Halloween. It's so many things to so many people. For some it's an excuse to put fantasies about their alter ego (or their baby's) into action. For others, it's a socially acceptable excuse to gorge on candy (or to raid their kiddos' candy bags once they're in bed). But, whether it's the morning of October 31 or weeks before, the (exhausting) question looming over busy parents everywhere is, "What is your child going to be this Halloween?" The advice from our moms: Have fun, it doesn't have to be that hard.

"Remember the whole point is to have fun, not to win the cutest costume on the block contest," says Mary Johnson Rockers of Durham, North Carolina, mother of a 2-year-old boy named Ty. "We had fun creating costumes that were unexpected. We used certain traits and just expanded on them. Ty had wild hair and sideburns, so why not Elvis? Kid wears glasses? OK, a pilot or an owl."

And remember "the 3 C's," instructs Boise, Idaho's Amanda Neil, mom to Henry, also age 2. "Comfy, cozy and cute."

Comfort and Creativity are Keys to Great Halloween Costumes
Costumes that will keep your baby warm and comfortable and will allow for easy diaper changes (think snaps or Velcro®) are key.

"Any costume that is uncomfortable for you or your little one or interferes with basic needs, such as changing a diaper or breastfeeding if you're a nursing mom, is not worth the effort," advises Johnson Rockers.

What's more, you don't have to spend a ton of money on a pre-manufactured costume or hours at the sewing machine. The moms we interviewed offered a host of creative ideas that meet the comfort criteria and won't break the bank.

"The first year I dressed Henry as a cozy little piece of sushi," Neil says. "I borrowed a white terrycloth onesie, stitched a quick pillow out of salmon colored material, tied a black ribbon around his belly and died a white hat wasabi green. He was so super cute, a huge hit and, most importantly, warm and comfortable. The whole costume cost under $5."

Deborah Baron, a mother from Johannesburg, South Africa, agrees that creativity is more important than cost when it comes to choosing great Halloween costumes.

"Have the baby wear a diaper and find old New Years Eve stuff and make them a New Year's Eve baby," she says. "Better yet, dress them up in their older siblings' clothes and make them be an incredible shrinking man or woman. Go for a family costume. [This year] Malcolm and I want to be pirates and make Sophia [aged2 months] a parrot that we carry around."

There is More Than One Way to Find the Perfect Costume
Neil also recommends using Halloween as an opportunity to encourage your little one to use his or her imagination.

"In this day and age it's so easy to fall into the princess or superhero trap, but we aren't encouraging creativity and self-expression," she says. "I like to look at [Halloween] as chance to explore passion and tap creative energy. Last year [Henry] really loved spiders, it was one of the first things he 'talked' about and pointed out. So I went with it. We had a black hoodie and black sweats already. I bought some nylons, stuffed them with batting, and used safety pins to attach the spider legs to his hoodie. This year when I get ready to ask Henry what he wants to be for Halloween, I will work with him to make whatever it is happen."

However, if do-it-yourself is not exactly your style, don't despair. A sewing badge is not a prerequisite for mother-of-the-year. There are endless premade costumes to choose from and an equal number of retailers that carry them. Better yet, save some pennies and browse your local thrift stores.

Johnson Rockers advises: "If you want a premade costume just because, or you don't have time to make one, lots of kids' consignment stores sell second-hand costumes. Because who wants to be a monkey two years in a row? Look for used costumes, which are likely to have been worn only once, instead of brand-new."

Let Your Kids Lead the Way
If you've safely made it past babyhood and, like me, wake up at least once a week shocked to find a toddler in your house, it might just be time to let baby take the reins.

"I made a promise to myself before Henry was born," Neil says. "I picked out his first two costumes and this year he will be in the driver's seat, with a little guidance from his parents." She also cautions parents against choosing a costume too early: "Kids minds are going to change daily if you keep asking them. We will not discuss or determine Henry's costume until much, much closer to the date."

Finally, as Courtney Matthews Hancur of Kingston, Rhode Island (mother of Ryan, 2 years, and Marie, 6 months) reminds us, Halloween isn't much different than most other aspects of parenthood. "Follow the child's lead [and] let them be what they want to be."

Katherine West Slevin is a public health consultant and freelance writer. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and daughter.