As calendars turn to October, kids everywhere begin planning their Halloween costume … and parents everywhere begin hoping those plans don’t involve elaborate headdresses or rare gems. For children, a costume is so much more than an outfit that gets you candy. For that day, when she dons the princess dress or he anchors down his shining armor, they transform into someone else. Someone magical, adventurous, and new.

We want that magic for them. But what happens when the costumes on a shelf cost more than your car payment? Or she settles on a three-winged purple toed whats-a-do? You might be staring down the challenge of creating a costume at home.

Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts that will help you navigate the DIY costume waters.

DO:

  • Plan how much money and time you want to spend. Give yourself a guideline to work from in order to avoid late night sessions or empty wallets. That silver material might look perfect for an astronaut. But if it will blow the budget you already set, you will have an easier time saying no.
  • Consider the future uses of your handiwork. If you know that you will get more use out of your creation than one day’s wear, it can inform your decisions elsewhere. A costume your child will want to come home and put on every day after school holds more worth than one that sits in the closet. Something that can be worn as pajamas, to sports practice, or dance class doubles it value.
  • Remember your surroundings. Fall can be a tricky season. In many places, the days are still hot but the nights cool quickly. A costume needs to allow a child to add or remove layers without compromising its look. Could a long-sleeved shirt or tights be unobtrusively added? Can the footwear be changed? Also, schools allow children to dress up at school but do not allow masks, face paint, or weapons.  Will the outfit still make sense without these things?
  • Pick the easiest option. No prizes will be handed out for most effort put forth. You do not need to create the next Lady Gaga statement piece. Think in terms of short cuts. How can you skip a few of the steps in production? Check the internet for inspiration, ideas, and directions. Maybe someone else has planned this out already! Or perhaps you can repurpose everyday items rather than creating all new ones. Take in an old dress and add a tutu underneath for volume. Paint a toy to look like that wand/sword/laser. Check out this article on hitting the thrift store to make a costume.

DON’T:

  • Choose for them. That scarecrow/apple/kitten might look so adorable, but if your child wants to be Super Man, let him. Investing so much time into something your kid won’t appreciate will make both of you resentful and steal the magic of the moment.
  • Try too much. Make decisions based on a realistic assessment of what you can do. There’s a good chance you are not Armani or Versace, so don’t try to whip up a quick runway worthy creation. Even when you actually can stitch together something fabulous, don’t plan on constructing a hat, wings, a bag, and a jet pack as well. If a child runs when they see you coming with the material, this is an indication you might be over committed!
  • Forget they are kids. It’s Halloween. There will be running. There will be candy. There will be sugar high induced insanity. Whatever you make will be tested for durability. You probably want to stay away from delicate materials and breakable adornments. Remember kids tend to be rough and careless with their clothes, especially when there are just so many other things to think about!

Most importantly, after the last thread, glue gun, and paint brush, take the time to really live the moment with your kids. Your efforts will give them magic!