Selecting a Costume-
Even if you make your own costume for your child, it may be helpful for your child to see costumes in the store. Costumes on hangers and in packages are much less threatening than those being worn and animated by the wearer. Your child can touch and look at the costumes. Have your child don the costume in front of a mirror so he or she can watch their own transformation. If your child has siblings, allow him or her to watch a sibling put on his or her own costume. With guidance, your child may be able to understand that these costumes are just clothing like what is being displayed on other racks in the store.
If you are making your own costume, letting your child look through pattern books with you can also help make the costumes seem less threatening. While you are making the costume, let the child try on each part as it is being created. Let your child make a small part of the costume. It may help your child accept the finished product if he/she has watched it being assembled.
Choosing a Character
It would make sense to avoid those scary devils, monsters and witches and look for princesses, fairies, cowboys and sports figures. These characters are more “real people” like and can be worn with or without a mask or makeup. Animal characters often require makeup or a mask so they may not be well tolerated by some children even if the character is familiar like Winnie the Pooh or Clifford the Big Red Dog. On the other hand, children with strong interest areas such as super heroes or even non-animate objects like trains may be motivated by these themes to dress up and join in.
When planning on using makeup, think about a time when your child had the opportunity to get face painting. Did he or she enjoy that, have a difficult time sitting still for a good job, or simply refuse to try it out? I have found that some children who don’t like the feel of paint on their faces or who can’t sit for long do best with colored powders applied with soft brushes or puffs. Makeup that comes in stick form may also be well tolerated.
Using a Mask
If you plan to use a face mask as part of the costume and that is a problem for your child, try taping the mask to a tongue depressor for the child to hold in front of his/her face. Children can practice looking in a mirror and seeing their image change back and forth. They may eventually be willing for you to add elastic or ties and wear it this way. Here is a fun little ditty that I learned as a preschool teacher years ago that helped as the child tried on the mask over and over and over again!
I’m dressed up for Halloween-
The cutest little (name your character) you’ve even seen.
Here I am in my disguise.
I can change before your eyes.
Going Out or Greeting Trick or Treaters at Home
Here are a few things you might want to consider to make the “big event” more enjoyable for your child.
Staying home to greet Trick or Treaters-
For some children home is a real base of comfort and safety. The surroundings are familiar and family is dependable. You may feel that your child may be best able to handle Halloween night with this support. However, it may be frightening due to the fact that your child may feel like the safe haven of home is under assault by these weird strangers that are showing up at the front door. You can’t control whether a ghoul with a big “Boo” will be at the door when you and your child answer. If your child isn’t able to understand that Halloween only lasts one night, will he be fearful the next time the doorbell rings when it is only the therapist or Grandpa?
One way to control this situation more easily is to limit the time your home is open to Trick or Treating. Many towns are now helping with this by keeping Trick or Treating to early hours such as from 5:00-7:00 PM. During this time you will have younger, parent accompanied, better behaved visitors at your door.
If you opt for going out for Halloween, you have a little more control over who and what your child may see. You can limit your trick or treating to your familiar neighborhood or drive around so the homes of close friends and relatives. You can also limit your child’s exposure to just a few visits or to a short time limit around 5:00 PM.
Churches and other organizations often offer indoor Halloween parties that you might want to consider. It is my experience that the attendees are usually younger, less scary looking children. That is good. The bad news is that these parties can also be loud and crowded. It would be wise to call and get some details about the party and possibly limiting the time spent there to the beginning before the crowd shows up.
If you have additional tips to share with other parents and teachers, please post a comment.