When done well, the family Halloween costume, one where every member of the family is dressed to reflect a certain theme, is hard to beat. Who can roll their eyes at a mother, father, and kids dressed as all the Where’s Waldo? characters or the cast of Mushroom Kingdom? It’s cheesy, sure. But it’s so damn charming. And you don’t have to run out to Spirit Halloween and cough up $100 on plastic-packed costumes sets to make it happen. In fact, the best family Halloween costumes are done on the cheap, cleverly using items you have at home or that you buy on the cheap from a craft store. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are a few ideas for family Halloween costume ideas to use as thought-starters.
The Cat in the Hat and His Many Things
When Theodor Geisel unleashed the Cat in the Hat back in 1957, he armed a generation of families with multiple kids with a quick, cheap go-to costume. Parents can go big with full-blown costumes, but honestly, all it really takes is a striped hat, some whiskers, and as many sets of blue wigs, red pajamas, and handmade “Thing” tags as necessary.
The Stick Family
Those simultaneously adorable and obnoxious decals people put on the back of their vans to show everybody how many people are in their family are pretty milquetoast. But dress every family member in black and don the clothing with stick person-shaped glowing tape or sticks and you’ve got a costume that’s at once simultaneously cool and safe in the dark.
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The Adams Family
Yes, you could go all in with Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, and Pugsly costumes. But show up as John, Abigail, John Quincy, and the others and you’ve got a head-scratcher that could turn into an impromptu Drunk History episode once the kids go to bed.
Nobody’s saying an entire family should necessarily dress up like the Staten Island crew in honor of the 25th anniversary of 36 Chambers, though if your kid can pull off a solid U-God costume, more power to you. Just slap a bee costume on every family member, hit it with a little Wu emblem, and draw some angry eyebrows on everyone’s face. Bam. Wu-Tang Killer Bees. Tical!
The kid is dad. Mom is the kid. Dad is mom. Pandemonium! Also, hilarity.
Fun with Chest Carriers
When a kid’s still in a carrier, it’s a chance for dad to have a little fun with the costume without the kid’s say, and there’s endless fun to be had. Baby can become a chestbursting alien to dad’s space marine, or the clairvoyant mutant Quatto from Total Recall, or Krang the talking brain from Ninja Turtles. Basically, do it before the kid can protest… or be scarred.
The Cast of Wet Hot American Summer
Mom and dad can scratch their itch to wear poorly fitting ‘80s clothes while also participating in the joyous practice of dressing a small child as a sentient can of green beans. Everybody wins.
The Bad News Bears
This one can go two ways and include as many family members as necessary. The more obvious choice would be to dress all the kids up in baseball uniforms and let dad be a less-racist version of Coach Buttermaker. The punnier version would be to dress everyone up as bears and have them go around delivering bad news, like “you’re fired.”
The Rockford Peaches
Boy bears aren’t the only ones who should get to do the baseball thing. This can also go two ways. Dad can dress up like Tom Hanks with the girls donning the uniforms from A League of Their Own, which would require a little crafting. Or the girls could just be dressed up as peaches. If they complain, tell them there’s no crying in baseball.
A Salad Bar
Each kid dresses up as a different kind of fruit, or perhaps some bacon. Dad plays bartender, with a tuxedo and a shaker. Everybody looks puzzled until they realize that this is more clever than they thought. Friends are finally made with salad.
The Cast of Sabotage
If you need evidence that it’s a fantastic idea to dress small children up as ’70s cops while blaring the classic Beastie Boys anthem, look no further than this legendary video. Children in mustaches and bad wigs will never not be funny. The biggest challenge here is deciding who gets to be Cochese.
Other Holiday Characters
Santa, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, pilgrims, and Cupid (perfect for a baby) walk into a party and begin acting extremely confused about what day it is. Any of these characters are out of place at Halloween. Together, it’s like a family-wide piece of performance art.