On Monday of this week we received tips from some of our fabulous costume character performers on how to safely hire a costumed character for your party. This, plus a recent trip to Disneyland got me thinking about children I've know and their diverse reactions to "characters." If your child has been invited to a party that may feature a costume character, or you're planning on hosting one, here are some tips for making sure all goes smoothly, with the child half of the equation. Characters in costume, especially those with covered heads, are a fairly common fear for young children. For children under the age of four, it's best to avoid a character in costume, unless you can see the person's real face. For older children, make sure that your child has had some positive exposure to a costumed character before hiring one. If you are hiring a princess or other costume character for a young child, make sure to let other parents know on the invitation by stating that "A Princess will be stopping by" or "We're expecting a special visit from a certain Exploring Girl." This will give the other parents time to prepare their children for the visit.
If your child is invited to a party with a costumed character, and you know that he or she is likely to be afraid, ask the host if you can stay at the party. The host can give you a warning before the "special guest" arrives and you and your child can retreat to a quiet place where he or she can watch the action without coming to close to the costumed character. Any professional performer will recognize that your child does not want to be approached. You may be surprised though, your child may be afraid of characters in large open areas like grocery stores or amusement parks, but may feel more comfortable in a friend's house. If you are unsure about how afraid your child may or may not be, try to prepare him or her before the party. Mention that there will be a visit from someone in a costume. Remind him or her of how much fun it is to dress up on Halloween. If your child has positive experience with department store Santas or Easter Bunnies, consider using the same explanations and preparations you use for them. For example, explain that this isn't the real character but that he's dressed like the real character.
Remember, hiring a professional character performer who knows how to handle nervous children will help alleviate many problems before they start!