Halloween is the perfect time to dive into some projects and play alongside your children. We all know that dress-up play has many benefits, and no, we aren’t talking first-prize in the neighborhood contest. No one wants to stay up all night sewing or spend $90 on a costume. Just take a breath and let go of your adult idea of what a costume is. Ask your child what they need for Halloween, and make it an adventure.

What Can Your Kid Make?

Some kids can be incredibly creative kids with simple supplies, such as paper plates, popsicle sticks, boxes, plastic bags (for older children), pieces of felt, and colorful play silks.

A friend of mine made her very own bat costume out of trash bags in third grade and won the costume contest. It’s one of her treasured childhood memories. My daughter came up with an impressive dolphin-beak attachment for her paper-plate mask when she was 6 years old. 

Kids have such strong imaginations they may be satisfied by adding a cape, a mask and a hat to their everyday clothes. If they are happy, simply put up your feet and watch them proudly tell everyone how they made their own costume.

Budding Designers

Sometimes kids need help. You can ask your child to draw a picture or talk through their idea. Once you know what they envision, don’t run out and buy a sewing machine unless it’s on your own bucket list to learn to sew. Instead, take a trip to the thrift store together if you are looking for some pants you can decorate. A hoodie is a perfect blank canvas for many animal costumes.  

If you do head to the craft store, go directly to the felt section. Felt is ideal for a quick costume because it comes in vibrant shades and requires no hemming. Be sure to pick up some fabric glue or fusible webbing while you’re there. You can find some great templates to make it a bit more fool-proof.

Idea Overload

Set a cut-off date for costume changes. You can say something like, “Your puppy costume is all set. If you have any other ideas, we’ll have to make a new one Saturday. After that, if you change your mind, we’ll just have to use what we have on hand.”

You can also take a line from “Happy Halloween, Stinky Face” and suggest that you start working on that new idea bright and early on Nov. 1.

Making An Entrance

Most young children will not want to wear a mask or a heavy, complicated hat for more than a few minutes. If your child’s costume has these accessories, hold onto them in a tote bag and ask your child to put them on at the last minute. Doing this will ensure they are still excited about their costume when you knock at grandma’s door or enter the Halloween party.

Fun For Everyone

You may want to steer your child away from costumes that will upset people. We may have dressed up as Indians and gypsies as kids of the 80’s, but those costumes are history. Campaigns such as “We’re a culture, not a costume” allow you (and your child) to learn about other views of ethnic costumes.

Ready-Made Fun

If you want to buy a ready-made costume, go ahead! To avoid your own disappointment, be aware that it must be comfortable. No scratchy seams or tulle. Your child might be so dazzled by the photo on the package that she doesn’t think about itchy sequins, so it’s up to the adults to make the call.

Get a Jump on Next Year

Hit the consignment stores’ after-Halloween sales and keep an eye out for hats, scarves and other wild accessories. Build up your dress-up bin and your kids will reap the benefit of dramatic play while you get your dress-up arsenal ready for next year.

Photo Credit: Mary McDonough

This story was written for CharlotteFive’s latest channel for parents in the QC, called QC Playground. Sign up for the weekly QC Playground newsletter here.

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