I'm a very competitive mum. I try not to be, but I'm the one who, for example in colouring competitions, gets their child to create a collage to give them the edge. It's not the winning particularly, it's the prizes I love. Trophies, gift vouchers, chocolate... I'm not really fussy. I really identify with Violet Beauregard's mum from Johnny Depp's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory': "Eyes on the prize, Violet." That's me.
Ok, here's what I've learned about fancy dress competitions. A bought costume will never win. Much as you think they are judging the kids, they are not; they are judging your competence as a parent. It is also no good to painstakingly sew a beautiful costume. Judges will become suspicious and think you bought it on eBay. The best kind of costume is one that looks as if the kids made it. Luckily, my craft skills are such that everything I make looks like it was made by a preschooler.
Here are a few easy yet impressive ideas, all of which have been tried and tested by either myself or a close friend:
- Put your child in a bin liner. Add a few white spots. Hey presto, a domino.
- For the more artistic among you, use a gold pen to scroll on the logo of an After Eight mint
- Glue on some brown cardboard spots, cover a sink plunger and a colander (with the handle facing forward) in bin liners, attach chrome salt and pepper pots for antennae (available in all good budget caravans). A Dalek.
- Put your child in a box. Cover with tinfoil. A robot.
- Put your child in a box. Cover with wrapping paper and add a bow. A present
- (My own personal favourite, courtesy of one of my very best friends) Put your child in a box. Cover in coloured squares. A Rubik cube.
Other easy costumes:
- Cover an umbrella in bubble wrap. A jellyfish
- Stick a few leaves on a kid's bikini (girl) and swimming trunks (boy). Give the kids an apple and a plastic snake. Adam and Eve.
- Stick some yellow circle stickers for buttons on a red t-shirt. Cover a plastic toy policeman's helmet (or similar) in black faux fur. A Beefeater.
- For the intellectuals among you (you know, those of you who can afford a proper holiday and don't have to go on the £9 holidays from The Sun with all the other Lidl families): Make your child a 'dress' from newspaper. The Guardian is good for this- you will see why in a minute. Add a tiara and a Miss World style sash reading 'Miss Print'.
The only thing with being a competitive mum is that you will come across other competitive mums. My kids came second with my slapdash Adam and Eve costumes, and the Umbrella Jellyfish woman's child came first, which REALLY annoyed the mum who had spent ages papier macheing her child into the shape of Elmer the Elephant...
One last tip: try to get the judges to focus on the costume, not the resigned and embarrassed face of the small child IN the costume. If you feel a twinge of guilt for being a pushy competitive mum, just think how much fun your children will have when they have children of their own to dress up, and how good they will feel when their friends describe them as 'marvellously creative.' Sure, your grandkids will suffer, but that's their parents' problem.
Today: How this obsession was born
At the age of 10, my school held a Christmas Hat competition. Other kids' parents had rigged up working circuits for lights, sound and moving objects. My mum covered a straw sunhat in tissue paper leaves and stuck what I think was supposed to be a partridge on the front. It had feathers anyway. She then, bizarrely, sewed 4 foil milk bottle tops to dangle right in front of my face in the style of an Australian cork hat. No idea why, so don't ask.
My 'Partridge in a Pear Tree' hat came first. I don't even want to think about what mum did to make that happen. I won a plastic comb from the chemist, just like my Grandad's. Go me.