11 Tricks to Try When Kids Won't Wear Their Halloween Costumes

11 Tricks to Try When Kids Won't Wear Their Halloween Costumes

Afraid your little one won’t get dressed up on Oct. 31? Try these tactics.

By: Marisa Torrieri Bloom

My mother-in-law, Lynne, has this wonderfully funny story of when my husband, Zack, was young and refused to wear a Halloween costume, despite her pleas and his older brother’s example.

“Every year, starting when he was about 3, I’d show him pictures of costumes and ask him what he wanted to be, and he’d say ‘nothing,’” she recalls. “So when we’d show up at peoples’ homes trick-or-treating and they asked him what he was, he simply said, ‘I’m just a boy in winter clothes.’”

It’s hard to believe that my husband, who spent nearly every Halloween in his 20s dressed in the most awesome costumes – from retro rock stars to comic book characters and beyond -- exhibited this no-costume behavior until he was 6. And while we successfully coaxed my 2-year-old to wear his cowboy outfit at day care last year, the curious-but-annoyed looks he’s giving the superhero costume we bought him this year aren’t making me very hopeful.

While many toddlers are easily convinced to wear fun Halloween costumes, about 20 percent of them outright refuse, according to the director at my son’s day care in Fairfield, Connecticut. These little ones often need to be persuaded via light (but fun) peer pressure -- “Come on, Johnny, look at how cool Lucy’s costume is!” -- or gently eased into their costumes while they whine (and most stop whining eventually). I’m fully prepared to buy the matching female superhero costume for adults to get my 2-year-old to wear his, but I’m hoping there’s an easier way.

With that in mind, 11 real moms share their tricks for getting their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds into Halloween costumes on the big day. Here’s what they did, in their own words:

1. Let them help make it. “Toddlers are more likely to wear a costume they helped create -- or at least mine was. For our 3-year-old son Syver’s space outfit, we tinfoiled and duct-taped his helmet and rain boots. He wore space PJ bottoms, and I drew the logo on his T-shirt. My husband crafted a cool jetpack using Syver’s book bag, tennis ball cans, and a jump rope. We cut out flames with construction paper. He wore his costume all day!” -Julie R., mom of one, Tucson, Arizona

2. Get a comfy outfit. “Because so many Halloween costumes are uncomfortable, I buy … costumes [that] feel more like warm clothing you wear outside and the material is nice. Since I started doing that, I’ve never had any trouble getting them dressed up.” -Harper B., mom of four, Wilton, Connecticut

3. Limit choices. “For my little one, I have a few different costumes that my oldest daughter wore in the past for dress-up or for old Halloween costumes. Last year I showed them to my 3-year-old, who was 2 then, and gave her a choice. The key to convincing children is to give them a choice so they are ‘picking’ their costume.’” -Amy T., mom of two, Milford, Connecticut

4. Let him be a fan. “Last year when my son was 2, I just put him in a sports jersey and dressed him up like a sports fan, in a jersey and hat. The costume was easy to wear, and since sports are big in our home, he was excited to get ready.” -Amy S., mom of two, Bridgeport, Connecticut

5. Practice wearing it. “My best advice is practice! Get your costume in late September or early October so Junior or Little Miss has the chance to try it on, edit the costume, and grow to love it. We did this with both our kids when they were younger.” -Jennifer P., mom of two, Seattle, Washington

6. Dress alike. “When we first got our outfit, my 3-year-old daughter didn’t seem into it. Then, I just dressed up like her before the big day. She thought it was hilarious, and we took a selfie together.” -Cathleen D., mom of two, Fairfield, Connecticut


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7. Show them the candy. “My husband and I had spent hours sewing my 2-year-old son’s [shrimp] costume, only to be devastated that he refused to put it on when the time came. After 20 minutes of crying and screaming, I gave up and asked him to help me hand out treats. After answering the door two or three times and having to part with that big bowl of candy for all the kids that were dressed up, he saw the wisdom in putting the costume on. He said, ‘Mommy, I want to get treats too!’ I’ve never seen a kid get dressed so fast!” -Meagan Ross, mom of two, Toronto, Canada

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8. Let them choose whatever they want. “We just got our twins, age 3, their Halloween costumes and they just paraded around the house in them so happily. Let your kids pick who they want to be … of course, as parents we have our own ideas of what we think would be the most adorable or the coolest Halloween costume for our kids, but letting them choose is their way to express their individuality.” -Wanda S., mom of two, Atlanta, Georgia

9. Parade around at home. “I’ve found that sometimes you have to get kids excited about Halloween costumes. For example, we've had a costume parade in our house and marched around with stuffed animals. If your child still won't wear the costume, I suggest taking it with you to the party or trick-or-treating. But don't force it. From my experiences, once they see others wearing costumes, they may give in. But you can always take pictures and remember this as the year they went as a 'kid.'" -Katie H.B., mom of three, Newton, Massachusetts

10. Let them ‘play’ their characters. “I purchase the costumes early and let them ‘play’ in the costumes during October. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. Of course, tons of positive feedback about how great they look always helps. This year, my kids wanted to be [movie characters]. So I let them wear the costumes and watch, sing to, and play along with the movie. By the time Halloween rolls around, they are so comfortable in the costumes that it’s just another dress-up outfit to play in, and the free candy is just a bonus.” -Kate H., mom of two, Mankato, Minnesota

11. Make her work for the Plan B Outfit. “One Halloween, my daughter decided to be a ladybug. We set the plan in motion and on the day of trick-or-treating, she was all set to be a ladybug. All was perfect except for the fact that ... she changed her mind. Suddenly she wanted to be a princess. I told her that we already agreed on a ladybug, had all of the ladybug accessories, and were not prepared to be a princess. This did not sway her. She wanted to be a princess. I resisted arguing, stayed calm, and simply said, ‘OK, then, you have two options. You can dress up as a ladybug as planned, or you may put together a princess costume quickly, on your own, with items we already have here at home. We have just a few minutes, so let me know what you decide.’ I stepped away, mostly to keep myself from arguing with a toddler, came back in a few minutes and found her rummaging through every dress and play outfit she owned. ‘What did you decide?’ I asked. Looking a bit bewildered, she reluctantly said, ‘I'll be a ladybug.’ I said, ‘Oh, good choice! I'll help you get ready.’” -Kimberly K., mom of 12, Mukwonago, Wisconsin

Do your toddlers like dressing up in costumes for Halloween?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a freelance writer and guitar teacher who lives with her husband and two young sons in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Image ©iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

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