Kids face big decision on Halloween costumes

Michelle Anstett

Each October, children are plagued by one very big decision: What should I be for Halloween?

There literally are thousands of choices out there, and a child’s get-up is limited only by his or her imagination. Well, imagination and parental budgets.

Retail stores and online merchants offer a plethora of children’s costume ideas, from traditional ghosts to scary monsters, from pretty princesses to the latest movie and television characters.

Store-bought Halloween costumes can get pricey, especially for older children who are less likely to re-use the costume for games of dress-up throughout the year. Discount retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target have aisles stuffed full of children’s costumes which can cost upwards of $15, quite a bit of money for just one night of use.

On Thursday afternoon, 5-year-old Matthew Holmes searched through Wal-Mart’s costume offerings, nixing the Power Rangers and racecar driver costumes his mother, Amber Nyman, showed him. High above his head, there it was: The Batman costume.

“I think he knew what he wanted to be,” Nyman said as Matthew ran to show his costume to his father. He was Rafael the Ninja Turtle for Halloween last year, another store-bought costume, but she made a scarecrow out of a flannel shirt and jeans for Halloween when Matthew was 2 years old.

Online retailer, which claims to have the Internet’s largest Halloween costume selection, lists Indiana Jones as the most popular costume for boys this year, and Hannah Montana as the most popular girls’ costume.

Other characters culled from the year’s popular movies and TV shows — such as Batman and the Joker from July’s “The Dark Knight” and Sharpay from one of the many “High School Musical” incarnations — always top lists of store sales.

A trip down Wal-Mart’s aisles confirms the characters’ popularity, with full racks of Batman, Joker and Incredible Hulk costumes for boys. There is one whole section of Hannah Montana costumes, with three different clothing selections and countless accessories including makeup, jewelry, blonde wigs and a sparkly microphone.

All those extras can add up very quickly, and with families already stretching their budgets to buy food and other necessities, Halloween costumes can seem an unnecessary financial burden.

But what happens when you offer your 8-year-old daughter that adorable homemade ladybug costume you spent hours planning and sewing and all she does is scream, “I want to be like Miley!”?

You become a little more creative and use things your family already has on hand to re-create the popular Halloween looks for far less than you would find them in the store.

To turn your rough-and-tumble son into, well, rough-and-tumble action hero Indiana Jones, just raid his closet for anything that looks as if it could make a trip through the desert and have a few run-ins with Nazis. Khaki is the intrepid archaeologist’s color of choice, but really any clothes will do. A felt fedora, which could be found at a secondhand store or garage sale, or even in Grandpa’s coat closet, is a must.

The key to making this costume recognizable, though, is the bullwhip. Use black electrical tape to transform an ordinary piece of rope — the shorter the better for safety’s sake — into Jonesy’s ever-present tool and you’re all set.

Transforming your little girl into mega-pop personality Hannah Montana also is just a closet and a little glue away.

Have her pick clothes out of her closet she thinks Hannah (or Miley, if she’s into dressing as the real person) would wear and search for a blonde wig at a decent price. These can be found for fairly low prices in Halloween aisles. If your daughter is blonde, no need for a wig, and if you can’t find one, have her consider dressing as Miley.

Attach a black-painted Styrofoam ball to an empty toilet paper tube also painted black and your budding singer’s got an instant microphone.

Whether you go store-bought or homemade, though, remember Halloween is all about the fun of pretending to be someone else for a night and shouldn’t be a financial or mental stress for parents.

Michelle Anstett can be reached

Top 10 children’s Halloween costumes for 2008

1. Indiana Jones

2. Iron Man

3. Batman

4. The Joker

5. Hannah Montana

6. Sharpay (“High School Musical”)

7. Clonetrooper Cody (“Star Wars: Clone Wars”)

8. Transformers Bumble Bee

9. Monkey (by Tom Arma)

10. Monster bride