Picking Kids Halloween Costumes

A Halloween costume is the ultimate way for kids to live their fantasies. For just one night, they can be whatever princess, ghoul, hero or grownup they want. For parents, however, there's more that goes into choosing a kids Halloween costume than letting the little ones express themselves.

Discussing a Costume With Your Child
Plan some quiet moments with your child to discuss what they have in mind. Some children know right away about the type of costume they want, while others find the decision overwhelming because there are so many choices.

For the undecided child, help them explore their options. Start by narrowing down the category, such as pretty, scary or funny. Be clear about what kinds of costumes you won't allow, such as the super-gory kind or ones that are disrespectful to another person. Also, this early planning stage is a fine time to set any limits on cost or to determine whether a costume will be warm enough on Halloween night.

Safety Tips
The most important factor for choosing a costume is safety. Ensure that your child's costume meets the following requirements for comfort and safety:

  • The costume should be colorful and easily seen on a dark night. Placing reflective tape on the outfit is a good way for drivers to see them from far away.
  • Make sure the child can move easily in the costume, and avoid baggy or long costumes that drag on the ground. A child can easily trip over a too-big costume.
  • The costume should not be flammable. With so many doorways decorated with lighted jack-o-lanterns, it doesn't take much for a cape or hem to catch fire.
  • Every outfit should be comfortable. Itchy fabrics, awkward accessories and hot Halloween masks will definitely put a damper on the evening.
  • Don't let masks, hoods or other costume features obscure the child's vision. They can't see to avoid obstacles and, worse, to avoid oncoming cars.
  • Ensure that the costume doesn't make bathroom visits awkward or time-consuming.
  • Think of the weather in your area. October can be cold in some parts of the country, and children should be dressed appropriately for being outdoors.
  • Have the child wear comfortable shoes when trick-or-treating.

Costume Options
Younger children tend to want costumes of popular characters, such as princesses or heroes. Some of the more popular costumes for younger girls:

  • Fairy-tale princess
  • Angel or fairy
  • Cute animal (kitty, bunny)
  • Pretty witch
  • Ballerina

Young boys often choose:

  • Super hero
  • Warrior (ninja, knight)
  • Mildly scary ghoul (vampire, zombie)
  • Occupation (firefighter, soldier, cowboy)

Older kids usually want costumes that stand out. Really let them explore the possibilities. Since Halloween is a time to celebrate the bizarre and unusual, older children might choose costumes that are the opposite of their personalities. A shy kid might pick a punk rocker costume, or a tomboy may select a princess gown. Older children are also influenced by what their friends' costumes are, so choosing costumes that are similar (for example, a group of ninjas, babies or zombie doctors) is common.

Buying vs. Making a Costume
Any Halloween costume for children means big business for retail stores. As early as September, costumes are on display, giving your child plenty of time to dream and plan. Ranging from inexpensive to pricey deluxe outfits, a store-bought costume usually comes as a main costume with matching accessories.

Buying a Halloween costume at a store is a great way to get the exact look they want. However, your child may run into several others with the exact same costume. Also, some of the more elaborate costumes can get expensive.

Making a costume requires a bit more creativity, but it can be a fun opportunity to brainstorm with your child and spend some fun moments together. Thrift stores and dollar stores are great places to go to get pieces of a homemade Halloween costume. If your child is entering some kind of costume contest, a clever homemade costume is more likely to win the grand prize than one of the store-bought variety.

Be warned that young children can be extremely picky if a costume isn't exactly like the character they want to be. Also, depending on the complexity of the costume, purchasing material and accessories to make one might quickly equal the price of a store-bought costume.

Unique Costume Ideas
Here are some costume ideas that are inexpensive, easy to make and truly one-of-a-kind:

  • With a Box: A big box with armholes cut out can become almost anything with paint and decorations: a TV, a robot or even a racecar. Turn your child into a "chatter box" and cover the painted box with lots and lots of words. For a grosser costume, the "head on a plate" can be done with a tablecloth covering the box and a large paper plate cut to fit around the child's neck. Don't forget the fake blood.
  • Artist: Splotch a simple white shirt and dark pants with paint. Add a beret and place several paintbrushes in the pocket, bristle-ends up. Use a paper plate for a paint palette and don't forget to put paint smudges on the child's face.
  • Chef: Get your child some white clothing, a red apron and a puffy chef's hat. A large wooden spoon and a bowl can be used for accessories. Face paint is simply a black swirly moustache.
  • Zombie or Ghoul: The key to these great costumes is the makeup. With an inexpensive Halloween makeup kit, you can team up with old clothes to create zombie, or use existing outfits (karate suit, cheerleading uniform, prom dress or medical scrubs) to become the "zombie" version.
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