Spiders, witches and ghouls are upon us!

Spiders, witches and ghouls are upon us!

Are you ready for halloween this year?

Full disclosure: We are so not ready. Not even a little. No decorations, no costumes, and no plan for going out and getting it. We seriously have to get our game on if we don’t want to scramble at the last minute.

Last time I wrote about Hallowe’en on this blog, my oldest was just learning how to crawl, so our festive options were limited. This year all three kids are not only ready to go door-to-door, but are demanding the finest (although different each day!) costumes.

The biggest hangup for us is the maturity level of some of the “must have” costumes this year. The kids are growing up fast enough on their own; I won’t be allowing mine to wear “sexy” anything or represent television programs that are clearly above their ages (they are between 3-6).

So if you have small kids, here are the Parent’s Nook’s choices for best costumes of 2014!

Boy Costumes

Superheroes are in this year, just like every other year. You may think you know a thing or two but there have been a lot of changes since the good old days! The characters my son finds out about from his friends at school are a far cry from what I remember.

Captain America

A noble and principled hero with a generous helping of physical enhancement

A noble and principled hero with a generous helping of physical enhancement

A classic and one of the best. Kids still love “the original Avenger” and the latest movie reinforces his stature for today’s audiences.

Originally created during the second world war as a patriotic hero who fought against the Axis powers, Captain America is the alter-ego of Steve Rogers, a frail young man whose poor health prevented him from enlisting in the armed forces. His determination earns him a spot in an experimental program that results in his becoming a super soldier and hero with the moniker “Captain America”.

My sons love this character and although it was never a favourite of mine, I approve for a lot of reasons.

First, Rogers’ follows a (sometimes outdate) code of ethics. Chivalry, respect and a sense of duty are important to him. He sees the world in very black and white terms, good versus evil. This simplified outlook is accessible to children.

Second, the comic (generally) frowns upon the Captain’s use of weapons. At the end of the day he is a soldier and will not shy away from their use, but he is consistently seen looking down upon guns and ordinance. His shield is his primary weapon, which is a good metaphor for the playground – kids should know how to defend (shield) themselves, and should look for non-aggressive solutions to inevitable conflict they will face.

Iron Man

Depending where you look, not the best role model

Depending where you look, not the best role model

This is who my kid wants to dress up as, and frankly I’m not convinced.

After billionaire engineer Tony Stark is kidnapped and suffers a catastrophic chest injury, he creates a practically invincible suit of armor to save his life and escape to freedom. Later he becomes Iron Man, and uses his suit to fight various evil-doers, especially (in modern incarnations) terrorists.

In the comics Tony seems genuinely driven by a desire to improve the world; he uses his engineering brilliance to try to bring free power to everyone, and in recent storylines is even trying to build the model utopian city (which he of course has to protect from his powerful enemies).

In my kid’s case, the interest in the character doesn’t come from reading the comic books (since he can’t), it comes from the TV and movie appearances. On screen, Tony is presented as a Han Solo-like bad boy who eventually does the right thing. The focus is on action and being cool, not on the character’s engineering brilliance or struggle to walk the fine line between protecting the world and running a huge enterprise that supplies weapons to it.

Overall if this is the costume my kid wants to wear then he will, but there are going to be a lot of teachable moments where we will need to stop and explain why the character behaves as he does and challenge the kids to think about right versus wrong. One thing Tony has going for him is he is one of the most human of the superheroes, and real people can’t be lumped into “good” and “bad”. It’s an important distinction, but it feels a bit advanced for the age we’re at.

Ninja Turtles

Raphael, always the brooding one

Raphael, always the brooding one

Did you watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kids? Have you ever watched those old cartoons again as an adult to see if they stood up to the test of time (spoiler alert: they do not).

I was excited when Nickelodeon decided to take a stab at a new Ninja Turtles series. It has everything our parents hated in the version we had as kids - violent ninja battles against robots, enemies that give up immediately when their plans don’t work, the girl’s presence as a plot device.

We let our kids dress like this one year but I’m glad they’ve moved on to more sophisticated interests. The kids are enamoured by the fighting and violence, and this isn’t something I’m thrilled to promote. The turtles are intended for an older audience and smaller kids can miss out on the subtleties of the distinct personalities - Leonardo the leader (kid takeaway: bossy), Michelangelo the free-spirit (kid takeaway: goofy or stupid), Donatello the scientist (kid takeaway: weak/nerdy), and Raphael with his brooding angst (kid takeaway: rude/jerk).

Girl Costumes

When our daughter was born I was determined not to peg her into gender stereotypes. She and the boys have the same access to toy cars, superhero stories, Ghostbusters films, and Disney (everything). We never once pushed her into liking “girly” things but she’s drifted that way herself. She’s not afraid to be rough and tough with the boys but she does it while wearing a tiara.

Elsa and Anna

Our household is 3 days free from singing Frozen songs

Our household is 3 days free from singing Frozen songs

Who can see Frozen and not be reminded of the appeal Disney movies held when we were kids? It has it all - based on a classic story (with many embellishments of course to fill hours of screen time), songs that worm their way inside your head, whimsical characters with no end of merchandising potential. Plus not one but two princesses for girls to dress as for halloween.

Let’s ignore the fact that the princesses, despite their high station, live entirely uneventful lives until a man becomes the catalyst for their adventure. The somewhat clumsy storytelling eventually gets around to the point that the bond between the sisters is both stronger and more important than the affections of men.

This movie continues the trend that seems to be Hollywood discovering that girls (especially princesses) are people too and not just damsels in distress. They really appear to be trying to make characters who can fit the hero role and still be feminine.

While my daughter still likes Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, she role plays as Elsa and Anna. Dad approves.


What happened to the classic witch?

What happened to the classic witch?

This year the classic witch has had the branding makeover, and kids are asking to be Maleficient, the evil antagonist from Sleeping Beauty. Thanks to the new film, she is being recast as the hero of the story.

This one isn’t particularly kid friendly, but apparently enough parents are taking their children to see this. Apparently fairy tale films are this generation’s version of cartoons. Remember when your parents let you watch The Simpsons without screening it themselves because it was just a cartoon, they could never see it as a serious program? Same deal.

At any rate fashion designer Stella McCartney partnered with Disney to create a collection of kid-sized costumes to cash in on the film, so if you have the money to spend and your kid likes this thing, go for it.


No more 'pirate lass' - girls are full-fledged PIRATES

No more 'pirate lass' - girls are full-fledged PIRATES

The theme in our house this month is pirates, and our daughter is right in the middle of the action. They are watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates, singing along to all the songs by Sharky and Bones, and wearing out the PVR we recorded The Pirate Fairy on. This week the kids all got eye patches and have been ruling the playground like a bunch of “arrr”-spewing thugs.

I love that we’ve finally reached a point of enlightenment where a girl can be a pirate, and not just a pirate’s “lass”. Seriously, girls are just as qualified as boys to be bloodthirsty criminals!