Enlightened Halloween

If your child is an animal lover, why not use this Halloween as an opportunity to get creative with an unusual creature costume � and teach your youngster about some unique and endangered species?

Consider these costume ideas, all featuring fascinating animals that children will love learning about:

Poison dart frog

These rainforest frogs in neon-bright hues send a warning with their colors: Stay away or else. Poison dart frogs protect themselves by secreting a poison from their pores, making them less than tasty to any would-be predators. The Choco Indians of western Columbia use a particularly poisonous type of this frog to poison their blowgun darts; the darts are deadly to the small animals the Indians hunt for food.

How to make a poison dart frog costume? Dress your child in bright red tights, a matching red sweatshirt and red knit cap, then add bright blue socks and bright blue stretch gloves. Paint his or her face bright red, too, and add a pair of froggy-style eyes by gluing or taping two ping-pong balls or egg-carton segments (use marker to make black eye circles) to the top of the knit cap.

Giant panda

The giant panda lives in mountainous forest areas of central and western China, but its habitat is steadily shrinking because of human development and loss of bamboo, its primary food. Today, only about 1,000 pandas still live in the wild, with another 60 in zoos around the world. Giant pandas spend most of their days alone, eating lots and lots of bamboo, with some honey, tufted grass, flowers and even the occasional rodent for a little extra variety. Unlike bears, they don’t live in dens or hibernate; instead, they sleep under rock overhangs or at the bases of trees.

Start your panda costume by dressing your child in a white sweatshirt and white sweatpants. Then pull black socks over the pants and over the arms, securing the socks at thigh and shoulder heights. Paint your child’s face white, then paint black ovals around each eye and color the nose black as well. Finally, tape two circles of black construction paper (use cardboard underneath to keep the paper from flopping over) to either side of a headband and you’ve completed the look with two big panda ears.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterflies are special not only because of their beauty, but because they migrate farther each year than any other butterfly in the world – up to three thousand miles, in some cases. Every fall, Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains fly to the California coast to spend winter in pines, cypresses and eucalyptus trees. Monarchs east of the Rockies head south to central Mexico. They seek out overwintering areas that are not too cold, but cool enough for them to slow down their metabolism and conserve their energy until the spring. Monarchs migrate in the millions, making their travel routes and winter habitats a spectacular sight.

With so many monarchs in one place, it’s hard to believe they could ever be at risk of becoming endangered. But coastal development in California and logging in Mexico can both harm the butterflies’ wintering spots. Development and environmental problems can also threaten the milkweed, which is the only plant monarch larvae eat.

Transform your child into a Monarch by dressing him or her in a black sweatshirt and black sweatpants or tights. Then cut wing shapes from two pieces of orange posterboard, outlining the edges and drawing interior wing veins with black marker. Punch a hole in the top and bottom of each wing near the inside, string yarn or sturdy cord through the holes, and secure the wings to your child by stringing the cord over the shoulders and around the waist before tying the ends together in a knot behind the back. Twist two black pipe-cleaners onto a headband for antennae, and your child is ready to migrate out into the neighborhood for some enlightened trick-or-treating.

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