Friday, October 1, 2010


October is here.  Time to think of Fall, and all the special celebrations that are coming up soon. I’m strongly suggesting to my 1’s and 2’s parents that for “costume day” this year, right before Halloween,  we make it Animal Day.  Everyone dresses up as an animal! 

Costume Day isn’t a big deal for toddlers, because really, when you’re 1 or 2, every day that you put on clothes is sort of a "costume day" already. But sometimes Costume Day can be a big deal to parents, who remember the fun and excitement of Halloween costumes when they were children, and who want to participate in this tradition with their own kids.  These little ones may or may not want to wear something other than their regular school clothes, but they enjoy seeing some of the other children, the teacher, and the parents playing dress-up!   

So why is Teacher Annie messing with all this fun and suggesting that we only dress as animals on Costume Day? I have several reasons.

Why I Want Your Child To Dress As An Animal On Costume Day At School:

-It’s more creative, and therefore, more fun!  One of the main things I’m trying to help your child avoid is dressing up as a character from tv or movies. These characters are very popular, but this type of costumes allows for no creativity. A child pretending to be a spider (and wearing a spider costume) has innumerable ways they can play and pretend.  Their imagination can soar and they can stretch their minds in new ways. But a child wearing a Spiderman costume has very little pretending to do.  They are limited to the script that comes from the movie/tv show/video game. They know from watching the show what Spidey does and what he does not do.  Children seldom branch out from the scripts that  the media gives them, when it comes to role-playing and pretending about media-based characters. I was talking to a parent in one of the older classes the other day, and she had been assigned to help the children “write” (dictate) stories.  She said that the main stories children were telling her were about the Disney Princesses, Dora, and other well-known characters from movies and tv.  The stories all followed the script of the shows, and the characters did not deviate from the role that the Disney (or other) creators had assigned them. So children were not engaging in creative thinking at all, but rather just repeating and reciting stories they had seen on tv.  Remember what we all read last year in Taking Back Childhood?  (Talk to me if you are new to our school or want to know more about this very insightful book.) 

-Children love animals!  They identify very strongly with them. It’s easy for young children to imagine themselves as a horse, a cat, or a bluebird.  In interactions with real or pretend animals, children learn empathy and social skills.

-Language development! Animal play lends itself well to language development. As children talk about, learn about, and pretend about animals, they are first very inclined to make the sounds that animals make, and then they move on from there to learning about other aspects of language.

-Literacy!  Animals offer many opportunities for literacy development as well.  There are millions of excellent books about animals, both fiction and non-fiction. 

-Science! Pretending about animals leads to a curiosity about science and the natural world.  Once you’ve dressed up as a ladybug, you want to find out more about what it’s really like to be one.

-Lots of options! There are thousands of animals to choose from!  And even if your child isn’t the only dog on Costume Day, every dog will be different.

-Parent-Friendly! Animal costumes can be very simple or very elaborate, allowing for the parent to choose how much time, money, and creativity they wish to put into it.  You can be a rabbit with some paper ears and a cotton ball for a tail.  Or you can go all out and order the $50 peacock costume online.  Neither one of these is better, cuter, or more desirable than the other.  And your child will quite likely have more fun in the cheap-bunny costume than in the expensive one. 

-Happy, not scary! Traditional Halloween characters can be scary for toddlers.  They can be scared of witches, skeletons, and ghosts, because at this age they still don’t have a very solid idea of where to draw the line between pretend and real. It’s ridiculous to think about having a day that is supposed to be for the kids to have fun, but instead, making them frightened.

So, help me create Costume Day at school this year,  and  walk, talk, and dress like a duck or any other animal.  We’ll all have a wonderful, child-centered day. 

I stole this great idea from Teacher Jackie, who borrowed it from some other teacher. Hmmmm...... I wonder what animal Jackie will be? 

My daughters no longer let me “dress them up,” but unless my dogs, Gretchen and Timothy, protest too loudly we will be enjoying Animal Day at my house this year, for sure!


  1. Sounds fun! I just bought my girls their costumes last week and, luckily, they are animals. Looking forward to Together Time.

  2. I think that's a great idea, Annie. We were toying with dressing our tot up as Yoda, but he really has no context for that. It was all about what we "big kids" wanted to do. Right now, our son is very into imitating cats (b/c of the 4 we unofficially adopted, I'm sure). Our eldest child never roled played like he does when she was his age and I'd like to keep encouraging that in him. Also, with this costume idea, now our older daughter wants to be a cat as well....I've decided not to buy costumes (other than the cat ears and tails), but rather, allow her to make her own costume. Yay for instilling creativity in them!!


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