Selling Insecurity For Profit, Telling Kids Creativity Doesn’t Count?

October 26, 2010 I’ll recap Spark Summit takeaways soon, but with Halloween around the corner, I have a few timely tidbits that go beyond the need to Spark Change over sexualized costumes and look at the blinding message of consumerism triumphing creativity overall.

When corporations undermine our values and put a ‘not good enough’ angst-inducing spin on children’s creative endeavors we REALLY need to shoutout and give ’em a heave-ho to the door…From learning and innovation to Halloween hoopla it’s high time we connect the dots to see the long term cost over the short term spike in sales.

Newsweek headlines point to The Creativity Crisis and author Po Bronson deep dives into the impact on the talent pool, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (ahem, $19.99 at Sears) to see the strong “Case for Make Believe” as Susan Linn’s book substantiates fully.

It’s one thing to market elaborate costumes as grab-n-go conveniences, but giving them prominence to sway kid cred into being ‘better’ in some tweaked version of consumerism is just wrong. Latest offender? Target. (dang, I wish it were someone else, if their marketing sense and CSR ethics were even remotely close to their design sense we wouldn’t have a problem, but let’s face it, it’s not, and they hit the bullseye again (and again and again).

Rather than whomp on Target for bullying and teasing this darlin’ lil’ guy and his mum for having an outta sight costume of coolness, I’m going to suggest we all ‘flip the message’ and give cache to counter-marketing this crud by lobbing fun, fab, EASY, (even no sew?) creative ideas into the mix and encouraging kids to rethink what’s cool. You in?

We’re asking for your simplest, most conceptual, last-minute easy-peasy costume ideas that kids can don this weekend (think balloons +tape on solid sweats =cluster of grapes, red sweats+pom poms+ yarn=spaghetti & meatballs, etc) to pushback on media messaging that glorifies consumption as ‘better’ than using our brain cells.

Thumbs up if you think mom’s costume for the kiddo is better than ANYthing Target could possibly sell!? (below)

Great! Now…go to YouTube and tell ’em!! (hundreds already have, and the ad itself has about 170,000 views)

Many moms have found this consumption message bashing homemade smarts and cleverness even more insulting than the Motrin Mom ad blunder from awhile back…recall?

I say we act out by culture-jamming to shift the focus back to where it SHOULD be…CREATIVITY.

Here’s how you can get in on the book drawing, costume conceptual fun:

Tweet to me, Facebook me or better yet, add your ideas to the comment section below to be auto-entered into a free book drawing..

Shaping Youth Advisory Board members and authors Lyn Mikel Brown Ed.D & Sharon Lamb Ed.D,  wrote the perfect giveaway book for this contest:

Packaging Girlhood, ‘Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes…(and yes, there’s a Packaging Boyhood site too…both are worth a long perusal, with excerpted chapters and noteworthy aha moments) Ready?

Here are just a few ideas to get you started, from the Powered By Girl Facebook page (PBG) created by and for youth to pushback on marketing messages and Spark Change…

And here’s the Spark Summit teens’ costume video, (footage a bit dark, starts approx 3:51) It includes ideas like jelly beans, ladybugs, and teen/timely pop culture ideas like: Eminem the M&M…(yo! Spark Summit winner) The BlackEyed Peas (one teen trick or treater came in green sweats with heavy black makeup, quite the coinage last year)

Prince (got purple, a ruffly shirt and dark hair? you’re good to go, in ‘purple rein’ style, great baby rendition of this at left, a grand prize Quick & Simple ’08 winner)

Lost Hikers (trio of solidarity for the jailed hikers in Iran, action petitions too)

Freed Chilean Miners (news bits always make for good timely costumes)

Taylor Swift & Kanye (my daughter is a dead-ringer for her when her hair is curled; she & her former flame woulda rocked this one as a duo)

And this year, it’ll be interesting to see how many Avatar-inspired blue kids we see that are homemade and creative instead of slinky/winky sexed up storebought variations…

Timeless classics proving innovation in a snap? Love these:

They’re all visual galleries in show-n-tell mode rather than lengthy how-tos and text, so click through and spark your own imagination.

Quick. No Sew. Easy. Last Minute. Fun!

35 Easy Homemade Kids Costumes:

20 Creative Costumes: Reader’s Digest

Here are more ideas, including four years of contest winners and scads of DIY money-saving no sews that are cooler than any Target trip to the storebought aisle…Check out:

Quick & Halloween Costume Central

(love the UPS kid in all brown and a cardboard box, and seeing so many ‘suds’ winners that are NOT sexualized into vampy campy bathtub bits!)

Decade of Homemade Kids Costumes: I love the Maker Faire and various Green costume swaps around the country, for recycling homemade creations in a snap, so this gallery doesn’t disappoint for green scene last minute clever concepts…

Martha Stewart No Sews (more elaborate, like the coffee filter Elizabethan godmother, though some easy ones like Medusa snake hair too, and some easy enough to have kids make themselves! )

Family Fun: DIY Costume Ideas (Disney adds their spin on last minute ideas, with multiple categories for various ages and stages, and thankfully no knockoffs of licensed characters either; guess that would erode market share anyway, eh? 😉

Now, while I’ll admit some parents might have a problem dressing up their lil’ stinker as a smelly animal, I’m not one of ’em…

In fact, this sweet lil’ baby skunk is the best use of a feather boa I’ve seen in a looooong time!

Sure beats the boas used as sexualized hoochie mama adornment that often comes with ‘pimp-n-hoe-wear’ that ding-dong my doorbell…(in the ‘old days’ those costumes may have raised eyebrows as ‘outrageous’ humor…now, sadly, they just look like album covers and music video fare we see daily and in marketing fashions lately, like Dereon Divas, imho)

Green (all time favorite find for cool swaps, big props to them for always thinking out of the (storebought) box! 🙂 Even though their ‘official swap day’ in social media has past, you can swap with pals THIS WEEK for the fastest, easiest, greenest homemade finds to pay it forward for the weekend…

Still want MORE Homemade Easy DIY Ideas?

Check out here…though it defeats the purpose of being creative if I give you a cheat sheet with all of these answers, huh?

Oh well…too late now…

Bonus book if you use your brain and add something not already on these lists!

There! How’s that?!

(see, gotta be creative and quick thinkin’ 🙂 Enjoy!

Special thanks to Parents for Ethical Marketing located smack dab in Target central HQ (Minnesota) for pointing me to this ad…Wanna SparkChange? Check out her Corporate Babysitter Blog too! And also check out CCFC’s fabulous resources, like this pdf:  “10 Things You Can Do To Take Back Childhood From Corporate Marketers!”

Below are some of my Shaping Youth ‘oldies but goodies’ with links galore to give you some ideas as well, including old-fashioned imagination with bodypaint (eco-friendly, do it yourself style etc.)

Related & Relevant from Shaping Youth’s Archives:

Packaging Boyhood: What About BOYS Halloween Costumes?

Halloween MakeUp Tips For Kids Costumes on the Fly

Halloween, Trend Tracking & a MoshPit of Parenting Styles

Practical Tips to Combat Halloween Horrors of “Wicked Innocence”

Reverse Trick or Treating: Isn’t That..Um..Marketing?

The Life Cycle of Media Madness & Parental Panic: When Annual Candy Scares Go Viral

A Few Related Articles on Boys to Men/Halloween Heroes

Gender Differences: Socially Conditioned, Reinforced Through Media by BlogHer’s Suzanne Reisman

DIY: on YouTube

True Child: Masculinity, Bullying & Aggression

True Child: Fast Facts: Stats on Masculinity, Bullying & Violence

GuyLand: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men

And more on girls’ sexualization-commodification:

Salacious Halloween Costumes Cause Stir

Sexy Halloween Styles For Girls Frighten Adults

Halloween: At What Age Does the Schoolgirl Become Sexy?

Up For Debate: Sexy Halloween Costumes

“Hot” for Halloween: From Girlish and Ghoulish To Racy to Revealing

Visual Snapshot from: Feminist Law Professors

Spooky to Skanky: For Halloween Costumes, Less Is More

The News Observer: They’re Tramps For A Night, But Why?

Alpha Mom: Buzz Off, What Not to Wear This Halloween

Kindergarten Cleavage (from last year but still au courant)

Prostitute Costumes for Tots (Toronto Star)



  1. Hi Amy,
    I love your post and I’ll be the first to comment. Although I’ve purchased a couple of costumes in my 15 years as a parent (only one very $$$ from the Disney store), mostly my kids make their own costumers because I really hate Halloween and simply have not been an enthusiastic mother when it comes to this holiday.

    My younger girls plan their costumes from their dress-up box and their own wardrobes. They don’t know any different (yet) and don’t feel badly about it. This year one will be a cat, wearing black pants and shirt plus some kitty ears belonging to her sister. I’ll draw on whiskers.

    My favorite costumes that my older daughter came up with were 1. Sprite bottle and 2. S’mores (or rather, a S’more).


  2. woohoo! You are officially in the running for the books then Kris, as I didn’t see a s’more in that gallery of DIY goodies at all! (saw a ketchup bottle, but not a sprite one either, heh)–thanks for kicking things off…I never know if folks prefer to comment on FB/Twitter or even READ blogs or RSS feeds anymore…thoughts as a busy mom of 3?

  3. Amy,

    I seem to luck out in the Halloween costume department. My youngest son was a vampire for about 3 years running and we usually did home-made costumes…sometimes using a mask or two. Kids prefer face paint, though…much more comfortable.

    This year…easy peasey…10 yr. old son was an MSU “Spartan” fan…(Go Green!)…He wore all green, painted half of his face green, half white, put an “S” on each side of his face and painted his hair green. 13 y.o. DD was a cow (her fave animal)and we used a “recycled” costume from Goodwill, which set us back $3.99. Could it be easier (or cheaper) than that?

    Wendy @Kidlutions

  4. Oh, and my 15 y.o. will be playing hockey on Halloween, so I guess we can say his “costume” is a given!

  5. Anne Becker Shutte wrote: (on FB)

    “If you can see my profile pic, you’ll see our family’s choice for Halloween this year. The train costume (with working headlight) my husband made for our son was so darn cute that our daughter even gave up original plan to be a princess. Components: Cardboard boxes, colored posterboard, push-on LED lights, great hats & train whistles.

    Gotta figure out how to get the photo up for all to see, it’s precious.

Speak Your Mind