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Sensory-Friendly Halloween Costume Tips

Oct 1, 2023

Three children in Halloween costumes.

We love seeing crazy creative and incredibly fun Halloween costumes each and every year. The kids just put a big smile on our faces when they show up to their therapy appointments dressed as their favorite characters and people. For some families, there’s quite a bit that goes into a single Halloween costume, so we want to make sure that you and your kiddos get the most out of this exciting Halloween tradition.

See and Be Seen

Halloween safety tips for kids and adults alike are invaluable. The Halloween costume you choose should keep safety front and center, or at least, be paired with items that promote safety. Halloween costumes are often worn at night. From dark streets to unlit parking lots, it’s crucial to make sure that the Halloween costume can be seen in the dark. Go for glow sticks, multiple flashlights, reflective tape, and if possible, choose costumes that are bright. As long as your child can be seen in the dark, then you’re golden. On the flip side, you also want to make sure that your child can see while wearing their costume. Double-check that masks, veils, and cloaks do not take away from your child’s ability to see what’s happening around them. Being mindful of how you look in the dark can prevent unwanted accidents. 

Avoid Sensory Overload with the Halloween Costume

Halloween is the king of sensory experiences as far as holidays are concerned. More often than not, kids are ready to sink their teeth into all of the jump scares, spooky Halloween costumes, gooey jack-o-lanterns, and so much more. For some children, however, Halloween experiences can easily become overwhelming. If your child struggles with sensory overload from Halloween, try these costume tips.

  1. Avoid face paint, masks, veils, and cloaks. These can make costumes warm, obstruct breathing, and be uncomfortable for kids who dislike certain textures and feelings of touch.
  2. Touch costumes and try them on in the store. If you go home with a costume, give your child time to wear it around the house or outside for periods of time leading up to Halloween. Start with five minutes one day and continue increasing the time until you feel your child feels cozy in their new attire. 
  3. Opt for simple costumes. The more pieces there are, the more likely your child is to find a sensory sensation about the costume that they dislike. If the Halloween costume does have pieces, see if the pieces can be easily removed in case your child decides that they don’t want to wear it.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing or even pajamas underneath the costume. Finding ways to maximize the level of comfort increases your chances of a happy Halloween night.
  5. Better yet, choose a costume that is built from everyday clothes. Shaggy from Scooby Doo comes to mind. All you need is some brown pants and a green shirt. Other options include wearing a pumpkin shirt or plaid. Be a lumberjack! 
  6. Show pictures of spookier costumes to your child or describe them. Not only do costumes affect our sense of touch, but they also affect our sense of sight. On Halloween night, we see kids walking around and giving the town a fun fright. That said, your child may not love looking at all costumes they see that night. A good way to prepare is to show your child pictures of example costumes as long as you feel appropriate. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to walk in the other direction. It’s okay to make sure that your child has a fun night. 
  7. Opt for smaller events or to stay home. That’s okay! Whatever works for you and your family, do it. Not all kids love going out and being around noisy crowds, spontaneous sounds, and strobing lights. Some kids may be better off dishing out candy or just wearing their costume blissfully around the house playing imaginative games as their selected character. Halloween is about having fun, not testing boundaries. 
  8. Fall is also a great time to encourage sensory play, even if just in smaller doses. Every little bit of practice counts and could make Halloween night easier such as these fall sensory play activities.

Happy Feet on Halloween 

When you’re out on the prowl in your Halloween costume, don’t forget to love on the feet. Discomfort in the feet can cause discomfort in other places as well. We know that walking around on different and oftentimes uneven surfaces can be rough on the feet. Even if the Halloween costume calls for special footwear, consider choosing something else just to walk around in. If you do go for a costume-based shoe, make sure that they do not slip around on the foot or squish those little toes. There should be about 1-2 centimeters of space between the longest toe to the end of the shoe. Breathable and slip-resistant shoes like mesh and canvas are the best, but you can use your discretion. If you ask us though, comfort trumps style every time.

Let Your Child Choose Their Costume

Our last, final, and perhaps most important costume tip is to give your child a lot of freedom in choosing their own costume, even if that means breaking away from family-matching costumes. Choices encourage individuality, decision-making skills, confidence, and creativity. Plus, if your child chooses their own costume, they will be more likely to love wearing it on Halloween night. Of course, you can give them some guidance based on what we discussed in this blog, but the ability to be someone new for just one night a year is a big joy that’s shared on the spookiest night of the year.

Halloween costumes sure stir up a fright, but if they’re causing your kiddo significant distress, don’t be afraid to bring concerns up with your child’s pediatrician. They can help get you set up with our incredible occupational therapy team.