By Gina Roberts-Grey
Family Times is 20! To celebrate, we will pick one article (or a few) from our archive each month – including this one, which appeared in our October 2006 issue. View our other anniversary content here.
What are you going to be for Halloween? A task synonymous with October, choosing and locating a Halloween costume can haunt children and parents alike.
Most children resist donning handed-down costumes or recycling last year’s scary ensemble. They also do not always understand the need choose a costume that is not frightening to your wallet. But with a mix of creativity, ingenuity and patience, you can help your child fashion an interesting, personal and inexpensive Halloween costume that is sure to earn many treats.
1. Safety counts. The well-being of babies and children must be a parent’s first priority when choosing a costume. Make sure that anything worn on your child’s head does not obstruct his view or breathing and hearing abilities. Parents should remind children to stick with the group and avoid eating candy until they get home; they can also supply flashlights for kids to carry and reflective gear to wear.
2. Go with what they know. A good place to begin your search is characters from your child’s favorite movies, books and TV shows. Halloween is a perfect opportunity for a kid to pretend to be someone else for a night, so why not encourage her to pretend to be someone she already knows and loves?
3. Incorporate interests. Look to your child’s hobbies and passions to find a unique costume. Creators of mud pies or those wild about helping you prepare meals might love a chef’s outfit. Junk-food fans can haunt the neighborhood in the wrapper of their favorite snack while pet enthusiasts can dress up as their favorite animal. Readers might dress as a book worm; sports fans can become a baseball or don a home-made uniform. “One of my sons loves the sports program at SU so his costumes usually revolve around that. He picks his favorite player and tries to emulate him,” says Lisa Jaeger of Baldwinsville.
4. Review your inventory. Whether your child is dressing up solo or looking to be part of a group costume, incorporating things found around your house will help keep costs low. Using aluminum foil as faux silver, formulating “blood” with corn syrup and red food coloring, and recycling poster board avoid the need for higher-priced, store-bought accessories.
5. Mix and match. A child who wants to stand out in a sea of ghouls and goblins should consider using elements of various costumes to create his unique ensemble. “Two years ago, my daughter was a ghost cheerleader and last year she was a werewolf cheerleader,” says Allyson Baker of Syracuse. One of the nice things about this option is it lets a child experiment with theme coats, vests, masks and accessories to create his own one-of-a-kind costume.
6. The word is a costume. You probably aren’t aware that you and your child come across dozens of costume possibilities every day—on the television, at the movies, through the internet and even in the grocery store. Consider dressing him up as a checkout clerk from his favorite store, a worker at a theme park or even a neighbor. Encourage your child to consider the people in his neighborhood for inspiration to create his attire.
7. Masquerading baby. Although babies should not be left out of Halloween celebrations, there are a few precautions to take when choosing a costume for younger goblins and pumpkins. Make sure your baby or toddler can move freely, and his costume does not restrict his ability to breathe. Remember babies are not likely to put up with discomfort and prefer costumes that are simple and lightweight. Also inspect a young child’s costume for possible cords, tears and other potential hazards.
8. Outfitting a group. Themed costumes allow siblings or groups of best friends to express their personality and originality. Using some of their traits to turn them into Snow White’s dwarves, the Three Bears, or members of a favorite band gives kids a chance to dress up together.
9. Accommodating costumes. For a child with a disability, injury or illness, finding a Halloween costume can be a challenge. A child with a limb in a cast, sling or brace can add a pair of mittens, scarf and hat and use his built-in prop to portray an injured skier or snowboarder. Use your imagination and turn a wheelchair into a drummer’s kit by attaching clean, round containers such as paint cans to the sides, and a large, round piece of cardboard to the front—with the band’s name on it, of course. (Obviously such adaptations must not impede the child’s mobility.)
10. Bargain basements. Ask if friends and neighbors have clothes, crafts or household items waiting to be donated or thrown out. You might discover a robe for your daughter’s “baby witch” outfit or a funny hat and tie for your “crazy vampire.” Reusing and sharing buried treasures helps keep costs down while increasing the thrill of the hunt for the perfect Halloween costume.
By Laura Livingston Snyder
This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue.
Does the prospect of Halloween strike fear into your heart? Don’t be afraid; be prepared—to have fun.
What makes the spookiest holiday so suitable for a celebration? Your theme is all ready for you. And hosting the ultimate costume party is not difficult if you let your imagination run wild.
One of my daughters was born on Halloween, so I know how to have a great get-together without stress. I’ve discovered children of all ages can help out and enjoy these activities and games.
Here’s how to get started.
A day or two before the party, have little ones make decorations out of molding clay—such as the Fimo brand—that, when baked, turn into practical art. Most craft stores have this inexpensive dough, in every imaginable color. Make spiders, pumpkins and witches’ hats freehand, or use Play-Doh molds or even cookie cutters.
Or press the clay over their palms to make creepy disembodied hands to hold candy.
Glowing eyes. Save a stash of empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls. Have your helpers cut out eyes and maybe a mouth or two. Just before the party starts, break a colored glow stick (purchased from the dollar store) for each and place inside. Put these decorations in dark places such as outside in a shrub, by the front door, in the bathroom (like a night light!) or in a dimly lit corner of the party room.
The day of the event, have your kids make pretzel wands. Buy large pretzel rods and roll one end in chocolate frosting, then in mini M&Ms or sprinkles. Set the “loaded” side up in a heavy festive glass. (Just be sure the wand makers don’t scarf them all down before the party starts.)
Edible eyeballs. These can be made a day ahead. Deviled eggs are simple enough for the most inexperienced cook. (I saw this recipe on The Today Show.) Mix hard-boiled egg yolks with mayonnaise to taste, then add one or two drops of green food coloring before spooning the dollop in the egg white. Place a green or black olive slice in the middle and use a toothpick to draw red squiggles with food coloring on the sides. Gross and yummy at the same time!
Keeping kids busy allows adults at the party to mingle, at least for a little while. Items for activities should be purchased a week or more in advance, to make sure you have everything you need. And if you want to order things online, you need to allow for shipping time, so you should let your fingers do the searching right away!
In late September and October, various stores such as Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft, and even Target typically stock Halloween craft kits such as masks kids can decorate with foam stickers. Usually, a kit includes a dozen or so masks—or sheets of foam—and some stickers for less than $10. Offer more options by buying additional stickers at a dollar store. (Other foam sticker kit possibilities are bats, spiders or pumpkins.)
Last year a mask-making kit kept my four kids, their cousins and friends, ages 3 to 15, busy for more than an hour, with no messy glue or scissors. (The only problem with this activity might be finding the little stickers on the bottom of your socks later. I had them on mine for weeks, but it was totally worth it.)
Get the kids moving with a short M&M relay race, and encourage the parents to join in. Split the group into two teams and equip each with a plastic straw. Place two chairs about eight feet apart with an empty bowl on one end and a bowl with regular sized M&Ms on the other. Have each person “suck” up the candy at the end of the straw (it’s impossible to actually inhale the candy—so no worries) and—while keeping the suction—run to drop it into the empty bowl. Set a timer or have the teams race against each other. Give out inexpensive prizes such as Hot Wheels cars or hair accessories.
Next, have a contest to decorate small pie pumpkins or gourds with permanent markers such as Sharpies. Pumpkins make great canvases for creativity. Don’t forget ribbons or other prizes for everyone.
Halloween is a time for entertaining and enjoying the season with the kids. Take off the grown-up mask for a little while and get your spooky on.