The Best ’80s Halloween Costumes for Kids

Sometimes all it takes is a picture from present day to take you back to simpler times, when there was no such thing as social media, and phones were meant for hanging on kitchen walls where everyone could hear your end of the conversation. Recently, a friend of mine was overcome with childhood joy as her own little discovered the red-headed character from our childhood days: Rainbow Brite. For my fellow children of the ’80s, you can picture her freckled face atop her marshmallow style outfit that was adorned with every color of the rainbow. Perhaps you can hear her theme song playing as you envision her flying somewhere over the rainbow atop her trusty white unicorn. Ah, the memories. With the leaves and temperatures falling (can I get an Amen?!), I find myself refreshed and ready to tackle whatever may find its way to my to-do list, because there is really nothing I can’t conquer while wearing a sweater and fall boots.

Holidays can sneak up on parents during a good year. Throw a global pandemic and the mess that is 2020 in, and we aren’t sure whether to reach for Fiesta medals or Santa Claus hats (important – Fiesta San Antonio is in 2021 so mark your calendars!) Ready or not, seasons come upon us and we must be willing to dart, adapt, veer, and most often, improvise at the last minute. Halloween seems to be on every child’s mind the minute those first few pumpkins start peeking out of yards and porches. Dreams of astronauts and fairy godmothers, baseball legends and superheroes flood the imaginations of the youngest. Meanwhile, tasks and overdue items become stacked in the minds of parents as we frantically search for “the costume” that best portrays our children’s interests for the current week. As I listened to my friend describe her little girl’s love for Rainbow Brite, I thought about the possibility of making Halloween simple this year. 2020 is as unpredictable a year as they come, so why not join in and forgo the runs to Party City and Walgreens for those last minute touch ups and embrace a decade that is now considered “historic”: The ’80s. Here are some classic ’80s Halloween costumes.

The Best ’80s Halloween Costumes for Kids

Cheerleaders and Football Players

The iconic pair provides parents a way to utilize costumes that may already reside in their kids’ closets or borrow one from a friend to make your child’s extracurricular dreams come true. Mom and Dad can join in on the fun thanks to the uncomplicated parts of this costume and even take a stab at recreating their Varsity Blues glory days.

Grapes and Other Fruits of the Vine

Nothing says “we used what we had” more than balloons of a certain color bunched together to showcase your kiddo as a living, walking bunch of fruit. Whether you are transforming your hard to dress toddler into a precious pumpkin straight from the patch or letting your eye-rolling teenager tape a bunch of purple balloons to him/herself, you are winning here. Balloons, matching solid colored clothing to go underneath, tape, and a side sense of humor for when all those balloons pop are really the only required components. Oh, and make sure you document this costume well with photos so they have something to write about in twenty years.

Jazzercise Jenn

Bright colors and some questionable workout gear might be coming back into style (?!), which means you can take your Halloween to a level higher than Richard Simmons’s heart rate. Sweat it out and give your kids a good laugh by showing them how people actually looked and moved when they exercised in the ’80s. If they choose to pass on this actual representation of a favorite ’80s pastime, use the opportunity to partake in it for yourself. Just don’t forget your tights and leg warmers.

Rainbow Brite

As mentioned earlier, it IS possible to find a gem of a costume from your childhood thanks to the beauty of the internet. While I am fairly sure my friend found the exact Rainbow Brite outfit from my Halloween in 1986, a simple recreation should be easy thanks to our internet friend. Even if the sleeves aren’t as puffy and the wig as orange, anything that brings a bit of memories from our archives to the smiles of our kiddos is sure worth it.

Care Bears

I think if you gathered a handful of moms together in a room and handed them each a Care Bear, there would be just as many “oohs” and “aahs” as if you were showing them their firstborn baby pictures. Ok, maybe not that many, but those cuddly little bears with symbols on their bellies sure can stir up warm and fuzzy feelings if you were a child of the ’80s. Even though my Halloween career has found me sporting a few different Care Bear types, dressing your child as one should not be that difficult sans pattern. As the case may be, I recently spotted a few teenagers buying hooded sweatshirts and matching sweatpants in their favorite color while discussing the circular symbols they were going to place on their stomachs to coordinate with their favorite bear. As a mama, I listened in and found myself smiling at their innocence and at the fact that they were planning on dressing up at all. But as a child of the ’80s and one who will always coo over the sight of a Care Bear, I couldn’t feel prouder that our beloved and timeless Care Bears have lived on.

Any Teenager on a Friday night

Luckily for parents, this 2020 Halloween nod to the teenagers of the ’80s will go with whatever costume your clan has decided on for the evening. From high-waisted, acid washed out jeans to the side T-shirt tie, you can let your nostalgia flow as freely as Miss Pacman’s appetite for objects in her way. Use whatever styling tools you have in your drawer to create a crimped out hairstyle before donning as many gold necklaces and brightly colored earrings you can collect. Don’t forget the juicy fruit gum and blue eye shadow for like a totally, bad to the bone, mega fun-filled night at the mall!

Allowing ourselves to step back in time and take our children with us this Halloween may just be what the mixed-up, abnormal times are calling for. If previous years have found you exhausted by keeping true to magazine-worthy costumes, let me hand you my Unisonic Retro See-Through Phone so you can dial back to 1987 and ask for advice. And tips. And more Salon Selectives hair gel. Let’s use this peculiar year to our advantage to give our kids a glimpse into Halloween as it was when we were kids. So go ahead and make that haunted house out of a refrigerator box, because quite frankly, it doesn’t matter if costumes or decorations are made by you, a grandma (I bet she still has those patterns somewhere), or a random shop on Etsy or Ebay. What’s important is the togetherness and the laughter. And with outfits like these and moments that we have lived through, how can you walk down the street with living examples of memory lane and not smile? Now if we can only get the word historic removed from that decade so we don’t actually start to feel that way…..


I’m a native Pittsburgher through and through, but transplanted to Texas with my superhero cape to teach elementary school. I am a proud Mama to a spirited girl (2011) and a laid back boy (2014) who keep my days full of laughter, Legos, books, and more stuffed animals than should be allowed. As a stay-at-home Mama, I am constantly yearning for new ways to engage their minds, hands, and bodies with the city and community around them, while stealing a run and a cup of coffee or two. I can be found at the local library for storytime; the park for an afternoon swing; either of their schools to lend a helping hand; and/or the local splash pad to escape the heat. I’m not hard to miss due to the donning of Steelers gear in the fall and Penguins attire in the spring. I welcome and thrive on new conversations, friendships, and methods of rearing little humans. Favorite Restaurant: Paloma Blanca Favorite Landmark: Any of the Missions around San Antonio Favorite San Antonio Tradition: It's a tie between The Texas Cavaliers River Parade and The Battle of Flowers Parade, both occurring during Fiesta. Viva!