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Approaching Halloween costumes with an open mind

As Halloween costumes begin to crop up in stores, it's helpful to start thinking beyond the gender binary. What do you say if a boy tells you he wants to be a princess for Halloween? Or a student asks if it's okay for girls to be superheroes?

For those who celebrate, Halloween is a time for people to take on roles or identities that may or may not be true to who they really are. It's important that we recognize that for some children, the holiday allows a safe way for them to explore their favorite themes and characters in a safe environment.

As the holiday approaches, it is important to create spaces where students feel comfortable exploring any costume they desire, without feeling scrutinized by peers or adults.

Some helpful ways to encourage students to look outside narrow gendered costumes:

✓ Teach the "What Do Halloween Costumes Say?" lesson from Teaching Tolerance. Compare photos of "girls' costumes" to "boys' costumes" on a site like Ask them questions like, "What differences do you notice?" "What do you think about that?"

✓ Take the opportunity to educate yourself and your students about how costumes based on stereotypes can hurt and harm others. Check out this article from

✓ Instead of celebrating Halloween in your classroom, consider a Fall Harvest Day theme with fall treats and planting seeds, or a day where you act/dress like your favorite literary character.

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