Helping Kids Pick (and Love!) Their Halloween Costume

Ghost and goblin season is right around the corner, which means you’ve got the scary job of asking your kid to pick (and stick) to a costume. Scary because we all know how quickly a dream costume can turn into a total meltdown because it doesn’t fit right or look right or meet their impossible standards.

I’ve been there. It may not be a resume-worthy skill, but I can whip together a pretty impressive Halloween costume. Give me a glue gun, some poster board, an assortment of felt and paint, and some kid-friendly makeup, and I’m ready to take on any costume challenge.

“Daddy, turn me into a giraffe for Halloween,” said my then-five-year-old daughter. (We’d just read a collection of books about animals in Africa and stories of safaris.)

And with those eight words, our father-daughter giraffe journey began.

Our first stop was the toy store to find a stuffed giraffe for inspiration. She liked that. And it gave me a much-needed 3D version of the dream I needed to make come true.

The giraffe spots were easy – simple felt cutouts created by my daughter that I glued onto some yellow long underwear. Then felt for hoofs and mane, and a frayed rope end for the tail. Last were the horns, which we made using one of her old hair bands.

We spent weeks of serious daddy-daughter time making of this giraffe costume.

I was so proud … until she put everything on, from the horns on her head to the hooves on her feet, and looked in a full-length mirror.

She burst into tears.

“Honey, why are your crying?” I asked.

“It’s my neck,” she could barely talk through the tears. “You didn’t make my neck long like a giraffe!”

And just like that, another costume fail for the books. She eventually came around and wore her giraffe costume that year. But for me, it was yet another reminder that – like many things with kids – picking and putting together a Halloween costume can involve tears, lots of tears. Maybe a few less tears if you learn from my mistakes.

Tips for (More) Successful Kid’s Halloween Costumes

Involve Your Kids

My number one tip for success with Halloween costumes is to include the kids early and often. Realize that waiting until the very last minute to settle on a Halloween costume can be as stressful for your child as it is for you. Seasonal Halloween stores open at least a month before October 31. Go as early as you can and walk the aisles. Ask your kid to point out what they like and might want to be. See if they want a costume that’s related to their favorite sport, game, animal or book, or even what they’re studying in school. (Yes, one of my children actually dressed up as Acadia National Park one memorable Halloween!) Take notes and make a list of all the ideas they have, ask them to narrow it down to their top three, and go from there.

Make It More Than a Costume

So you’ve purchased or are making a fun, agreed-to costume. Don’t let the excitement end there! Keep them loving it until Halloween by doing things that play up the fun of the costume. Read stories or watch movies that are connected to the costume. Have a family dinner loosely themed around the costume and let your child wear the costume to dinner as a test run. We even made a special trip to the zoo so my giraffe-dressed daughter could bond with her fellow spotted friends. This helps keep them interested in the costume, making it less tempting to change their minds at the last minute.

Try the Costume on Early

Costumes aren’t always comfortable. They’re too tight. Too itchy. Too smelly. Just too much sometimes. So recognize that kids need to get used to some costumes. And it has to be said – make sure they can safely see when wearing their costume (kids are uncoordinated enough as is!). Set aside time to let them wear and get used to their costumes. Believe me, it will help you avoid meltdowns later.

Always Have a Back-Up, ALWAYS

No matter how much your child may love a costume, let’s face it: kids change their minds. Often. Sometimes without reason. So always have a back-up costume ready. It might be last year’s costume. It could be something as simple as a silly hat and feather boa. It doesn’t matter what it is – it just matters that you have back-ups to turn to. We had a “costume closet” in our basement. It was the place where all old costumes (and sometimes dad’s old clothes) went to live, where they’d eventually be used for Halloween or to play dress-up.

Keep Things in Perspective

It’s only a costume. It’s meant to be a fun, happy part of childhood. Do your best, plan ahead, include your child, make it fun … and then be flexible. The best efforts of every mom and dad sometimes don’t go according to plan. But even when they don’t, cherish the time you had with your child dreaming up and imagining their costume. At the end of the day, that time matters more than the costume itself.

Oh, and no matter what, take plenty of photos. Your reward (and good-hearted revenge!) will come years down the road when your child is in college and you lovingly post those very same photos on Facebook. Trust me. I know.

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