Ah, fall, and every child’s fancy turns toward Halloween. By now, most children will have declared their wish for a Halloween costume and most parents will have vetoed at least one choice. This is a Halloween ritual!
Every childcare center within which I have worked, and every school at which I have taught, has had particular rules regarding dress-up for Halloween. Some don’t allow costumes at all because of the safety factor and the fact that it can detract from learning, while others are conscious of cultural or religious beliefs. Those that do permit children to participate in dress-up parties still expect some common sense guidelines. Here are some basic rules for a safe and happy Halloween for your little ones:
- Check the parent handbook or guidelines, or consult administration and teachers before allowing your child to select a costume. Read the blogs and hand-outs sent home: they are not meant to clutter your home, they give you vital information on special events, rules and important dates. I can’t tell you how often a parent has said “I didn’t know” when notes have been posted, sent home, teachers have put up sign-up sheets and directed parents toward them, or the teacher has cornered parents and told them directly, to their face. Please leave the cellphones off when you pick up or drop off your kids? Just a suggestion.
- No weapons. Period. Whether its numchucks, knives, swords, power blasters, grenades, weapons belts, laser swords or any other weapon of choice: if it can hurt, it doesn’t belong. If children can PRETEND to hurt others, it’s inappropriate. If it will incite riot and mayhem in the classroom or on the playground, leave it at home! When TMNT and Power Rangers were at the top of their popularity, it got to the point these costumes and play had to be banned at many centers. Just too many children were getting injured by the kicking and fighting involved!
- Leave the capes and dress-up shoes at home. So many children have been injured at school or in daycare by wearing these items. Capes can cause strangulation (and also cause kids to think they can fly! really!) while dress-up shoes cause blisters and twisted ankles. Reserve those for home parties where you can supervise
- Make sure the costume isn’t too ornate for everyday play. Not the entire day will be spent sitting at a table. Children still generally go outside to play or participate in the classroom centers. Don’t let them wear costumes that you want to keep pristine. Drinks spill, paint splatters and children do have other accidents, as well.
- No masks. Most schools and daycares prefer face-paint to masks. Some have out-right bans on masks. Not only can they be used as weapons, but they also impair vision, leading to accidents and injuries. The same is true of hats or other headgear. Do your children really need them and can they be their character without them?
- Make sure costumes fit. So many children are injured every year by costumes that tangle around their feet (another reason for “no capes”) or costumes may snag when they are playing. Make sure the costumes are the right length and hopefully have an elastic around the ankles to keep them at the right length while children play.
- Despicable Me is great fun as a movie. Is it really appropriate as a child’s costume? Think about it…
- Costumes appropriate for temperature. Happy Feet was an adorable movie, as was Yogi Bear, and the costumes are cute as anything, but Las Vegas is not like Winnipeg in the middle of winter! Temperatures can be really warm at Halloween. Elsewhere, schools and daycares may already have the heat on. If children wear warm fleece or fur costumes, they run the risk of dehydration or heat exhaustion. Have them wear comfy clothing at their school or daycare, and save the warmer clothing for trick or treating outside or at the Mall
- Don’t send small accessories. Children can swallow and choke on these. Small hands can have sticky fingers that take tiny items home in backpacks or pockets, and they could prove dangerous to younger siblings. Save wear and tear on children (and teachers) by keeping little accessories home.
- Never send precious items to school. Halloween is an exciting holiday for children. They run around and get overwrought. Even the calmest classroom can go just a bit crazy: I know this because I have been there and done that! If it’s Aunt Martha’s special decorative Halloween knicknack or Uncle Irving’s precious heirloom, don’t send it to class, any day, any time and especially not during a party!
- Always send a change of clothing. Some children have enough of a costume after half an hour and just want to wear their “regular clothes” or uniform. Others don’t really want to dress up at all, but do so because of peer (or parental) pressure. Naptime can be really tough for young ones with costumes, believe me! And diaper changes? We won’t even go into that subject!
- If your child doesn’t want to wear a costume, or if you would rather not have them participate, give them an easy answer to the predictable “Why aren’t you dressed up?” “I didn’t feel like it” is perfect and straight to the point.
Slightly off subject: if you send treats to class, make sure it’s “no nut”. Too many children suffer from severe nut allergies now to risk a child getting anaphylactiic shock from the smell or taste of nuts! Read labels carefully and forego favorites to save a life. Send purchased treats in their original packaging so teachers can check the ingredients. Most places would rather you purchase items rather than bake them. This isn’t a slam on you, it’s a safety consideration (not to mention the health department where daycares are concerned!)
Once again, be sure to read all hand-outs, notes, check the parent boards, ask teachers or read posted blogs to get the real info about up-coming events. Look at the sign-up sheets if they are posted. Relying just on conversations with your kids can lead to misinformation, and you wouldn’t want your child to “miss out” just because you didn’t get the memo!