The popularity of all things spooky and gross seems to increase each year. This fascination for engaging in activities which frighten us is fed by numerous horror movies, books, television shows and amusement parks. Zombies, vampires, and the 'undead' seem to be popping up in greater numbers everywhere; even in toy and play-related categories.
According to a recent article in Time Moneyland, one of the top 12 things we continue to buy in a bad economy is Halloween costumes. This year, Americans are expected to spend approximately $7 billion on Halloween decorations, candy, and costumes and over $300 million on costumes for pets. Costumes provide a perfect form of fantasy play for young and old alike giving permission to be creative, take on other personas, and to escape the ordinary. This key play pattern of children, dress-up and role play, is an important vehicle for a child’s expression and emotional development. Most of us abandon this important form of self-expression as we get older. Halloween is the perfect occasion for adults to reconnect with their inner child and for kids and adults to play alongside of each other.
Interestingly, the gross and macabre aspects largely associated with Halloween extend far beyond the dress-up category and well beyond the seasonal time period. A recent search through different toy categories lead me to the discovery that many year 'round retail items have gross or scary elements to them as well. Plush characters, dolls, collectibles, science kits, room décor, novelty product and some games contain an element of the gross or gruesome. When I was a kid, 'gross' science projects consisted of dissecting a frog or creating a bubbling volcano at school. Nowadays, there are a variety of opportunities for kids to learn about the gross and disgusting – at home. Some pretty fascinating science kits and toys help kids learn everything from how to concoct slime, to how to formulate fizzy foam, to how to deconstruct their very own zombies.
Next time you observe your little monster’s fascination with fake barf, maggot balls, or disgusting wall-walking cockroaches and stretchy centipedes, bite your tongue and try to consider the upside. Their close observations will help to develop their curiosity. It's an important step in their learning process and will aid them in discovering what they are most passionate about. You never know,…their 'gross' play observations may eventually lead them to a career in science, geology, or engineering. Whether they dress in costume or not is entirely up to them.