October Alphabet: C is for Children and Costumes

One of the most exciting parts of Halloween is dressing up. Continuing with the next letter of the alphabet, C is for children and costumes.

Did you see the video circulating recently on Facebook of a non-profit organization that makes costumes for kids in wheelchairs? When one of the children was asked about the best part, he replied it was “getting to feel included.” The father who started the group for his own children said, “It helps them forget. It helps other people see them as a kid and not just a kid in a wheelchair.” While we might think kids like to dress up in costumes, so they can be different, kids are dressing up  so they can feel the same. Kids have such unexpected insights.

Costumes are a way to explore identity. Kids are trying out how it feels to be favorite movie characters, pirates, animals, warriors, robots, monsters, other scary creatures, and superheros. Putting on special clothing also means putting on new behaviors and ways of relating to others. For instance, kids might be checking out how it feels to be a powerful boss character and give the orders. Maybe they want to be one that rescues others for a change. A costume not only has unusual clothing, but also comes with an identity and set of interactions far beyond ordinary.

The pretending of dress-up play helps with development.  Children are able to test what they imagine to see if it “fits”. The new experiences encourage empathy because kids are looking from a different point of view. This encourages an awareness of what other people might be feeling.

Costumes also encourage the development of critical thinking skills. When creating costumes, often we have to use materials at hand to make other items, like a long paper tube to be a sword, or cardboard and tape to make robot controls. Using one thing to represent something else is called symbolic thinking and it’s tremendously important for reading and math. After all, we use strange lines and squiggles to be numbers and words. Dressing-up needs problem-solving and creativity too.

No wonder children and costumes are great for anytime of year, not just Halloween. Is there a dress-up trunk at your house?

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