Creative Costume Ideas for Halloween

Rachel Weaver Rivera, former Arts Learning Coordinator at Chicago Children’s Museum

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What’s wrong with store-bought wizard hats and plastic princess masks? Nothing, except that they come from the land of bland, and Halloween is certainly not one of those ho-hum holidays. If you really want to spark your child’s imagination this year, try some creative costume-making tricks and treats. Simply follow these rules:

Save Stuff
Old belts, neckties, jewelry, sports equipment, scarves, eyeglasses, stuffed animals, and purses make wonderful accessories. Fabric remnants are perfect for head wraps, capes, wings, bandages or poncho-style gowns and caveman garb. Discarded headbands are great for gluing on ears, taping on sparkly tin foil tiaras or attaching pipe cleaner antennas. Two toilet paper tubes glued together makes an excellent pair of binoculars, and paper towel rolls colored black can accommodate any pirate in need of a telescope.

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Paint
Let your kids paint their own face! In addition to being less of a safety hazard than a vision-obscuring, cumbersome mask, a painted face allows children to clearly see and appreciate the transformation of their own features. For the most successful face painting, set up a make-believe “make up” station with a mirror, small brushes, Q-tips, paper towels, cold cream and water. And don’t forget that face paint looks great on more than just the face. Use it to turn the backs of hands alien-green or decorate arms with creeping spiders.

Open Outcome
Sometimes handmade costumes begin as one thing, and along the way, turn into another. Let not only materials but also descriptive words guide you and your child’s creative decisions. For instance, make up names like plastic spider princess, polka-dot button monster or one-eyed homework robot to inspire a costume concept that is truly unique. As you work together with this kind of flexibility, you may be surprised by a result that turns out even more magical.

Kraft Kraziness
Whether your costume creation craft area is at the kitchen table or the floor in your child’s bedroom, set up a comfortable work environment complete with the supplies you think you will need. Make gathering the items before you begin a part of the adventure. Key supplies might include markers, paint, tape, scissors, staplers, markers, glue, yarn or string, and a hot glue gun (to be used only with parent supervision). Additional art supplies could include beads, feathers, glitter, tin foil, poster board, fabric, ribbon, rubber bands, balloons, bottle caps, etc.

You Made It Yourself?!
You are doing a great and generous service to your child when you use opportunities like Halloween costume-making to make more than just something to wear. Parents need not be art-experts to take a pass on those commercial costumes. Adults just need know how satisfying, “You Made it Yourself?!” sounds to the ears of a self-styled super hero, dinosaur or robot!

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