Dressing up and engaging in role play is an important component of childhood learning and having fun. Although costumes are regularly used in day care centers, schools and at home, they become the center of attention when Halloween arrives.
The practice of wearing costumes dates back at least 2,000 years to ancient Europeans and Celts. These cultures celebrated a holiday called Samhain, which represented their new year. Samhain fell on November 1 and marked the first day of winter after the summer harvest. These ancient people associated the winter with coldness, darkness and death and believed the day before Samhain -- October 31 -- established a distorted boundary between the living and the dead. Therefore, individuals wore costumes and masks to avoid being recognized by the ghosts that came out on the night of Samhain. They would also place bowls of food outside of their homes to satisfy the ghosts and keep them from entering the home.
Although Halloween has transformed more into a commercial holiday than one associated with death and the afterworld in the literal sense, many adults and children continue to participate in the rituals that were set forth many years ago, most notably wearing costumes. Parents may want to ensure that the costumes their children wear are safe to help make Halloween a day without injury.
Create a cape that doesn’t choke. A long cape can be stepped on and then tug at a child’s neck. Instead, make a cape that has arm loops to keep it in place instead of a tie around the neck. This way there never will be a choking hazard.
Check makeup labeling. There are many safe Halloween cosmetics on the market, but some should not be used around the eyes or mouth because allergic reactions could occur. Double-check all ingredients lists and package warnings before using makeup on children, who tend to have more sensitive skin than adults. Also, it is a good idea to do a test patch of the product. Put a small dab of the makeup in the crook of the inside of the child’s elbow. Wait 24 hours and see if any itching or a rash forms. This could indicate an allergy to the product.
Keep eyes open. Masks are popular components of Halloween costumes, but some designs can obstruct vision or even impair breathing. Masks always should be comfortable to wear and offer good forward and peripheral views.
Choose natural materials for costumes. Buying a pre-made costume at the store may save you time and money, but there may be safer options if you construct a costume yourself. Many costumes are made overseas and may contain materials that are toxic or off-gas volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), particularly plastic and vinyl products. Breathing in the fumes can be dangerous to young children. By making the costume yourself, you can control what fabrics and other materials are used.
Go organic. There are a number of companies that are now making Halloween costumes from organic fabrics and recycled materials. A simple online search can give you a host of prospects for purchasing these costumes.
Make it visible. Trick-or-treating at night can be, well, tricky. Darkness can make it hard for drivers and other pedestrians to see costume-clad children. If going door-to-door will be happening at night, consider giving children glow sticks or flashlights to carry. There also are reflective tapes that can be attached to costumes that make them light up when lights shine on the tape.
Avoid choking hazards. Many costumes come with small detailing or accessories that may be hazardous to young children. Youngsters who do not yet know what items should and should not be put in their mouths should not wear costumes with removable or small detailing. Also, avoid the use of fake teeth (such as vampire fangs) and fake blood or goo capsules that are meant to be bitten, so they won’t be swallowed.
Halloween is meant to be a time of fun and adventure. Ensuring costumes are safe for children can help make the day even more enjoyable for all involved.