How to apply the principals of Design Thinking during Halloween?

Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding from this post– I LOVE THE SUMMER, but we are now technically in Fall, which is a fantastic time of the year. While Apple picking is probably high on the agenda, most of the conversations with family friends seem to center on that all important question – What are you going to be for Halloween? 

Last year our goal was to ‘make’ the costumes as opposed to ‘buying’ them, and I wrote an article about the need for time – time to incubate ideas, time to plan, time to gather the material, and finally time to prototype (when you’re trying out ideas to see if they work, you’re prototyping).

SEE ALSO: Introducing some of the principals Design Thinking to young children

I advocate for the making of costumes, because it provides an opportunity to involve the family in a design process that engages our creative thinking and problem solving skills.

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Design Thinking is the name of a specific problem-solving methodology that has been made popular by design firms such as IDEO, but many of it’s principals can be found in most problem solving methods that require practitioners to navigate toward a creative outcome. Below is how parents can apply some of the principals of Design Thinking during Halloween.

STAGE ONE: Clarifying the Problem: What are we going to be?

The first stage of the process begins with clarifying the problem. Ultimately, this is where you have to work with your little ones to identify what costumes you need to make? During this stage you will no doubt welcome the whacky ideas that naturally manifest, and eventually settle for something in the middle (unless of course, your field of expertise is costume design). A few years ago Lucas was intent on being a fire breathing, robot skeleton dinosaur, but over time he opted for a Peter Pan theme, which was more inclusive for the family.

Design Thinking During Halloween 2013
Halloween Costume 2013: My wife deserves all the credit. She researched the idea of a plane and made it. We noticed Lucas had difficulty climbing stairs and turning around in tight corners, but it certainly got all the attention from fellow parents! A little more prototyping perhaps!

STAGE TWO: Ideating: How to I make the costume?

This is the stage where you need to go out an explore ideas on how to make your costume. Pinterest is a place where all the creative parents hang out, so I highly encourage you to explore this as part of your research, but a quick Google image search is also great place to start.  I encourage you to identify a few different options, as you’ll likely benefit from taking a little bit from here, and a little bit from there, in order to make the perfect costume.

Design Thinking During Halloween 2014
Halloween Costume 2014: Characters from Never Never Land, Last year we had to creatively steer Lucas away from a fire breathing skelton dinosaur, and to a more family friendly, and doable in short-time frame option. I was a Lost Boy – can’t you tell? I rolled on the grass to get the grass stains!

STAGE THREE: Prototyping: Does it work? In other words can they actually wear it?

This is where you get the little ones to try on your invention (or perhaps even better the collaborative invention). Ask them how it feels? Does it need any adjustments? You can also have them make observations, and offer suggestions for improvements. Each improvement is called an iteration, and there might even be a need to scrap the idea and start all over again – but of course time is probably playing against you during this stage of the process.

Design Thinking During Halloween 2015
Halloween Costume 2015: This year Lucas wanted to be a Wild Kratt, with frog powers. I was determined to practice what I preach and design this costume for him, but toward the end he opted for an Indian theme, thanks to a short lived obsession with Pocahontas. Mommy of course assumed the lead role, while Daddy made an attempt to replicate the character of John Smith, from the Disney movie.

Time is always a factor, so perhaps you alternate years of making and buying costumes. Whatever you do, just be sure to start thinking early, involve your little ones in the process, and most of all don’t forget to take those pictures!

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GET CREATIVE, GET MAKING: Halloween Costume Ideas 2015

Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding from this post– I LOVE THE SUMMER. (I love all seasons except spring when my allergies play havoc on any fun opportunity that might present itself). So when I begin to talk about Halloween and the Fall, I don’t want you to click away because you liken me to those folks who want to rush away our last week or so of summer. I’m the one who will be out in my shorts and T-shirts and enjoying those late evening strolls, but during these walks I’ve started to bring up a conversation with my eldest – What do you want to be for Halloween?

SEE ALSO: Top Ten Items for a Dressing Up Box

My goal this year is to ‘make’ the costumes as opposed to ‘buying’ them, and that needs time. Time to incubate ideas, time to plan, time to prototype, and time to make – think about all the creative thinking and problem-solving opportunities that will manifest over the next couple of months. Searching for Halloween Consume Ideas should begin with this type of question, but research can benefit from visits to sites like Pinterest, where lots of parents and educators share their creative ideas for Halloween.

Halloween Costume Ideas 2015: My wife deserves all the credit. She researched the idea of a plane and made it. We noticed Lucas had difficulty climbing stairs and turning around in tight corners, but it certainly got all the attention from fellow parents!

Last year I wrote about the many Ana and Elsa’s who we encountered while Trick or Treating. They were all very cute – but the same cute. All the costumes had been purchased from the same store and I felt this took away any opportunity for originality or creativity. I began to wonder if the quality of a costume can impact a child’s fun and/or belief in their character. As I reflected on this question I recalled my own experience at a fancy Lord of the Rings birthday party on top of a hotel in London. Some of my college friends had rented their costumes from high end wardrobe departments like the BBC – I had made my costume from scrap. Yes, I had to answer the ‘who am I’ question a little more than my friends, but I felt just as much an Aragon, Legolas, or Hobbit character than anyone else in the room.

This is a little pile of ‘rubbish’ that I’ve begun to collect in preparation for Halloween. The challenge will be hiding it from my wife who might ‘mistaken’ it as garbage. It’s always sensible to have an arsenal of items for the costume.

So if time allows (which I appreciate is the greatest battle) join me this Halloween in ‘making’ a costume. I’ll be documenting our efforts on Instagram, and while the challenge of making a Wild Kratt, with Frog creature powers is intimidating, it’s a lot better than last years Fire Breathing Skelton Dinosaur request.

Characters from Peter Pan: Last year we had to creatively steer Lucas away from his Fire Breathing Skelton Dinosaur idea, and to a more family friendly, and doable in short-time frame.
Characters from Never Never Land: Last year we had to creatively steer Lucas away from his Fire Breathing Skelton Dinosaur idea, and to a more family friendly, and doable in short-time frame. I was a Lost Boy – can’t you tell?

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Get your creativity on this Halloween

This Web site is a discussion on how we might nurture and cultivate creative thinking at home. Naturally this discussion evolves around our children and ways we can engage the characteristics most often associated with creativity, such as the imagination, curiosity, a tolerance for ambiguity, originality, and the ability to produce and consider many alternatives.

However, lets change things up a little and talk about how we as parents might better engage our own creativity? It’s probably most associated with problem-solving, coming up with new strategies to get your three-year old to sleep through the night, or how you might balance family life over a professional deadline. These are all great conversations, but I’m writing to promote one thing today – make a costume for Halloween!

Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed that most Halloween costumes have been purchased, and not made. This time of year they’re on sale at the likes of Costco, Target, Wallmart, and even Pottery Barn. There’s great deals to be had online, and unique costumes to be bought at Web sites like Esty and eBay. It’s easier to buy, it’s harder to make! But buying is not as creative, and making.

Last year my son wanted to be a plane, it was a great problem to have and challenged our creativity to the max. We had one weekend to come up with an idea on how we can turn our son into a flying machine. I confess my wife took the lead and searched out designs online, while I gathered boxes. The outcome can be seen in the picture above. The costume was a huge hit among our neighbors and I was most proud of my wife’s creative accomplishments.

Time is a massive factor when it comes to making a costume and I recognize it just isn’t always possible, but even if you go down the purchased route, try to avoid the purchase of a complete costume and instead try and buy it pieces, or make accessories that take it to the next level.

What’s more, the making of a costume is a great family activity to engage the imagination. It goes beyond artwork and into genuine problem-solving. For example, this year my boy wants to be a dragon skeleton that breaths fire. My wife is working on getting him to change his mind, but I already have a prototype of a head, and now need to problem-solve how we can get the head to breath fire.

If it’s too late and you’ve purchased your costume, be sure to at least make note of the homemade costumes on display that night, and maybe snap and share a few pictures to use as inspiration for next year.

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