How to Create a Sensory-Friendly Halloween Costume

With Halloween right around the corner, here are some tips for creating a sensory-friendly Halloween costume.

Current statistics show that 1in 20 individuals have a condition known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  SPD is a neurological disorder which results from the brain’s inability to integrate certain information from the body’s 5 basic sensory systems.  As a result, a child can be hypersensitive to certain stimuli (overly sensitive) or hyposensitive (under sensitive).  For children that are overly sensitive to sensory stimuli, they may be frightened of loud noises, unusual visual stimulation, certain textures, and movements. 

With Halloween right around the corner, it is important to be aware that this can be a scary time for young children as well as children with SPD.  Therefore, ensuring a child is comfortable in their Halloween costume is imperative.  Below are some tips for creating a sensory-friendly Halloween costume:

  • Keep the head and skin clear:  Since children with SPD tend to dislike certain textures on their skin or head, their Halloween costume should not include face paint, a mask, or any props on their head.  Keeping their skin and head clear will help the child feel more comfortable in their costume.  
  • Consider the length:  Some children with SPD appear to be clumsier than typical children. Therefore, ensure that their costume isn’t too long as to impede their ability to walk and run.  The sleeves should also be an appropriate length so that their hands can move freely about.
  • Practice:  In order to prevent a “costume change” mid-way through trick-or treating, you want to be sure your child is comfortable in their costume. So, have them wear it around the house to make sure they are familiar with how it feels to wear it. Also, if your child will be in a stroller or wagon on Halloween night, practice having your child sit in it to be sure they still remain comfortable in the sitting position. 
  • Material matters:  Many children with SPD are sensitive to “itchy” clothing textures. Therefore, I would suggest avoiding anything starchy or polyester and sticking with a cotton costume in which you can remove the interior tags.  Also, be sure the child is wearing comfortable shoes that they have worn previously.  Uncomfortable feet will lead to a short-lived evening.
  • Choices-To ensure your child enjoys the character he/she is portraying, have your child participate in choosing their costume for the evening. If they are a character that is preferred/familiar to them (Dora, Thomas, Elmo, etc), they will be more likely to wear the costume for the duration of the trick-or-treating festivities.
  • Be wary of others- If you, as parents, are also dressing up, be sure your child watches you put the costume on and they do not show signs of distress when the costume is worn. It can be very scary for some kids to have their parents dressed in costume so consider this before putting money towards an expensive costume for yourself.
  • Consider the weather- Since the weather in Florida can be variable around the Halloween holiday, be sure your child’s costume is appropriate for the current temperatures. It may be best to buy a costume with less coverage and add a long sleeved shirt or pants underneath than try to take parts of the costume off if your child gets too hot. 

In short, Halloween can be a scary time for typical children as well as children with Sensory Processing Disorder.  In order to ensure your child enjoys the evening, it is important to make sure they are comfortable in their costume. By following these few suggestions, rest assured that you and your child will have a night to remember!

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Jessica Carter Kingsborough October 02, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Thank you for this post! A few years ago, when my oldest daughter was two, she had a MAJOR meltdown about her costume and we never went trick-or-treating that year. We did not know at the time that she had SPD. Its hard for events like this because on one hand you want them to experience to joy of the occasion, on the other hand it might just be easier to skip it. Thanks again!
Kelley Prince October 03, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Jessica, Thank you so much for your feedback about SPD. We do want our children to be like everyone else and, with a few modifications, hopefully they can experience the holidays just like their peers. If you have any other topics that you would like to see me blog about, please feel free to leave another comment. Have a great day!
Amy Hoyt October 12, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Last year I had no idea of the extent to my child's sensory processing issues and we had a miserable Halloween. I'm prayin that with more knowledge about it now we can plan his costume accordingly and he can still fit in with the other kids.
Kelley Prince October 16, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Amy, I am sorry you have had to deal with difficult holidays but, hopefully by having a better understanding of SPD, those fun events will be more enjoyable for you and your little one:) Hope you guys are all doing well and let me know if you have any questions.


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