kids. If they’re wearing a dark costume, consider a white treat bag, or add reflective tape or a glow stick to their costume.
Where to shop
Buying Halloween costumes for your little ones online often means that you get a variety of options to choose from. Additionally, you can read all the reviews and learn about what will best suit your needs.
Try looking for Halloween costumes in consignment shops and other secondhand sellers. Many of them are only worn a few times, so buying used often means that you get a good quality item at an affordable price, plus it’s better for the environment than buying new items.
Halloween specialty stores typically offer more options than your local big store. That said, these specialty stores have lots of Halloween decorations, and while this can be exciting for some kids, it can be scary for others.
Bloody and gory costumes and decorations are particularly trendy for Halloween. It’s not uncommon to find costumes based on characters from horror movies such as Chucky, Freddy, Michael Myers, and Jason sold in sizes that fit 6-year-olds. You’ll also often come across miniature zombies with bloody props, mummies with rotting flesh, skeletons with blood splashes, and so on.
Part of the fun of Halloween has always been the exploration of the spooky side of life, but how dark is too dark? If your little one wants to wear a gory costume, have a discussion with them about their choices. It’s worth noting that conversations about death may come up.
If you have tweens or teens, they may want to choose a costume that may conventionally be perceived as “sexy”. It’s generally that they want to be “sexy”, so much as they want to match what they see in the media or want to look grown-up. They may not fully understand how the general public could perceive them. Set the limits you feel are appropriate and offer more suitable options.
Many Halloween costumes come with weapons of various sorts. Some parents are fully against weapons, while others are okay with “fantasy weapons” such as a wand from Harry Potter or a lightsaber from Star Wars. If you don’t mind Halloween prop weapons, make sure that they are harmless to eliminate the risk of your child getting inadvertently injured.
If your child is at a loss of what costume to wear, consider asking them to use Halloween as an opportunity to explore their heroes - who do they admire? Who do they want to be like? It may be a superhero, a princess, a firefighter, or even you! Use their answers to guide their costume choice.
Culture appropriation or appreciation
Culture appropriation is a touchy subject, and opinions generally vary. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Dress your child as a character, not the race. There’s a difference between dressing as Pocahontas, a particular character whose brave attitude your child admires versus deciding to be “Native American” for the day.
- Consider steering clear of symbols of great meaning to cultures other than your own.
- If your child admires a particular culture, encourage them to study that culture rather than dressing up as a member of that culture.
There’s a lot to think about and plenty of interesting discussions to be had with your kids when it comes to Halloween costumes. Hopefully, these guidelines will help you find something that is suitable but still hauntingly fun!