Lions, Tigers and Costumes! OH My!

I thought a lot about Grover the last week or two. Thinking about the fact that he and his pals on Sesame Street really are technically ‘monsters’.  Puppets yes, but ‘monster’ puppets all the same. As a preschool teacher many years ago I recall vividly the day of our fire station field trip. The firefighter led the children through the station & stopped in front of the truck then slowly piece by piece put on his fireproof pants, coat, gloves …. And then the hat/mask…… several children yelled MONSTER!!!!!!  And began to cry. I was horrified. Both because I had traumatized the children and because the poor firefighter didn’t know what to do. Young children (toddlers/preschoolers/even through early elementary ages at times) have a difficult time distinguishing between fantasy and reality. As soon as the fire fighter put on the mask the human-ness was gone and the children’s brains thought monster. As adults we ‘know’ that the real human is still under the costume and the costume is creating a fantasy type character. Company/sports mascots, life size puppets, clowns and even Halloween costumes can fall into that fantasy category. My daughter was one of those children that was very scared of the costumed characters. We never went to an Barney Live or a Disney on Ice because the characters were roaming the halls mingling with guests. Even at 11 she still says “I’m not so scared of them but I really don’t like them mom”.  Have your children been scared of characters or clowns? What were some ways that you helped them through their fears?

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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2 thoughts on “Lions, Tigers and Costumes! OH My!

  1. When we took the preschoolers to the fire station last year, the fire fighters made a point to say…look at my face I am still me when I put this mask on. One of the little girls next to me started to cry and crawled into my lap. Her dad is a volunteer fire fighter. I asked her if that worried her. She said very emphatically, “My daddy doesn’t look like that!”

    I suppose the best we can do is just to make sure they know they’ll be safe with us when we are with them. No “monster” will get by mom or dad.

  2. The firefighter handled his part well. But young children still have a difficult time understanding. I think it is reassuring for a child to know that Mom or Dad will be the protector from monsters.

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