By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
Many Christian parents like me fondly remember trick-or-treat nights from their childhood. Every kid in the neighborhood donned a costume, often homemade, and scampered up and down streets collecting sugary loot. We had innocent fun one night of the year with our friends and enjoyed gobs of candy that were usually in scarce supply.
Just a couple of short decades ago, Halloween wasn’t the hugely celebrated holiday it is today. But now marketing geniuses have developed it into a money-making proposition of epic proportions. Advertising goes far beyond the candy aisle at the grocery store. By summer’s end, stores overflow with lights and decorations that rival Christmas. Ads pop up online for costumes that emulate cultural icons, including Disney princesses, Harry Potter, and Avengers. Stores dedicated solely to selling Halloween paraphernalia beckon everyone to delve into the darkness of ghosts, goblins, and gore.
The Parent’s Dilemma
Wide-eyed children often perversely gravitate toward the frightful symbols of Halloween. With the proliferation of vampires and werewolves in pop culture, they often beg to dress in costumes that promote fear. Some parents react by withdrawing from any recognition or celebration of Halloween. Others hope to find some middle ground that allows their children to participate in the fun activities held at schools and in communities.
Most children enjoy dressing in costumes. As in everything, parents should provide guidance to protect their children from harm. You may be thinking, “How can a costume possibly harm my little one?” Good question. Clothing choices can simultaneously reflect and reinforce our inner beliefs. Costumes are no exception.
Often, children want to dress as characters they think or maybe even obsess about. Wearing a costume will reinforce obsessions and self-perceptions. For example, when a boy dresses as a ghost, it leads to increased belief in the existence of ghosts and promotes indwelling fear. A young girl who dresses provocatively for Halloween may internalize the attention to her body. Parents should carefully consider the implied messages promoted by costumes.
Make or Buy?
Who has time to come up with creative, fun costume ideas? It seems easier to simply go to the Halloween store and buy ready-made costumes.
Creating your own costumes need not be wearying or time-consuming. Keep the costumes simple as you guide your children to explore and learn using the following fun costume ideas.
30 Fun Costume Ideas
Read the biblical account of the person you’d like to emulate. Discuss how God used them for His purposes. Think about props and mannerisms that the person may have displayed.
Queen Esther—Make your own jeweled crown and scepter out of card stock, press on jewels, and foil. Wear a fancy dress and put on some makeup a la ancient Persia.
Joseph—Make a colorful coat by cutting arm holes in an old white towel and coloring stripes with a marker. Make a beard out of yarn. Carry a cloud-shaped sign with a picture of sheaves of grain bowing down.
Moses—Don a bathrobe and homemade beard. Find a long stick for a staff and carry a rubber snake.
Moses’ mom (Jochebed)—Wear a robe and head scarf. Carry a baby doll in a basket.
Mary—Wear a bathrobe with a beach ball underneath and a head covering. Walk in an exaggerated “pregnant lady” style.
Joshua—Dress as a fearless warrior and carry a shield and spear made of cardboard. Wear a homemade beard and sandals. Write “fear not” on the shield.
Angel—Cut a hole in an old white sheet for the child’s head. Make a halo out of silver pipe cleaners and buy a string of battery-operated lights to wear around the neck or under the white sheet to give a bright appearance.
David—Dress as a shepherd with a stuffed sheep and staff, a king with a crown and royal robes, or a warrior with a spear and sword.
Books provide a bottomless well of ideas for costumes. Help your child understand the character and choose a few simple props to demonstrate the concept. Headwear, facial hair, and makeup turn a basic outfit into a costume that people will recognize. Pick a line your character might say and practice it for trick-or-treat night.
Robin Hood—Use green felt and hot glue pieces to make a hat and other costume pieces. Make some out of cardboard if you don’t have a bow and arrows.
Winnie the Pooh characters
Alice in Wonderland and other characters from the book
Fairy tale characters such as Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and Jill, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pied Piper
Aesop’s Fables characters such as the lion with a thorn in its paw, a fox, tortoise, or hare.
Animal costumes can often be made using old or inexpensive t-shirts and household items. The t-shirt can be colored with felt-tip pens to resemble the animal’s markings. Ears and tails may be fashioned from cardboard or paper. Sometimes, you can find animal headbands at the dollar store. Some fun animal costumes are lions, tigers, cows, dogs, and cats. Make the animal sounds to add to the fun.
Often you can purchase inexpensive props from dollar stores or make them using household items such as cardboard, foil, pipe cleaners, hot glue, and free printables from the internet.
Police officer—Wear navy blue pants and a shirt with a silver star, baton, plastic handcuffs, and a notepad.
Firefighter—Wear red or bright yellow pants and a shirt. Make a hatchet out of cardboard and wear a plastic firefighter hat. If you take your child to visit the local fire station, they may give them a plastic hat. Write the word “RESCUE” in red on white paper and pin it to the shirt. A stuffed cat “rescued” from a tree would complete the ensemble.
Nurse/doctor—Wear any color sweatpants and shirt or check for scrubs at a thrift store. Props such as a red cross, stethoscope, and blood pressure cuff can be purchased from the dollar store or made with household materials.
Pastor—Wear a suit and tie and carry a Bible and cross.
Chef/baker—Wear an apron over regular clothing or a white jacket. Find a chef’s hat at a dollar store or fashion one out of a white hand towel. Carry some kitchen tools and a recipe book.
Seamstress—Wear regular clothing and a crazy wig. Add sewing props such as a tape measure, scissors, a pattern, and pins. You could stick some of the accessories into the hair.
Train engineer—Wear jean overalls and a plaid flannel shirt. Look for an engineer’s cap at the dollar store and carry an old-fashioned lantern if you have one. Practice your best “All aboard!” to add authenticity.
Journalist—Wear a professional outfit and make some official-looking press credentials to hang on a lanyard. Carry a notepad, pen, and microphone.
Dancer—Wear a leotard, tights, and tutu. Slick hair back into a bun and apply some makeup and/or glitter to create a beautiful ballerina.
Athlete costumes for baseball, football, hockey, gymnast, wrestling, skiing, and running are usually easy because many already have athletic wear, sports jerseys, or leotards. Pin the name of a famous athlete in the sport onto the shirt. Add some actual sports equipment props or make cardboard facsimiles and wear a headband.
It may take some research, but older children might enjoy learning about scientists, politicians, and historical figures such as Albert Einstein, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Madame Curie, Neil Armstrong, or Florence Nightingale. Costumes might be a bit more involved to make, but an older child who is resourceful will probably come up with some great ideas.
Twister—Pin green, red, yellow, and blue dots all over solid-colored pants and shirt, or wear the plastic Twister mat like a cape. Carry the spinner for a prop.
Cards—Wear a solid-colored outfit for the base. Pick a card from a poker deck and print clipart for spades, hearts, clubs, or diamonds, along with a number or a king, queen, or jack. Color the pictures and pin them to the clothing.
Scrabble—Pick up a used scrabble game at the thrift store and hot glue the tiles onto an old t-shirt. Carry a game board as a prop.
Tic Tac Toe—Using markers, draw a tic tac toe board onto an old solid-colored t-shirt. Make Xs and Os out of cardboard and put a strip of Velcro in the squares on the shirt and the game pieces.
Your family will have extra fun if you create a theme and coordinate costumes. For example, each person could be a different character from the same book or a different card in the deck.
Get the Most Out of Costumes
When I was a kid, we stored our costumes for repeated use. Often, the same costumes were worn by different kids in our family each year. Sometimes, we updated or embellished the design. If you save your creations, each year becomes easier to coordinate.
As you can see, costumes don’t need to break the budget or be ghoulish. In fact, I believe we often shortchange our children by simply providing store-bought outfits. Instead of coming up with the perfect costume for your children, allow them free range to design and create their own costumes with simple materials found right in your own home.
Annie Yorty writes and speaks to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. She has written From Ignorance to Bliss: God’s Heart Revealed through Down Syndrome. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.